Trademark row sparks threat to axe Blackpool's famous dance championships

The UK's ruling body for dance competitions has threatened to withdraw its prestigious dance championships from Blackpool in a row with the council over trademarks.

By Shelagh Parkinson
Friday, 25th March 2022, 3:02 pm

Organisers of events held at the Winter Gardens including the British ballroom and Latin dance championships are angry the council has applied for ownership of trademarks for 17 competitions.

The British Dance Council says it was not informed of the move and is threatening to withdraw all its competitions, which attract thousands of competitors from across the globe, from the resort.

Records show Blackpool Council applied for the trademarks on February 9 this year, with the applications currently being examined.

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Competitors performing at the Empress Ballroom

Its arm length company the Blackpool Entertainment Company, which runs the Winter Gardens, is heavily involved in the running of the dance competitions.

Marcus Hilton, president and chairman of the British Dance Council, said there had been no consultation over the move which he said undermined "accepted practice that the British Dance Council will award all championships."

He said this had been the case for more than 90 years.

In a statement issued to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Mr Hilton said: "It is with great regret that we must now find an alternativelocation for our championships normally run in the Empress Ballroom.

"The British Dance Council has enjoyed working with Blackpool and has considered Blackpool as the home of dancing for many years.

"We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to all the hotels, restaurants and bars for their hospitality over the years."

The council said it was in talks with the British Dance Council to resolve the situation, and dance festivals were going ahead as planned.

Alan Cavill, director of communication and regeneration at Blackpool Council, said: “Blackpool’s Dance Festivals are going ahead with support from the World Dance Council, which is the governing body in the ballroom dance world.

“We are very much excited about the coming year’s events and, in particular, the Blackpool Dance Festival, which attracts competitors from across the world as it will hopefully be the first post-pandemic festival in Blackpool that can truly see things back to normal.

“We are in discussion the British Dance Council about future arrangements. These discussions have been meaningful and fruitful.”

Mr Hilton said he was "at a loss" as to why the council was seeking the trademarks.

According to his statement, The British Dance Council has awarded all ballroom and Latin American championships in the UK for just over 90 years.

All UK competitive dancers are required to be members of the British Dance Council and a condition of membership is they will only dance in competitions in the UK run under British Dance Council rules.

It has been accepted practice that the British Dance Council will award all championships.

Mr HIlton said thousands of competitors and officials attended their events in Blackpool from around the world and "consider coming to Blackpool to dance the highlight of their year.".

He added there was "considerable interest" from other councils and promoters to take over the events.

Coun Tony Williams, leader of the Conservative group on Blackpool Council, said he doubted the threats could harm Blackpool's dance business.

He said: "I think the BDC have thrown their toys out of the pram because they were gazumped and hadn't thought about registering the names themselves.

"Blackpool is the world capital of ballroom dancing and dancers from all nations aspire to compete here, so I think that the threat by the British Dance Council of taking these competitions to another town and venue will be a complete failure on their part."

The trademarks the council has applied for are British Amateur Ballroom Dancing Championship, British Over 50's Ballroom Championship, British Professional Ballroom Dancing Championship, British Professional Latin Championship, British Amateur Latin Championship, British Under 21 Years Ballroom Championship, British Under 21 Years Latin Championship, British Senior Latin Championship, British Senior Ballroom Championship, British Professional American Smooth Championship, British American Rhythm Championship, Blackpool Team Match, British Junior Latin Championship, British Junior Ballroom Championship, British Juvenile Latin Championship, British Open Blackpool Dance Festival and The Blackpool Open.

Blackpool is considered to be the home of dancing, thanks to its two famous ballrooms – the Tower Ballroom and the Empress Ballroom in the Winter Gardens.

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