Having a Grand time as theatre goes for another dose of dance

Ruth Eastwood, new chief executive at Blackpool's Grand Theatre.
Ruth Eastwood, new chief executive at Blackpool's Grand Theatre.
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The Grand Theatre is bidding for another three years of big-money Arts Council funding for its dance programme.

New chief executive Ruth Eastwood believes the more diverse the theatre’s output, the better it is for the resort – hence the desire for more dance.

The Grand has received Arts Council funding for its dance events for the last three years, but the deal comes to an end at the close of 2015.

“But we want to continue it for another three years after that,” said Eastwood.

“I think as a theatre we owe it to the local community in Blackpool to give them an opportunity to see things like dance.”

The theatre received £120,000 a year for dance from the Arts Council in 2012/13, though due to cuts this was reduced to £117,500 this year and will be down to £115,000 in the last year 2014/15.

The Grand is still working on the exact details for the new bid, though it will hope to receive at least a similar amount.

That will enable them to continue to bring contemporary dance shows to the resort – and audiences for dance are steadily growing.

“We started from a low base because we were introducing a brand new type of product to a brand new type of audience and we were asking them to take a risk,” said Eastwood.

“For early shows we were in the low 100s of people coming. But we were more than 50 per cent full for our last two shows so we are on the way up.

“We’ve been able to bring national and international work, as well as local work, to the theatre so it means it gives people a choice.

“It’s like a box of Milk Tray. Once you’ve tasted one, you might venture on to another.”

One of the highlights of the coming year at the theatre is a hip hop festival, called Breakin’ Convention.

“It is a great way to open the venue up to new audiences,” added Eastwood.

The Grand was completely sold out last week when Jason Manford played to more than 1,000 people.

That’s not always the case – some shows at The Grand aren’t well attended.

“That’s true but I think it is about the right amount of people to the right thing,” said Eastwood. “You don’t want to fill the theatre with people who don’t want to be there.

“If you are doing something that’s slightly different, like folk music, we don’t expect everybody to like folk music.

“Our hope is that we put such a variety of stuff on it makes different people think at different times say ‘oh I might go and try that’.

“So it’s not about a bum on every seat, it is about the right bum on the right seat at the right time.

“If you are doing something developmental, like contemporary dance, just because it’s not something mainstream like Jason Manford doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be doing it.

“It is about giving different people different opportunities to consume different stuff, so success is measured in lots of different ways.”

For a full programme of what’s coming up at the Grand, head to www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk

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