Look At It This Way - July 25, 2014

Rod Stewart performs during the 2014 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony at Celtic Park, Glasgow
Rod Stewart performs during the 2014 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony at Celtic Park, Glasgow

It’s great to see Robin Duke back writing for this paper again even if I can’t, quite, bring myself to refer to him as The Duke, the banner under which he now writes.

I’ve missed him so much 
after decades of working together that every time the Dreams half price sales advert comes on I’ve recorded it ... because the guy who cries “gimme more” looks like Robin did in the 80s.

Mind you, I also think TV Euromillionaire Hector Riva, “welcome to my world,” is a dead ringer for another Gazette columnist Steve Canavan. And that sloth in the sofa advert looks a lot like me on a Sunday night.

Our Robin, aka The Duke, made a great point in his comeback column for The Gazette – and it was with regard to the summer season never having gone away, for all the gushing of others that it’s “back” this year thanks to Mamma Mia! and other shows.

How many years have we waited? Fifteen or so?

I suppose there’s hope for a summer season run of Les Mis then – although we did get Alfie Boe at the Opera House last year and the UK My 
Blackpool student “school edition” of Les Miserables starts at Lytham’s Lowther Pavilion later this month.

It’s all too easy to cast the mainstays of the resort’s entertainments scene – the Grand, Tower, Pleasure Beach, Funny Girls, piers, Viva, Legends and more – as the support acts to the Opera House’s biggest stage and 
almost 3,000 capacity 

But they all keep the town ticking over, along with cabaret evenings and tribute acts at seafront hotels, and comedy and live music at pubs – such as the stunningly ambitious Eaglefest at my own local.

Someone recently wrote that the success of the Rod Stewart 25,000-strong concert at Blackpool FC highlighted the need for Blackpool to have a 
proper stadium for concerts. No, it simply shows the potential of the football ground for presenting something other than football.

In fact anything might be preferable to football there right now. It’s also got one of Europe’s biggest open air car parks on its doorstep so why not stick the switch-on there, too – with 
Peter Kay finally on target for a home goal.

Twenty-five thousand turned out for Rod.

That’s 20,000 more than attended last year’s switch-on featuring Gary Barlow and Jonathan Ross – and 10,000 more than the crowds even at free Switch-Ons in recent years.

Blackpool must regain its place, if not prestige, in the touring theatre/concert world pecking order rather than play also-ran to big regional theatres.

Unike a destination stadium, Blackpool is the sum total of its parts. It has history, too. I’ll be seeing Let It Be at the Opera House just down the road from where I saw The Beatles at the ABC Theatre – when I couldn’t hear them for the screaming.

The new TV marketing campaign is on the right track, seeing the resort through the eyes of a child and using age-appropriate language.

The new campaign features the punchline “Blackpool’s back” and, rather as Robin said of the summer season, I’d argue its never been away. It’s just the visitors who have stayed away.

So how do we get them back? Build on what we’re good at and shout about it. Including culture. Although the Grundy’s summer show “Yes, surprising is existence in the post-vegetal cosmorama” leaves me as cold as the Emperor in his New Clothes.

I used to love Blackpool’s Puppet Up festival , first devised in 1997 and with variations since. The original organisers predicted puppetry would be big business. They were right. I see War Horse at the Lowry again on Wednesday and this weekend catch the return of the giant Sea Odyssey puppets to commemorate the First World War in Liverpool.

I’d love to see both shows here. No strings attached.

Tiger, tiger, learning right

I feel like a doting grandparent. When I first met Zambar the Siberian tiger he had just arrived at Blackpool Zoo and was a bit of a scaredy cat. 

He cosied up to the keepers at the side of his enclosure, made that “huff” sound that tigers make to show they mean no harm, and permitted me a stroke of his lovely coat.

I’m still not crazy about zoos but I’m old enough to remember when Blackpool Zoo was more of a barracks for animals than a life 
enhancing, stimulating and safe environment – as it is today. I now have an annual membership .

And Zambar, who used to jump not just at his own shadow but when a bird came to alight nearby, or when a stone was out of place, is now a dad. His own father bullied him a bit, and he was hand reared after being rejected by his mum, but now looks set to be a much better role model himself.

His two cubs are the first to be born at the Zoo for more than 18 years – and it’s a triumph for an international breeding programme subject to such stringent controls it took the better part of two years to find Zambar a suitable mate.

Siberian tigers are endangered due to habitat loss and poaching for so called 
medicinal aids. They can live up to 20 years in captivity – five to 10 years longer than in the wild. Education is key to a better life for all.