The final sparks of the new year celebrations may have waned but the roaring ‘20s in Lancashire are set to kick off with a bang as the county promises another big year of exciting action on the entertainments programme.
Already, leisure and attraction bosses and promoters are getting excited for a series of announcements and events welcoming a host of big names, productions, festivals, music and comedy across the breadth of the region.
Blackpool, which has for decades held the crown as the UK’s entertainment capital, accounts for more than 40 per cent of the value of Lancashire’s total visitor economy and latest figures have revealed that, despite a 2019 season of ‘mixed fortunes’, the resort is still on the up.
Unique events such as Jason Manford’s Comedy Festival and the British Country Festival, both held at venues in the Winter Gardens, attracted huge numbers from audiences within the county and beyond in their inaugural year – and organisers of both events are hoping to recreate the same success when they return in May and September.
Statistics also showed an increase on monthly sales in resort passes, described as ‘exceptional’, with more than 19,000 sold across the year and April and October proving particularly popular.
Further along the Fylde coast, Lytham Festival will be one of the stand-out events of the summer with crowds upwards of 100,000 people visiting for five nights of big hits in July.
Lionel Richie, Lewis Capaldi, Westlife, Snow Patrol and Little Mix will all play the stage on Lytham Green from July 1 to 5.
Festival organisers say the response in ticket sales for 2020 was ‘unprecedented’.
The 2020 Lytham Festival is the fastest-selling in the event’s 10-year history, with some nights already close to selling out.
Festival director Peter Taylor said: “We were always confident we had a strong line-up, but we have never seen such a rush from people to secure their tickets.
“The addition of a pop concert on Sunday, with the move of the traditional Proms concert to Lytham Hall, has certainly proved very popular.”
Pierjam, the Rebellion Festival and Nickelodeon’s Slimefest show the diversity of events on the programme, whilst big free events such as the Illuminations Switch-On concert and the Blackpool Airshow both still attract a wide interest.
Theatre bosses suggested there had been a noted change in travelling audiences following the closure of the Guild Hall and Charter Theatre in Preston but, following an earlier statement released in November, a Preston City Council spokesman insisted further news on the venue’s future could be expected shortly.
They said the city authority had some “exciting news” to be revealed in 2020 regarding the Guild Hall.
In Lancaster, the Highest Point Festival will return to Williamson Park for three nights in May, and the successful Beat-Herder Festival in Clitheroe will take place in July. Line-ups will be announced shortly.
And through dedicated committees and community fundraising, many of the county’s market towns and wider districts remain faithful to the traditions of their annual festivals and agricultural shows; in recent years expanding their offering such as the Ice Cream Festival in Garstang, which enjoyed huge success in its inaugural year.
In the latest reports from Blackpool Council’s tourism, economy and communities scrutiny committee, which will next meet next week, there is great optimism for the continued drive into the new decade.
In his report, which Philip Welsh, head of tourism and communications, will present to the committee at the Town Hall, he writes: “The indicators for April to October show variable results, illustrating what appears to have been a season of mixed fortunes for the resort with a very positive Easter (April), August Bank Holiday, and final week of October half-term.
“Easter and August Bank Holiday clearly benefited from exceptional weather and October half-term from a substantial events programme.”
Key boosts also included the extension of the free Lightpool Festival, which garnered huge interest over the half-term fortnight in October, with visitor numbers estimated at around 50,000 people.
This month will kick off with a number of sell-out events at both the Opera House and the Empress Ballroom with Ben Elton’s We Will Rock You Musical, the WWE UK brand Takeover return and Indie-rock band Kaiser Chiefs starting out on their new year tour.
Since going on sale earlier this year, rapid ticket sales for We Will Rock You have made it one of the best and fastest selling shows for 2019/2020.
Michael Williams, managing director of the Winter Gardens said: “This show has sold quickly from the first release date and is set to be one of the busiest runs of recent months.
“Ticket sales haven’t dropped off and it will certainly be one of our star performers.”
In February, the venue is just one of three chosen for the 19th anniversary special screenings of northern-based sitcom Phoenix Nights and just last month the team revealed they would be working with top West End producer Mark Goucher for December 2020, presenting their first major pantomime in 50 years, Cinderella.
Michael added: ““This is really exciting news for the venue and the people of Blackpool.
“After such a long absence we can’t wait to put on the best pantomime that the Opera House has ever seen.
“This large scale production of Cinderella will really put the magic into Christmas 2020.”.
Monumental birthdays for two of the resort’s most iconic venues the Tower and Grand Theatre saw ambitious investments with the opening of the new Fifth Floor entertainments complex and first full scale summer musical production Around the World in 80s Days, produced by Preston actor and writer Ian McFarlane.