Plans for £10m new Blackpool culture hub at The Grundy Art Gallery and Central Library are unveiled

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Exciting plans to boost Blackpool's cultural offer

A £10m vision to extend Blackpool’s Grundy Art Gallery has been revealed as the town also moves ahead with a new cultural strategy.

The scheme would see the Blackpool Culture Hub built on the Queen Street car park next to the council-owned Grundy if it goes ahead, plus refurbishment of Central Library.

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An artist's impression of the proposed culture hubAn artist's impression of the proposed culture hub
An artist's impression of the proposed culture hub | Blackpool Council

A feasibility study has been carried out using money from the council’s £5.9m grant from the Shared Prosperity Fund, but planning permission and funding still need to be secured.

Documents included in the Claremont Action Plan say the investment would help spearhead regeneration in Queen Street and the surrounding area. The scheme would also support proposals to build on the gay-friendly cluster of bars and hotels in the area to create an LGBTQ+ heritage area.

Two public information events will be held at Central Library on Thursday February 8, with presentations at 3pm and 6 pm. The project will make the complex more accessible for different people’s needs with an internal link between the library and the gallery.

The key changes for Central Library are a redesigned Showtown History Centre on the upper floor where the public can access the varied heritage collections; together with flexible multi-use space downstairs for public talks, workshops, events, and seminars, with kitchen and changing room facilities. The option of a café, permanent or pop-up, is also being considered. 

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 The Grundy would benefit from new gallery space to facilitate a wider range of exhibitions of national and international status, new spaces for school and community groups to take part in workshops, and a shop and toilet/cloakroom facilities.

A steering group is also drawing up a new culture strategy for Blackpool, funded partly by a £15,000 grant from the Arts Council. It is designed to draw together various themes ranging from existing arts organisations to celebrating Blackpool’s unique culture.

Central Library would be refurishedCentral Library would be refurished
Central Library would be refurished | Contributed

Council leader Coun Lynn Williams said: "The Grundy and Central Library really are hidden gems in Blackpool and have so much potential. It is vital that we develop them and make them as accessible to as many people as possible to provide even more opportunities and services for local residents and tourists.

 "This isn’t just about enhancing the Grundy and the library though, it’s about building on the ‘Be Who You Want To Be’ project and other up-and-coming cultural schemes to really enhance and improve what Blackpool already has and ensure the offer is for everyone across the whole town."

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Dominic Williams, director at Ellis Williams’ architects which has drawn up the plans, said: "We are aware of the deep connection that both the Grundy Gallery and the library building holds for many of the community and to that end, we intend the new extension alongside the refurbished buildings, will celebrate Blackpool’s cultural heritage whilst creating an inviting and accessible building for all to use.”

A steering group is also drawing up a new cultural strategy for Blackpool, funded partly by a £15,000 grant from the Arts Council. It is designed to draw together various themes ranging from existing arts organisations to celebrating Blackpool’s unique culture.

 A meeting of the council’s Levelling Up Scrutiny Committee heard there was the potential to bid for up to £1m of funding with Blackpool’s ambition being to become the UK’s Coastal Capital of Creativity.

Peter Legg, head of economic and cultural services, said the £10m extension plan for The Grundy showed “the level of ambition which Blackpool is aiming for.”

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Tina Redford, artistic director of arts group LeftCoast, told the meeting: “There are a lot of organisations in the town doing nationally recognised work.

“This is a document to bring together the capability that already exists and amplify that. There is the capability and determination but we need the funding.

“I’m confident that in six years in terms of being the UK Coastal Capital of Creativity, we will be able to stick our heads above the parapet and make those claims.”

Members of the steering group also include The Grand Theatre, Winter Gardens and Blackpool and the Fylde College.

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Nearly 70 ideas for the strategy have been put forward ranging from historical walks and festivals to celebrating ‘firsts’ such as the electric trams and developing the town’s ‘pink pound’ sector illustrated by the shows at Funny Girls.

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