Radio 4 to celebrate Blackpool’s entertainment heritage

Leading figures from Blackpool’s entertainment industry – including Pleasure Beach managing director Amanda Thompson – will champion the seaside town’s cultural significance as part of a BBC documentary.

The programme will be aired on BBC Radio 4 to mark the centenary of the Blackpool Illuminations this year and is being made by production company Just Radio.

Using the illuminations as a focal point, producer Susan Marling said the documentary would explore “the unique entertainment and architectural heritage of Blackpool” and “why it’s worth celebrating now and preserving for the future”.

The 30-minute programme will be presented by Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, who is creative director of the Illuminations.

Marling said: “Through his involvement in the designs of some of the tableaux and light works over the past few years, Laurence has got to know the event, the people and the town very well. He argues that both Blackpool and its illuminations are misunderstood, suffering from the trashy image and the dip in popularity the resort suffered in the 70s and 80s.”

As well as an interview with Thompson, the documentary will include contributions from academic Professor Vanessa Toulmin, who specialises in Blackpool and fairground entertainment, and head of the illuminations, Richard Ryan.

Film director Gurinder Chadha, who made Bhaji on the Beach in Blackpool, also features in the documentary, alongside an archivist from the town’s Grand Theatre.

Marling said the documentary would include historical information about the town, covering its “heyday” between the late 1920s and early 1950s, when she said the “scope of its entertainment was unrivalled outside of London”.

“But it’s also about how Blackpool can secure a future by trading on its distinctiveness – by not going down the route of looking like every other town and by being somewhere where both the creative energy and entrepreneurial spirit that built Blackpool can be fostered,” she added.

The programme, called All Lit Up – a Century of Illumination in Blackpool, will be aired on September 1 this year, one day after the lights are switched on. It will include material recorded live from the switch-on itself.

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