Coronavirus: Blackpool's Grand Theatre facing closure amid pandemic

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Blackpool Grand TheatreImage source, Geograph/IanS
Image caption,
The theatre was threatened with closure in 1972

A theatre which was saved from the bulldozers in 1972 is facing closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Management at the Blackpool's Grand Theatre said it will shut unless the government intervenes.

Fifty-seven staff, most of whom had been furloughed during the lockdown, could be left redundant when the job-saving scheme ends on 31 October.

The theatre has been run by a charitable trust since 1972, when local campaigners saved it from demolition.

Like other provincial theatres which rely on box office receipts, the venue has had no income since the lockdown began, with all tickets refunded for cancelled shows and plays.

Chief executive Ruth Eastwood said the theatre, which opened in 1894, had applied for a £500,000 government grant to keep it going until it might be able to put shows on in January.

But she added: "If social distancing is still in place we would only have 20% of our 1,000-seat capacity which is just not viable."

By that time money would have run out, she said.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Sir Ken Dodd helped the campaign to save the theatre

"If we have no money we will have to close. It is as stark as that," she continued.

"It would be devastating for the town if it closed. It is so much part of the community."

Blackpool-born actor Jodie Prenger, who is among the showbiz supporters campaigning to save the theatre, said: "It can't close, it just can't. It means so much to people."

"I saw my first stage show here as a little girl when I was taken to see 42nd Street and it inspired me a 1,000%.

"In the 19th century its architect was asked to design the prettiest theatre in the country, and it is."

In 1972 the venue's owners Blackpool Tower Company wanted to demolish the theatre which had declined from its heyday when stage greats such as Sir John Gielgud and Vivien Leigh trod its boards.

But it was saved by local campaigners backed by entertainers such as Sir Ken Dodd and celebrated Guardian journalist and BBC broadcaster Alistair Cooke.

It reopened in March 1981 with a performance of The Merchant of Venice starring Timothy West and Prunella Scales, who were also members of The Friends Of The Grand.

Image caption,
Jodie Prenger said she was inspired to go on stage by a visit to the theatre
Image source, PA
Image caption,
Prunella Scales and Tim West starred when the theatre reopened in 1981
Image source, The Grand Theatre
Image caption,
The Grand Theatre was saved from closure by campaigners in the 1970s

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