Show-stopping performance revives and regenerates resort

Granny Turisom at Showzam!

We've helped revive the entertainment industries of one of the UK’s most well-known seaside resorts, generating millions of pounds for its local economy.

Our partnership with Blackpool Council's Department of Leisure, Culture and Community Learning has helped underpin the town's tourism and heritage strategies.

Led by Professor Vanessa Toulmin, Head of Engagement at the University, the Admission All Classes (AAC) project utilised the National Fairground Archive's (NFA) research on the history of popular entertainment.

The NFA is directed by Professor Toulmin and housed at our University Library. It's a unique collection of material covering all aspects of the culture and history of travelling fairs and entertainment from the 1800s to the present day.

As part of AAC between 2007 and 2008, the town’s key historic buildings, including the Grand Theatre, the North Pier, the Winter Gardens, and the Tower Circus, played host to a series of high profile events and themed weekends which attracted almost 14,000 visitors.

Produced and delivered by Professor Toulmin, the AAC events drew on research from the NFA to provide a tribute to the seaside entertainment that drew visitors to the town in the 19th and early 20th centuries – including new circus, burlesque, magic, variety and theatre.

Professor Toulmin was creative advisor of Showzam! for three years and in 2011 she assumed the role of sole curator of Showzam! Since then she has played an integral role in establishing the festival as a firm fixture in the UK's entertainment calendar each year. The event is now worth £3 million.

AAC, which was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, also formed the basis for future strategies and regeneration projects which helped drive the renovation of Blackpool's historic sites. This is expected to give a £223 million boost to the local economy.

Alongside AAC, another event that evolved through Professor Toulmin's partnership with Blackpool Council was Showzam!. This first took place in Blackpool in 2008 as part of the Blackpool 365 events programme, funded by the North West Development Agency (NWDA), and led by Marketing Blackpool.

Building on the success of AAC, Professor Toulmin and Marketing Blackpool jointly developed Showzam! into an annual festival of circus, magic and new variety, which now runs every year.

Professor Toulmin was creative advisor of Showzam! for three years and in 2011 she assumed the role of sole curator of Showzam! Since then she has played an integral role in establishing the festival as a firm fixture in the UK's entertainment calendar each year. The event is now worth £3 million.

In 2009-2010 Professor Toulmin acted as a special advisor on heritage and regeneration to the CEO of Blackpool Council, Steve Weaver. Building on the success of her 2009 commemorative publication on the history of the Winter Gardens, she helped the town secure funding to buy the site.

Since the acquisition in March 2010, the Winter Gardens have been undergoing a continuing programme of refurbishment estimated to create 1,000 jobs and deliver £223m in annual benefits to the local economy.