£3m boost to create stars of future

West End queen Jodie Prenger.
West End queen Jodie Prenger.
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BLACKPOOL is set to reclaim its title of showbiz capital of the north.

The news comes after the Fylde coast was awarded a cash grant of £3m to pump into creating the stars of the future.

And the plan has been given a massive thumbs up from one of the resort’s biggest recent stars – West End queen Jodie Prenger.

A consortium from Blackpool and Wyre landed the Arts Council cash grant – the biggest handed out in the country – designed to get locals to try their hand at everything from singing and dancing to circus tricks and magic.

It is hoped the cash will allow the Fylde coast to reclaim its entertainment crown – and could unearth the next Alfie Boe or John Simm – both Fylde coast stars.

Polly Hamilton, assistant director of Cultural Services at Blackpool Council, told The Gazette: “Blackpool used to be the go-to place outside of London. It was where everyone came to and we want to put ourselves back on the map again.

“David Thewlis, Chris Lowe, Aiden Grimshaw... they all come from Blackpool and maybe, with this money, we can discover the next big thing.

“But more importantly it is about giving people throughout the town the chance to get involved in all areas of art and enjoy it – and we think the benefits in terms of local people’s well-being and happiness will be huge.”

Blackpool’s reputation for creating stars took a knock recently when former Britain’s Got Talent judge Piers Morgan described the town’s entertainers as “chuck yourself off the end of the pier” acts.

But the fightback starts here, with the Blackpool and Wyre bid one of only seven to win the substantial Arts Council funding.

And the hope is Fylde coast born entertainment will flourish like never before, which has excited local girl Jodie, who offered her wealth of knowledge to those looking for where the cash is best spent.

She said: “This is absolutely brilliant news because there is such amazing talent in Blackpool which is waiting to be discovered.

“You go to somewhere like Brighton and there is loads of arts stuff going on and bands playing everywhere. It’s the same in Manchester.

“But we can have that too in Blackpool if we get everyone together and use this money properly.

“I am fully behind this and I would be delighted to help in any I can if I’m needed.”

There will be discussions with local communities over the next six months about how the money will be doled out.

Mrs Hamilton added: “It could be a new festival, or a community play, but it really will be dependent on what local people say they want.”

The consortium which worked to win the Arts Council grant consists of Blackpool Coastal Housing, Merlin Entertainments, Blackpool Council, Wyre Council, the Grand Theatre and local art and community groups.

Speaking on behalf of the consortium, Coun Graham Cain said: “We are working really hard to make sure people in the area have the best possible access to culture and the arts, no matter what their background is.

“The money will also help us to look after our local arts organisations, which already do a fantastic job, and make sure that they are able to continue doing that work for future years.”

Stuart Tulloch, curator at the Grundy Art Gallery on Queen Street, called the windfall “fantastic”.

He said: “Lots of stuff in this town gets put down by the people who live here, but step outside of the area and people say ‘wow, you’ve got the Illuminations, you’ve got the Tower’.

“The grant is fantastic because in difficult financial times it allows us to really invest further in the arts and makes a massive difference to what we can do.”

Neil Thomson, from Blackpool Grand Theatre, added: “It is a real opportunity to attract people into the places and spaces of Blackpool and Wyre which may not otherwise have been accessible.

“This funding will also help to build and strengthen our local cultural industries and allow many young artists to make a living on the Fylde coast.”

Blackpool and Wyre was selected because it is an area where local people’s involvement in the arts is well below the national average.

It has been awarded the £3m grant over a three-year period.

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