Regeneration in Blackpool; a destination for holiday-makers
When it comes to Blackpool’s place as a destination for holiday-makers, it seems regeneration is the word on everyone’s lips.
There has been significant investment in recent years. With the help of funding from Europe, the Northwest Regional Development Agency, and Blackpool council itself, the local authority was able to acquire several of Blackpool’s most notable landmarks in 2010, including the tower and the Winter Gardens from Leisure Parcs. Furthermore, The Talbot Gateway Central Business District, a £220 million scheme to create new retail, commercial and community space, is intended for completion by summer 2014.
But it’s clear that other areas need regeneration too. While, historically, Blackpool has been a hub for entertainers, performers and musicians, the city is not renowned for its focus on the arts, preferring to emphasise the tourist attractions and leisure activities.
All that is, hopefully, set to change. The Arts Council England has dedicated £3 million of its funds to start LeftCoast, an initiative that aims to encourage greater creativity in the Blackpool and Wyre areas from 2014 to 2016. Backed by a group of partners that include Blackpool Grand theatre and Merlin Entertainments, LeftCoast will be engaging more people with arts and culture by creating, generating, importing and exporting great art.
So far, several schemes have been announced by the organisation. January saw the first Golden Section artists’ networking event and the announcement of LeftCoast Express, a self-directed learning programme for artists, creative producers, curators and programmers, that offers the possible £4000 worth of funding. The Future Popular program will also encourage artistic endeavours by offering commissions to artists living, working, or studying in the region.
There is no doubt that a thriving arts scene could have the potential to attract a new demographic to the area and rejuvenate its image. Michael Trainor, LeftCoast’s artistic director, has said: “Blackpool is famous for putting on the best and most exciting things. It has some of the best venues in the UK. We are trying to return to the heyday, in a way. We are interested in making Blackpool the place people come to see things first. There are a lot of great things happening in Blackpool and Wyre – it is about encouraging more people to experience great art, whatever it is.”
As of early February, LeftCoast is offering job opportunities for the positions of Creative Engagement Manager, Marketing and Audience Development Manager, and Administrative Producer. As well as these roles, the organisation will be appointing local ambassadors to promote the Flyde Coast.
There has already been talk of a dance performance as part of the future events. Trainor “We are working with the Grand Theatre to look at the summer season and what we can bring in. We are also looking at doing a big new dance piece in the Tower Ballroom. Because Blackpool has become so well-known for dance, especially through Strictly Come Dancing, we thought we would capitalise on that.”
Not that long ago, in 2010, a survey by Which? Holiday magazine found that Blackpool was still the nation’s favourite seaside resort. Blackpool’s economy is firmly rooted in the tourism sector, but to keep people coming back, there needs to be a culturally varied programme of events. LeftCoast look like they’ll be injecting some fresh and exciting ideas into the region, which can only be a good thing.