It's had its up and downs - but Showtown is on its way to Blackpool

Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen helps launch Showtown
Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen helps launch Showtown
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From hiccups over funding to obstacles in finding the right location - Blackpool's museum project has walked the tightrope.

So it was fitting the rollout of its new name and branding as Showtown was held at the iconic Blackpool Tower Circus where tricks are part of every performance.

Rabbits have had to be pulled out of hats to keep the museum dream on track - indeed it was axed at one point due to spiralling costs.

But now Showtown is on its way and will open in summer 2021 inside the new Sands Hotel being built on Central Promenade.

It is almost seven years since the idea was first mooted - originally to be inside the Winter Gardens and since then there has been a battle to keep costs under control.

It has stayed on course partly due to the commitment of a large band of more than 100 volunteers who have worked with Blackpool Council's heritage service.

Next year the 'history of fun' will finally have a permanent home with rare archive material vying for space with comedy props from across the generations.

Key to its success will be inter-active and immersive zones, and the museum will be in the heart of the tourist zone but also connected with residents and schools.

On board is celebrity Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, chairman of the Blackpool Museum Trust, who is already an ambassador for the Illuminations.

He told the audience at the launch event: "This is a wonderful, exciting moment where I feel we are giving the missing jigsaw piece back to Blackpool.

"The museum that should always have been here, is here, but this time for the 21st century.

"All those 18 million people who come here on holiday will be very interested in what we have to say about the history of fun.

"What Blackpool is about has become part of all our Saturday night viewing."

The germ of an idea for a museum goes back to when Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn questioned why the resort did not have a museum while other towns did.

He said: "Blackpool is an amazing place with an amazing story to tell and this time next year we'll be able to share that story with the world."

It's a story which will be told through immersive experiences, film, music and performance as well as the display of objects curated from private collections and the resort's own archives.

Those at the launch were given a preview from performers representing the six themes Showtown will be built round - Beside the Seaside, How's Tricks, It's Showtime, It's Better With the Lights On, Everybody Dance Now and Roll Up! Roll Up!

The themes represent everything Blackpool is famous for - from circus to magic, from the beach to the Lights.

Six miles of Illuminations were personified in a slightly bawdy queen of the lights, there was a comedy magic trick, dancers who did not put a foot wrong, and jugglers with split second timing.

Showtown aims to capture Blackpool's spirit of fun with flair and flamboyance, and is projected to attract 300,000 local, regional, national and international visits each year.

Heather Morrow, head of heritage at the council, summed it up by saying: "It's a national and international story but at the same time an intensely personal story and that's the magic of Blackpool."

Museum project timeline

October 2013 - The idea was first put forward by Coun Simon Blackburn and a feasability study was carried out.

May 2014 - The Pavilion Theatre inside the Winter Gardens was allocated for the museum, and a £1.24m grant was secured from the Lottery Heritage Fund towards development costs.

July 2017 - With the estimated cost of the scheme now £26m, it was axed because sufficient funds could not be raised.

November 2017 - A scaled back project was unveiled to be located in the Sands Hotel being built on Central Promenade.

2018/19 - The funding package was assembled including £4.4m from the Heritage Lottery Fund, £1.75m from the Coastal Communities Fund, £4m from the Northern Cultural Fund, £1.5m from the Lancashire Economic Partnership Growth Deal and £1m from Blackpool Council.

January 2020 - Showtown unveiled as the new name for the museum.

June 2021 - Showtown due to open.