Remembering history

The Grand Theatre, Blackpool
The Grand Theatre, Blackpool
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One of Blackpool’s oldest and best-loved venues reaches the Grand old age of 120 years today.

One of Blackpool’s oldest and best-loved venues reaches the Grand old age of 120 years today.

The Grand Theatre, built by leading Victorian architect Frank Matcham, first opened on July 23, 1894.

Over the years, many of theatre’s greats have trod the Grand’s boards – such as Lily Langtry, Gracie Fields, John Gielgud, Oscar Wilde, Rex Harrison, Vivien Leigh and John Mills.

And on Saturday, present day favourites will be celebrating the milestone at Tea With The Stars, with panto comic Steve Royle and producer Duggie Chapman on the guest list.

Chief executive Ruth Eastwood joined the theatre last 
 year and is now forging plans for its future.

“This is a time when lots of things are happening in Blackpool and it feels like there’s a head of steam in terms of making a difference to arts and culture – and it’s exciting to be part of it.

“Now, 120 years on from first opening its doors, The Grand still remains at the heart of the community, offering people of Blackpool, Wyre, Fylde and the rest of the region, the very best in t
ouring productions as well as opportunities to participate, experience and learn 
through theatre.”

Tony Stone, chairman of the Grand’s Arts and Entertainment Board, said: “There is no better way to celebrate than with our most exciting and forward-looking programme, which is delighting the community, as well as providing a vibrant attraction for visitors to our town.”

Tickets for the ‘luxury afternoon tea’, at 3pm in the Lawrence House Studio, cost £10, from the box office by calling (01253) 743339.

Remembering history

Thomas Sergenson dubbed the theatre “Matcham’s Masterpiece” on its opening in 1894. Now, when few of Victorian theatre architect Frank Matcham’s works remain, the title gains extra merit. The theatre was built in just nine months, costing Sergenson £20,000.

In the early 1970s, the theatre was threatened with demolition by then-owners the Tower Company, when they sought permission to replace it with a department store.

Fortunately, the theatre won Grade II* listed status and remains protected.