Resort festival is dancing all the way to the far east

Launch of the Blackpool Dance Festival in China.  Dance champions from China, Allen Wen and Anne Sum.
Launch of the Blackpool Dance Festival in China. Dance champions from China, Allen Wen and Anne Sum.
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Blackpool’s links with China will reap £500,000 over the next five years it was revealed today, as a high level town hall delegation prepared to jet off to promote the resort in the far east.

The cash is part of a licensing agreement with Blackpool Dance Festival - and could reap even more with a profit sharing agreement for the event in place.

The trip will see council chiefs visit the southern city of Sanya which Blackpool is hoping to twin with, as well as Shanghai for the formal launch of the Blackpool Dance Festival (China) which takes place later this year.

And meetings have also been set up with some of the biggest leisure investors in the world in a bid to gather yet more investment in the resort.

It is hoped forging closer links with China will boost Blackpool’s economy in terms of sparking both business and tourism opportunities.

Council leader Simon Blackburn will lead the delegation this month, accompanied by senior council directors Alan Cavill and Carmel McKeogh.

He said: “I believe the link with Sanya is a fantastic opportunity both in terms of economic impact and cultural benefits.

“A delegation from Sanya has already been to visit Blackpool twice in recent years and as a result they have agreed to a meeting to enable us to discuss Blackpool’s opportunities with a number of major leisure oriented investors and companies from Hong Kong and mainland China.

“Our current links with a Chinese company has already seen a £4m investment in the Winter Gardens with the Illuminasia attraction and now the Blackpool Dance Festival in Shanghai will bring in at least half a million pounds over the next five years.

“During the visit a member of our delegation will launch the Blackpool Dance Festival in Shanghai. It is in our best interests to support this event which, if successful, will bring in additional profits to the Winter Gardens.

“The UK government agency, UKTI (a division of BIS) has asked to host a reception for us to meet with seven of the biggest leisure investors in the world, whilst we are there - which will be an invaluable opportunity.”

The dance festival deal is worth £100,000 a year over five years, with the potential for profit-sharing depending on its success.

The trip follows on from two visits to Blackpool by delegations from Sanya which is a tourist resort on the southern end of China’s Hainan Island.

It will cost around £5,000 with most of the accommodation costs being covered by the delegation’s hosts.

Coun Blackburn’s wife will also accompany him, but she is funding her own costs.

Coun Blackburn added: “It is clear to see how building stronger relationships in China can benefit Blackpool. I think any reasonable person would agree that with this relationship already bringing millions of pounds into Blackpool, the cost of less than £5,000 on this trip is a very sound investment.

“We have prepared a presentation pack and we will be seeking advice on how to make Blackpool more attractive to investment from this part of the world and to appraise them of opportunities in our town.”

The delegations will be accompanied by two members of the Blackpool Chinese Community Association on the Sanya stage of the visit.

Peter Lui, chief executive of the Blackpool Chinese Community Association, said: “When the delegation from Sanya visited Blackpool last time, a statement of intent was signed in relation to the twinning process.

“This time, Blackpool is making the return visit which is an important next step towards the completion of the twinning.

“I’m sure the delegation will promote Blackpool very positively to the Sanya people and I believe this is a very exciting time for relations between Blackpool and China.”

Last year the Chinese consul for the North West of England, General Li Yongsheng visited Blackpool Tower and the Illuminations depot as part of a tour of the resort, and in 2014 10 members of the Blackpool Chinese Community Association visited Sanya which is considered to be China’s version of Hawaii and has a population of 658,408.

Sanya is said to be interested in Blackpool because of its tourism heritage and its fame as the ballroom capital of the world.

It will be the first overseas event when the internationally-renowned Blackpool Dance Festival holds the new competition at the Grand Stage in Shanghai from August 19 to 23.

The traditions of Blackpool’s ballroom heritage will be transported to the new celebration of dance - to be called the Blackpool Dance Festival (China) (BDFC).

The stage frontage of the Empress Ballroom will be replicated, and a dance floor of the same shape, colour and finish will be created at the venue, with music provided by the Empress Orchestra and the same judging panel as the Blackpool event - which will still take place in May.