By Ian Darrington MBE
FOR well over 100 years, live music has been at the heart of Blackpool’s world-famous entertainment scene.
For a variety of reasons, often weather related, the UK tourist market suffered a serious decline from the late 1960s.
However, Blackpool was able to retain a reasonable percentage of the tourist market due to its unique attractions, such as The Tower, the Winter Gardens, its Pleasure Beach and, crucially, it’s live music scene.
Unlike most cities and towns in the UK during the demise of the tourist trade, Blackpool retained many of its live music venues, providing much appreciated entertainment.
The various dance championships, for example, held in the Winter Gardens and featuring the superb Empress Dance Orchestra (probably the best orchestra of its type in the world) generates huge numbers of visitors to the town, and with them comes considerable income.
What an asset Blackpool’s tourism trade this orchestra is, and surely the envy of many other towns and cities throughout the world.
Despite such powerful and obvious “people attractors”, the number of venues featuring live bands has sadly declined in recent years, to a point where, other than the aforementioned Dance Championships, visitors to the town would be hard pressed to find a live band.
There have been a few notable exceptions, and the Queen’s Hotel surely heads that shortlist.
For 52 weeks a year, the Cabaret Lounge has attracted thousands of people – locals as well as visitors – and anyone who has been there will surely agree to the special and much-appreciated entertainment it has provided.
It was with total disbelief when it was announced that the Joe Wildy Show Band (the Queen’s most popular band and resident there for more than 12 years) along with superb resident pianist Andy Knight would be performing their last gig of the year on Saturday, with no date given for either to make an early return in the new year.
What a sad loss this will be to the town’s entertainment provision.
The accountants and the venue managers need to combine their brain power to find ways to keep live entertainment going, because without it not only will the entertainers’ jobs go, but so will their own.