Blackpool Business Leadership Group Partnership Report
Business Partnerships Report – November 30, 2018
Town Centre Economy
The BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing returned to the Tower Ballroom on November 17, creating a huge wave of publicity for the resort.
As always, the promotion of the Blackpool show began in the preceding weeks, with professional dancers and celebrity partners vying to dance on one of the world’s most famous ballroom floors.
A number of the dance routines, including that of TV presenter Stacey Dooley, had a Blackpool theme.
There were also a number of sequences shot in other resort locations including Stanley Park, Blackpool Pleasure Beach, SEA LIFE and Madame Tussauds.
The Blackpool show, which featured live performances from Take That and Gloria Estefan, was broadcast on both Saturday and Sunday evenings, attracting a peak audience of more than 10 million viewers.
Section 1: Visitor Economy
LIGHT ODYSSEY & LIGHTPOOL FESTIVAL
The award-winning Lightpool Festival was staged in the resort over the October half-term with a mixture of live performance, spectacular art installations and a repeat of last year’s hugely popular illuminated tram parade.
The festival, which was part-funded by Arts Council England, was launched with Light Odyssey, an incredible sound and light show staged in the Empress Ballroom (pictured above) and featuring 90 musicians from the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and 15 light animators from across the globe.
Over the following week, there were three nights of programmed entertainment starting with The Carnival of Lights parade between Central and North Piers, featuring illuminated trams and vehicles, costume characters, Lumidogs and the famous Spark! drummers.
The following night saw 1500 people witness RUSH, an epic dance and light production staged outdoors with a 100-strong cast on New Bonny Street Car Park just off the Golden Mile. The festival finale took on St John’s Square with a UK premiere of Pyronix – a spectacular Belgian pyrotechnic show combining fire, martial arts, dance and acrobatics.
Throughout the three days, there was an indoor and outdoor art trail featuring contributions from the likes of Yoko Ono and Luke Jerram, whose replica moon was hung in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, attracting more than 10,000 visitors.
CENTRAL LEISURE QUARTER
The long-awaited plans for the Central Station development site in the heart of Blackpool are due to be revealed in the first week of December.
The vast site, which is currently occupied by the courts, former police station and one of Blackpool’s biggest outdoor car parks, was originally earmarked as the site for the UK’s first super-casino.
A new masterplan will be presented to Blackpool Council’s Executive on December 10, but details of the proposals will be made public a few days ahead of that.
KYLIE ON THE COAST
Lytham Festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2019 with its biggest line-up to date.
Legendary rock star Rod Stewart, international pop singer Kylie Minogue, 80s band The Human League and Hollywood Proms, featuring Sheridan Smith and Michael Ball, will take to the stage over the five-night festival. The fifth headline act is to be announced in December. The 10th anniversary festival will take place in the Main Proms Arena on Lytham Green from Wednesday 10 to Sunday 14 July. Tickets are now on sale.
A Canadian pyrotechnics team has been named as Blackpool’s World Fireworks Champions for the second time in four years.
Firemaster Productions saw off competition from teams from France and Romania with a spectacular display synched to music over North Pier.
Although one of this year’s heats was postponed because of bad weather, all four firework events eventually went ahead, attracting tens of thousands of spectators to the Promenade over the four nights. This year, a fifth firework event was staged using funds contributed by Northern Rail as compensation for the ongoing rail disruption.
SWITCH-ON BALLOT OPEN
The free wristband ballot for the Blackpool Illuminations Switch-On event in 2019 is open.
It follows the unprecedented demand for this year’s event when a capacity audience packed the Tower Festival Headland Arena to watch a spectacular five-hour concert, culminating in the switch-on by international music star, Alfie Boe. Since then, the VisitBlackpool team has been swamped with requests for information on next year’s event, which will take place on Friday 30 August. It will once again feature a star-studded concert produced in association with MTV.
This year, over 130,000 people applied for free wristbands to attend the event.
Nickelodeon’s SLIMEFEST returned to Blackpool over the October half-term with six sessions of music and mayhem at the Pleasure Beach Arena.
The shows, which are produced in partnership with VisitBlackpool, featured the likes of Diversity, American You Tube phenomenon Jo Jo Siwa, Busted, HRVY, Union J, Becky Hill and Jonas Blue.
All 12,000 tickets were sold out, with families travelling from all over the UK to watch the exclusive shows. An hour-long broadcast went out on the Nickelodeon TV channel on November 2 and was repeated several times over the following days, generating a huge number of viewers.
As part of the collaboration with Nickelodeon, a Transformers attraction was located on the Comedy Carpet over the three days of the live shows.
125 YEARS OF ENTERTAINMENT
Two of Blackpool’s Grande Dames will celebrate a major milestone in 2019 – the 125th anniversary of their opening to the public.
The Blackpool Tower, which opened on May 14, 1894, will be hosting a year-long programme of celebratory events from May 2019 onwards.
The nearby Grand Theatre was designed by Frank Matcham, the leading theatre architect of the day, and built at a cost of £20,000.
The theatre opened on July 23, 1894, with a production of Hamlet, with the programme printed on pure silk and perfumed with “Tower Bouquet”, created by a nearby chemist.
The Grand will be announcing its programme of celebrations early in the New Year.
PAGES OF THE SEA
Blackpool was chosen to take part in a special commemoration to mark the centenary of Armistice Day on November 11.
Pages of the Sea was an event commissioned by film director Danny Boyle in which the public were invited to gather on beaches across the UK for an informal, nationwide gesture of remembrance for the men and women who left their home shores during the First World War.
Each chosen destination was asked to facilitate the drawing of a large-scale portrait in the sand of a casualty from the war, which was then washed away by the tide.
Poet Carol Ann Duffy was invited by Boyle to write a new poem for the occasion which was read by individuals, families and communities who gathered on the beaches.
In Blackpool’s case, the event commemorated the death of Lancastrian Lance Corporal John Edward Arkwright (pictured right) who lost his life in the First World War.
The remembrance event was staged on the beach below the Cenotaph on North Promenade prior to the annual Remembrance Day service.
Actor Sir Ian McKellen is to bring his new solo show to Blackpool’s Grand Theatre as part of his 80th birthday celebrations.
He will perform on 80 stages across the UK next year with all profits benefiting each individual theatre, including the Grand’s 125th anniversary fund-raising activity.
Sir Ian said he chose Blackpool as one of his venues because while growing up in Lancashire he had always been intrigued by the glamour of Blackpool, its shows and Illuminations.
DR WHO LANDS IN BLACKPOOL
The new Dr Who landed in Blackpool – just in time for the October half-term holidays.
The model of the 13th Doctor, in the form of actress Jodie Whittaker, has been installed at Madame Tussauds in a themed setting including the famous TARDIS.
RAIL DISRUPTION HITS DAY TRIPS
Blackpool’s day tripper market has been hit by a summer of rail disruption.
The latest Omnibus survey results for May to August show that while the number of overnight stays remained strong, the volume of day visits fell by almost 400,000 compared to 2017.
During that four-month period, the resort was affected by a catalogue of cancellations and delays caused initially by timetabling issues across the Northern network, followed by closures on key routes including Manchester and Liverpool, and further exacerbated by strike action targeted at major events and key weekends.
The Omnibus survey shows that the total number of adult visits fell from 3.2m in 2017 to 2.8m in 2018. Overnight stays accounted for 1.5m visits, the same as previous year, but day visits fell from 1.7m to 1.3m.
The biggest falls came in May, when the introduction of new timetables created chaos on the Northern network and in August, when Blackpool’s services were affected by a mixture of strike action and cancellations on key routes.
Over that same four-month period, the volume of inbound travellers coming into Blackpool by rail fell by an average of 5%, with a deficit of 10% in August. Year to date, inbound rail travel is more than 15% down.
Although the 2018 visitor numbers fell short of 2017, they are ahead of the same period in 2016. The strike action on Northern Rail services has continued into the autumn with disruption planned every Saturday between September and December.
The annual STEAM survey for 2017 shows an annual total of 18m visits (adults and children) for the year, with a 2% growth in economic impact giving Blackpool’s visitor economy a total value of £1.5bn. STEAM is the model used by most destinations to measure the value of tourism.
A number of Blackpool tourism businesses celebrated success in the annual Lancashire Tourism Awards.
The Fylde Coast winners and finalists included:
Wedding Venue: Ribby Hall Village, Wrea Green (finalist)
New Business: Clip’n Climb Blackpool (finalist)
Taste Lancashire Restaurant Award: Twelve Restaurant, Thornton (winner)
Holiday Village: Reams Hill Holiday Park, Weeton (winner); Pipers Height Caravan Park, Blackpool (finalist).
Self-Catering Holiday: Newton Hall Holiday Apartments, Blackpool (finalist)
Lancashire Large Hotel: Hotel Sheraton, Blackpool (finalist)
Business Tourism: Winter Gardens, Blackpool (winner); Ribby Hall, Wrea Green (finalist)
Large Visitor Attraction: Madame Tussauds, Blackpool (highly commended); Ascent Trampoline Park, Blackpool (finalist); Blackpool Zoo (finalist)
Retail Experience: Fleetwood Market (winner).
Visitor Experience: Blackpool Heritage Tram Tours (finalist)
Cultural Venue/Organisation Award: Blackpool Heritage Tram Tours (finalist)
Inclusive Tourism Award: Sandcastle Waterpark, Blackpool (winner)
Small Event Award: The Penny Farm Open Day, Blackpool (finalist)
COME ON HOME!
VisitBlackpool joined forces with the Winter Gardens to exhibit at the Conservative Party Conference for the first time. The resort’s message to over 10,000 delegates attending the four-day event in Birmingham was: “Bring your party conference back to Blackpool”. They reminded the party faithful that up until 2007 Blackpool’s Winter Gardens was regularly the destination of choice for both Conservative and Labour annual gatherings. The Blackpool team highlighted how the resort has enjoyed a multi-million pound transformation in recent years including a new £28m Conference & Exhibition Centre that is under construction immediately adjacent to the Winter Garden. The team addressed concerns from delegates about Blackpool’s perceived poor transport connectivity and a lack of premium accommodation. They acknowledged that while both factors had contributed to Blackpool falling out of favour some years ago, millions had been invested in new tourism infrastructure and next generation hotels.
CHRISTMAS IN BLACKPOOL