Blackpool sets its sights on dance after failed casino bid

Blackpool is set to use £4 million of government money to help rebrand itself as the UK’s “capital of dance”, following its failed bid to host the country’s first super-casino.

The resort has been earmarked the cash under the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s Sea Change scheme, which will see £45 million invested in the UK’s seaside resorts over the next three years.

In the first year of the initiative, Dover, Torbay and Blackpool have each had £4 million put aside for them to use. The resorts must now decide on individual projects for which they must raise matching funds in order to secure the cash.

Blackpool revealed it intends to use the money to create a “festival and events zone”, with a capacity of 30,000 on the seafront in the Tower Headland area, which would spearhead the town’s “ambition to become the capital of dance”.

Doug Garrett, the chief executive of ReBlackpool, the urban redevelopment company which will head the scheme, said he hoped it would “regenerate the town, increase visitor numbers and attract back lapsed visitors”. He said he would now be working with Arts Council England, the Northwest Development Agency and the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment to deliver the project.

Maxine Callow, Blackpool Council’s Cabinet Member for Tourism and Regeneration, said she hoped the extra cash would help Blackpool boost its cultural appeal, “particularly its celebrated heritage as an entertainment capital”.

Culture minister Margaret Hodge added: “Cultural projects can play an enormous role in kick-starting regeneration in communities. Not only do they attract new visitors, but they also enhance the environment for residents and give a sense of pride to the community.

“Our objective is to have a spread across all coastal areas. There have been discussions with a number of east coast resorts, including Great Yarmouth, which have some exciting proposals we hope will develop into projects we can support.”

Caroline Miller, chairman of Dance UK, said Blackpool was already recognised as the capital of ballroom dancing, but there was a great opportunity for the town to expand into more community and subsidised dance.

“Dance UK thinks it is fantastic that Blackpool has identified dance as a key strand in its redevelopment plans,” she said. “But whatever they want to do, they will need investment to make it work.”

The development will come as a major boost to Blackpool, which has suffered falling visitor levels for a number of summers and last year was hit hard by its failure to secure a licence to host the UK’s first super-casino.

At the time, the council had claimed the town had “no other realistic alternatives for regeneration”, having pinned its hopes on the casino to relaunch the resort as an entertainment-led tourist destination.

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