'Admission All Classes': Entertainment for the Masses 1850 - 1950

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Library

Abstract

Larger, grander and more spectacular than any similar project previously conceived, 'Admission All Classes' aims to disseminate the history of fairground, music hall, circus and sea-side entertainments at the UK's premier entertainment resort and thereby revitalise its entertainment and cultural industry quarter. 'Admission all Classes', is an ambitious application based on a partnership between the National Fairground Archive at the University of Sheffield Library and Blackpool Council Department of Leisure, Culture and Community Learning. The project has the full support of Blackpool's Theatre Group (the consortium of private commercial theatrical venues in the resort) and the North West Regional Development Agency.

We aim to present a series of high profile festivals/themed weekends, underpinned by high-class research in the history of popular entertainments, in order to give greater impact and authority to Blackpool's tourism and heritage strategy for the next five years. Blackpool possesses a remarkable array of surviving pleasure and accommodation architecture, and a unique tradition of popular entertainment. Blackpool also has 127,000 theatre seats to be filled each week (up to 23,000 a day); with visitor numbers decreasing in the resort there is a need to bring something new to the entertainments already on offer at the venues. These venues, such as the Grand Theatre (designed by Matcham in 1894), the Central, South and North Piers, the Winter Gardens, the Tower Circus and the Pleasure Beach, will all play host to a series of themed weekends from July 2007 to October 2008. Every six weeks, a particular aspect of performance history will be selected and will be repackaged in performances by contemporary artists from the worlds of new circus, variety and theatre. Acts and performers will be hired by the Whoopee Agency, one of the country's leading theatrical agencies. Blackpool Council has also offered ten free busking licenses for each weekend, with the Whoopee Agency auditioning performers for each specially themed weekend. The street performers will act as a performance link to the venues and will be allocated specific sites in the town centre and promenade for their shows. Additional value will come from the promotion of a Fancy Dress Cycle Parade, while specially themed exhibitions of material from the National Fairground Archive will be exhibited at the Grundy Art Gallery ranging from 'Seaside Entertainments' and 'Clowns and Merriment: the Photographs of Lionel Bathe'.

Marketing and promotion of the events will be through print and digital media, with the commissioning, in association with Nick Partick of Radio 4's Making History, of a series of 'Podcasts' to tie in with the various themes of the project. Podcasting is a cost-effective method whereby public organisations can reinforce their profile and deliver expertise and knowledge in the form of custom-made radio programmes that can be accessed via the internet by stakeholders and a wider, global audience, at a time that suits each listener. Each podcast will come on-line a few days before the associated featured weekend to heighten media interest, to attract potential visitors, and to become a valuable resource for listeners around the globe before, during and after the event. Podcasts will take the form of mini-radio features: 10-minute programmes with interviews with performers and the project team. In additional to these digital broadcasts, the programme of events will be disseminated through leaflets and brochures available to download as PDF files on the partner websites and available in print form through the marketing departments of Blackpool Tourism Department and the venues.
The project is linked to the wider revitalisation of Blackpool as a seaside resort by improving the quality of tourism opportunities available and aims to create the conditions necessary for a sustainable annual event of national and international significance which

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