Lottery Fund backing for a museum in Blackpool proves the resort’s heritage is finally being taken seriously, the town’s civic guardians said today.
As revealed in yesterday’s Gazette, the council has secured £1.2m of Heritage Lottery Funding which will be used to work up firm plans to transform the Pavilion Theatre in the Winter Gardens into a museum.
Providing the strategy progresses ‘satisfactorily’, the Lottery Heritage Fund has indicated the scheme will receive the full £13.6m grant asked for, with further match funding coming from the council. The full cost is around £21m.
Joan Humble, chairman of Blackpool Civic Trust, said the award proved Blackpool’s heritage was being taken seriously at a national level.
She said: “We now need to use this development money to make sure the museum is created in the best interests of the residents of Blackpool as well as our visitors.
“It is a clear indication organisations like the Heritage Lottery Fund and others are taking Blackpool seriously.
“When they come to the town and see the Winter Gardens, they understand this is a town that deserves to celebrate itself in a museum but the museum has to be one that is exciting and interesting and involves local people and their stories, as well as the famous stars that come to Blackpool.”
The next stage will be to collect memories from the resort’s heyday to tell the story of Blackpool’s rise to become the UK’s first mass tourism destination for the working classes.
Businessman Stephen Pierre, who is set to open his own Bygone Blackpool Gallery in his Topping Street coffee shop, said: “I think there will be lots of people who want to contribute to the museum.
“Many other towns already showcase their past and to have something like this in Blackpool would be priceless.
“It would be a reason for schoolchildren to visit from all over the North West for educational visits.”
Blackpool theatre producer Duggie Chapman said many people had archive material which could be included in the museum.
He said: “There is lots of material out there, and for example I can go back to the 1960s with my shows here.
“I think a museum is a fantastic idea for Blackpool and people are very interested in the past.”
He said one area of huge interest was in old posters advertising holidays in the town.
Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden, who is also former editor of History Today magazine, said: “I think this is potentially an enormous game-changer, not just in terms of bringing hundreds of thousands of people into Blackpool, but also in putting the resort on the heritage map.
“As well as the practical changes for the Pavilion Theatre, it will be a major innovative heritage attraction in its own right.
“I have always thought Blackpool’s history is a point of entry to the whole history of popular culture.
“The use of oral history and the rich archive we already have in the town offers fantastic opportunities for both visitors and residents.”
Blackpool North MP Paul Maynard said: “One of the first things I identified when I was just a candidate for Blackpool North and Cleveleys was the need for Blackpool to capitalise on its heritage to boost visitor numbers.
“It has been a long time coming but I am glad we now have firm plans in place.”
A total funding pot of £1.6m is available for the 18-month development phase which includes £240,000 from the council and volunteer time worth the equivalent of £137,000.
Ten jobs will be created and work will include in-depth surveys, public engagement and consultation.
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