About the Project

Professor Vanessa Toulmin
National Fairground Archive, University of Sheffield

Larger, grander and more spectacular than any similar project previously conceived, "Admission All Classes" aims to revitalise the entertainment and cultural industry quarter at the UK's premier entertainment resort with a series of events based upon research about the history of fairground, music hall, circus and sea-side entertainments. "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.

The project will 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. Over the next eighteen months, 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. Licensed 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. The renowned performance agency the Whoopee Agency will be programming the shows and also holding cabaret nights in association with particular themes. 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 and at the venues ranging from "Seaside Entertainments" and "Magic and Illusion" for 2008.

Marketing and promotion of the events will be through print and digital media, with the commissioning, in association with Apercu Media Ltd, of a series of "Podcasts" to tie in with the various themes of the project. Each podcast, in the form of mini-radio features, 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. 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.

Completion statement:

From July 2007 to October 2008 Admission All Classes hosted 10 events in Blackpool. The project was written to highlight historical performance venues and new performers. The events proved a huge success with an average of approximately 1000 people attending each event and additional heritage tours and talks proving a real success with residents and visitors alike. Admission All Classes drew to a close with the Halloween Ball in October 2008 but look out for similar events at Showzam! Blackpool's festival of circus, magic and new variety which has taken up our torch to provide similar popular entertainments.

List of Supporters: 

The University of Sheffield

The University of Sheffield Library

Arts and Humanities Research Council

Rotherham Open Arts Festival

Sheffield Theatres

Visit Blackpool