I DO not doubt for one moment that you all saw council mobster Alan Cavill spouting off to the Gazette last week about the massive success that was the Elton John concert on Saturday the 16th of June, despite the fact that it was cut short due to police concerns over bad weather.
Of course, we didn’t see Mr Cavill in the paper lashing superlatives upon the John Barrowman concert which was cancelled for the same reason a week later, but this one wasn’t a Blackpool Council concert and didn’t get the mind blowing amount of advertising from Radio Wave and the Blackpool Gazette that was afforded to the Elton John gig. Despite what the Gasjet are saying (“Barrowman had to pull the plug”) it was actually Marketing Blackpool, of which Alan Cavill is a director, that pulled the plug on this one due to health and safety, not Lytham based organisers Cuffe and Taylor (who also do the popular Lytham Proms).
A Cuffe and Taylor spokesperson said: “We have consulted with Marketing Blackpool’s health and safety team and they have advised us that, due to the forecast of severe weather, it is unsafe for our teams to install the sound and lighting equipment for this evening’s concert.” Was the weather that bad on Saturday?
In between these two concerts was the Olympic torch par-tay, scheduled for the evening of Friday the 22nd of June and featuring pop legends like Katy B. Naturally, this was cancelled due to the weather as well, but this was coupled hand in hand with disastrous organisation. People travelled hundreds of miles to Blackpool for the event only to find that even if it had not already been axed due to the weather, they would not have been able to get in because it was ticket only.
To think that Blackpool Council’s “Marketing Blackpool” are responsible for all this is certainly a contradiction in terms, though I am sure the lovely Natalie Wyatt glugged her fair share of complimentary champagne in recognition of her stellar achievements (i.e. doing her job) during the last few weeks.
And so comes the end of Blackpool council’s short term foray into the outdoor entertainments scene, with Andy Cheeseman and his team of mercenaries currently dismantling the stage which has dominated the Promenade for the last fortnight.
The Tower Headland, labelled as a “makeshift arena” by one fan quoted on Elton John’s official website, has been a shambles since it was conceived, much like every project the current council mafiosa have had their grubby mitts on. We were told that we were getting a 20,000 seater outdoor arena, but what we actually got was a flat piece of concrete with plastic fold-away chairs and a bill for seventeen million quid. You don’t see Lytham calling their green an arena now do you?
Way back in 2007, former council leader Peter Callow said that the plan was for the Illuminations Switch-On to move to the Tower Headland by 2009: this was his dream for what he called, “the jewel in the crown of Blackpool Promenade”. Over five years on we still have not had the Switch-On at the Tower Headland and on Monday the portfolio holder for tourism (and partner in crime to Alan Cavill on the Marketing Blackpool board) Councillor Graham Cain told Radio Wave that because of the recent cancellations due to normal Blackpool weather there will need to be a backup venue for this year’s paid ticket-only event, which will naturally come at significant additional cost. We couldn’t have Blackpool council embarrassed by their own vanity project, after all!
Cain’s response, no doubt puppeteered by council fat-cat Cavill, is correct, but I can’t help but think that if Blackpool Council had to spend £17m on an arena, they should have at least created one which would not see its operations cancelled by normal seaside weather. It’s not something that wasn’t said at the time by me and many, many other people who could see a collapse in common sense playing out before their very eyes. It was obvious the weather would be a problem, not just in terms of safety but in terms of acoustics as well.
I understand the romanticism of holding the Switch-On on the Promenade, so punters can coo at the lights coming on, but given the outrageous cost of the Tower Headland just for the off-chance that the council might be able to hold the Switch-On there if the conditions are perfect, it seems like a quite unfathomable waste of taxpayers money, particularly when you add in the additional cost of bringing in the sound, light and stage infrastructure, the cost of setting it up and the cost of dismantling it all and taking it away when the show is cancelled. It could be said that Blackpool Council have created a new way to waste taxpayers money, as if bungled property deals were not enough!
One of the main goals for Blackpool Council should be to create a winter economy for the town, and a good quality all-weather arena would have been a fantastic way of giving the winter season a boost. Alan Cavill bleated that it would not have been financially viable and that a sponsor would have been needed, but this would have required him to actually do the job he’s paid a package of around £100,000 per year to do and bloody well find one. Not only that, but Cavill is a representative of a council that splashed out £40m on a package of property including the Winter Gardens; a loss making, underused indoor venue without a sponsor.
I do wonder if Cavill even priced up a fully functioning modern weatherproof arena or whether he is just speaking hypothetically, reinforcing the ‘small-town, big money’ mentality that Blackpool Council is famous for.
Some private firms were sniffing around the Mecca site for the purposes of an arena but the council slapped a top dollar price tag on the land which snuffed out any prospect of this substantial investment. Perhaps the council didn’t fancy quality competition for their tourism empire.
Regardless, it is clear that unless Blackpool Council can come up with some magic way of weatherproofing the Tower Headland venue on the Promenade, it is doomed. The prospect of cancellations will soon put artists off the venue if they aren’t already laughing at it, and if people book tickets for a gig there only to find it cancelled when they arrive, Blackpool Tower Headland will soon find itself crossed off the list of venues that people want to go to.