New Tower boss Kenny Mew tells how he made his way to the top

Kenny Mew, new general manager at Blackpool Tower
Kenny Mew, new general manager at Blackpool Tower
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Talk about working your way to the top - new Tower boss Kenny Mew can certainly say his career has been a vertical ascent in more ways than one.

For he started out on the bottom rung before being appointed general manager last month of one of the country’s favourite tall buildings.

The 37-year-old’s first job was frying chicken in one of the attraction’s catering outlets.

He recalls: “My first summer job was at the Pleasure Beach, but then my friend was working at the Tower and said it’s a pound more an hour there.

“So I moved to the Tower and was a catering assistant at Kentucky Fried Chicken.

“I was 16 and I’d been on the books at Blackpool Football Club, but got released due to injury.

“I’d left school after doing my GCSEs and decided I didn’t want to go back, but wanted to earn some money.

“The lad I started work with now lives in New Zealand, and he sent me a message to say who would have thought that day when we were frying chicken, you would end up running the place!”

Kenny moved to Blackpool from his home town of Dumfries when he was eight.

He said: “I see myself as a local lad with a Scottish heritage.

“The Tower has always been part of my life. I remember walking down the Prom and they were taking the elephants from the zoo for a walk on the beach, and coming from a small town this was something you would only see in a book.

“That set the future for me.”

Instead of going back to school, Kenny was put through his training by the then owner of the Tower Leisure Parcs and gained various qualifications in hospitality.

In 2002 he was promoted to junior management level with roles overseeing operations, catering and bars.

But his big step forward came in 2005 when he became general manager of the Tower Lounge.

It was a posting where he would cut his teeth for the years to come.

He said: “The Tower Lounge had a reputation which wasn’t really true.

“We had a great team working there, but unfortunately when you mix alcohol with large numbers of adults there are some incidents, but not many.

“We were runners up in the Best Bar None awards which recognise well run venues. The Tower Lounge was well run and was a safe environment.

“At the time I was 25 and wanting to succeed in my career and it was a good opportunity running Blackpool’s biggest fun venue.

“It’s probably where I made my mark in management and will always have a place in my heart.

“But looking at what we have in place there now, closing the Tower Lounge was the right decision for the resort.

“When I walked into the Harry Ramsden’s which is in there now, on the first day, there was a real wow factor.

“It’s more than a fish and chip shop, it’s cocktails and high quality products.”

In 2008, Kenny moved on again to become deputy general manager working at that time under then manager Geoff Sage who he credits with teaching him a lot about the venue.

After Geoff left, 2010 saw the council’s purchase of the Tower with Merlin brought in to run it. Kenny then worked for Kate Shane as head of operations, but her appointment as head of all Merlin’s attractions in Blackpool earlier this year, brought about the chance for him to finally secure the dream top job.

“It is a national landmark, and a figurehead in British tourism and I’m proud of what it has achieved and what we can achieve going forward.

“We have had a really strong summer, and first half of the year. Blackpool as a resort is really strong.

“That’s not just because of the Tower, but because we have amazing attractions.

“For us to succeed, we need Blackpool to succeed and us all to be on the same page.

“Competition doesn’t do any harm, but we need to get people to Blackpool and we need to do that collectively, not individually.”

His own favourite memory is meeting Scottish snooker star Stephen Hendry during a snooker shoot-out competition the Tower hosted, but he has also worked on every Strictly Come Dancing broadcast from the famous ballroom.

And with Tim Burton’s film Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children due for release in September, and set to put the international spotlight on the Tower, there is plenty to look forward to.

Kenny adds: “There is a lot of pressure, but when things are getting tough you just turn the computer off and have a look in the circus for five minutes or the ballroom.

“You feel better at once - so you can’t have a bad day working here!”