Blackpool Council makes U-turn on ‘impossible’ fees that put future of Bispham Gala in peril

Pictures Martin Bostock'Bispham and Norbreck Gala.'The Procession.
Pictures Martin Bostock'Bispham and Norbreck Gala.'The Procession.
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The leader of Blackpool Council has promised that an historic Gala ‘will not be asked to pay anything at all’ after fears were raised about its future.

Christine Bradshaw, of the Bispham Gala committee, said the 126-year-old Gala would not be able to go ahead next year due to new fees set to be introduced by the Council.

But bosses have now made a U-turn on the decision to charge the committee up to £4,700 for the Gala, which takes place this year on July 20 .

Council leader Simon Blackburn said: “Having read in The Blackpool Gazette about the difficulties being faced by the Bispham Gala, I have spoken to the deputy leader with responsibility for these matters (Coun Gillian Campbell).

“We have agreed that, although the Gala will of course have to comply with the same health and safety rules as everyone else, as the event is of such historic value to the town, and given their charitable aims, the Council will waive all fees and charges, and will not be asking the Bispham Gala to pay us anything at all, now or in the future.”

Coun Maxine Callow, whose husband Peter is on the Gala committee, said: “This is wonderful news; absolutely marvellous. Common sense has prevailed.

“I don’t think the Council meant to cause so much upset but they certainly did, as the chairman of the committee has just stepped down due to ill health, It was like battering the poor committee when they were down.

“I thought we may have a battle on our hands; I thought we’d have to arrange a meeting and have lengthy talks about the pros and cons.

Chairman Nick Hamilton, who is due to step down from the role after more than 20 years, said: “This is brilliant news and I should think that the committee members will be over the moon.”

Committee chairman Nick Hamilton said: “I’m ever so pleased. We have had the Gala for so many years were never charged, so it was all a bit of a shock the way it was sprung on us.

“I’d very pleased for the copmmittee. I have done nearly 25 years on the committee but that’s paltry compared to some of the others who have done well over 40 years. I used to go to the Gala when I was a child and I’m a Bispham lad, so I would have been sad to see it stop.

“Now all we need is new committee members, a new chairman and secretary.”

The Bispham Gala is currently in its 123rd run, accounting for a three year gap during the Second World War.

It was originally run by the four churches of Bispham, including the United Reform Church and All Hallows Church. A gala committee was set up in 1972 to help with the event, and is now the main organiser.

People who want to take part in this year’s parade should dress up in their best fancy dress costumes and meet on the gala field off All Saints Road at noon on Saturday, July 20.

People with floats should head for the Blackpool and The Fylde College Bispham campus on Ashfield Road, where they will be directed into positions.

The procession will set off at 1pm and arrive back at the field at 2.45pm for the crowning of this year’s Gala Queen and Prince Charming.