While praise must be, and certainly has been, lavished on the cast of Mamma Mia! whose 98 performances of the award-winning show about sun, songs, sex and single parenthood at the Opera House has proved so successful, they are not the only hero figures of this memorable Summer of 2014.
Granted, they have seemed to single-handedly re-invent Blackpool’s showbusiness scene.
Apologies then to the hundreds of other people involved in entertaining locals and holidaymakers each season who have missed out on the headlines, and I’m certainly not begrudging them their place on the Blackpool Opera House Roll of Honour.
But others in line for praise must include everyone involved with this year’s Illuminations Switch-On (except perhaps whoever designed the VIP access which involved breaching several health and safety bylaws and just about took in a walk to Cleveleys).
No, the event was a huge success and laid to rest the ghosts of last year’s absolute disaster.
Full marks all round. Even the weather behaved itself for what will now presumably become an annual weekend of fun and food (yes, that was a good idea, too, despite some local traders getting so upset about it).
The real hero of the year though has to be the little boy in the Blackpool Is Back television commercial.
Granted he’s probably been at acting school since before he could walk and his “parents” have probably never been to the resort in their life before, but apart from cheering everyone up with his wide-eyed enthusiasm (hopefully based on more than merely the excitement of seeing how much he was being paid), he’s managed to get ice cream vans reinstated on Blackpool beach after a decade-long absence.
He’s seen sucking on a cornet which isn’t dribbling down his designer casual clothes – a sure sign that it’s just been bought rather than travelled from some distant vendor.
Fine, except that ice cream vans were banned from the beach between North and South piers by Blackpool Council to make way for all the work being done on the sea wall.
Eagle eyed Barbara Gallagher, who runs the resort’s Waverley Coffee Shop and Ice Cream Parlour, pointed out the commercial implied ice cream could be still bought on the sands.
The result – after taking tenders (a good little council earner) – four new ice cream van pitches will be in place by next season.
Finger on the pulse as ever, Coun Graham Cain, the council’s cabinet member for tourism, said: “Eating ice cream on a hot summer’s day on the beach is bound to be big business.”
It’s a wonder no-one ever thought of that before. Unless, of course, they did.
Look closely at the same advert and you’ll also spot deck chairs are clearly visible – despite Blackpool recently getting rid of all its council-owned ones. Council commercial watchers claim the beach is not visible on that bit of the advert. So where did they come from?
Another Duke’s Alternative Tourism Award (DATA) must go to the donkey owner who has introduced credit card payment for his traditional seaside attraction.
Apart from flinching at the thought donkey rides cost so much these days a credit card is a payment option, it was a great silly season story and garnered international publicity without the need for highly paid PR companies to hammer home the Blackpool Is Back mantra.
What about extending the credit card scheme to deck chairs and bringing them back? It’s only a matter of time.
A belated DATA might go to the police for using their under resourced front liners in targeting the town’s drunks, beggars, and illegal street traders together with people exhibiting “lewd behaviour” (a delightfully Dickensian term).
Hopefully, the new approach will help come up with a permanent solution rather than just move everyone concerned around a bit.
Maybe they’ll also crack down on a certain shop just a few hundred yards from the Central Police Station with a window display full of alarmingly authentic looking replica guns?
They are presumably not actually illegal but with crime rates rising surely potentially more dangerous when carried around town than the occasion fully inflated “lewd” sex doll?
Raise a pint to Lytham beer festival
Drinking is a serious business – or at least it is at beer festivals. I’ve recently joined the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) so gave the revived Lytham Beer and Cider Festival a whirl.
“What do they sell there then?” asked my hairdresser’s assistant. On being told “beer… and cider” she was taken aback. “Is that all?”
All? I’d have thought 90 real ales, ciders and foreign beers was ample but therefore wasn’t surprised that 95 per cent of festival goers that afternoon were male.
What was surprising was how many were sitting at tables like some strangely licensed school dining room serving only palate clearing crisps or cheese sandwiches. Maybe it makes it easier to tick off each brew on their I Spy Ale list knowing to slow down when they can’t tell their Ticketybrew Paul Tractor (kid’s stuff at 3.6 abv) with the Great Heck Yakima IPA (a dangerous but delicious 7.4 abv).
There’s an art to calculating how to be as near to using every penny of the £5 or £10 beer token cards and placing bets on what time the first head will hit the table (this particular afternoon it was 2.45pm but he was soon on his feet again and heading to the Timothy Taylor’s Boltmaker – Britain’s champion beer of 2014).
Clientele was a balance of loners (usually wearing backpacks), groups (shorts and statement T-shirts), newbies (falsely confident) and veterans (looking like 60s rock band members who have never quite escaped touring the pub circuit).
Mobiles were reserved for emergencies (“sorry love I’ve been delayed at the office”) or blurred selfies (“these are my new best friends – drinking beer”). Roll on the next fest.