Blackpool awarded £4m Heritage Fund grant to open first museum

Yosola Olorunshola, 26.06.2019
The museum aims to regenerate the historic seaside town
Blackpool is a step closer to having its first museum after receiving  a £4m lottery grant to complete the project, which is due to open its doors in March 2021.

Operated by Blackpool Council, the museum will tell the story of Britain’s first seaside resort. Its collection, exhibitions and cultural programme will celebrate the entertainers that built the town’s reputation – comedians, dancers, acrobats and performers.

The venue will be the first public museum to feature the UK’s first permanent displays on circus, magic, variety and ballroom dance, combining more than 800 objects from Blackpool’s collections with those on loan from national partners, including the Victoria and Albert Museum.

As Blackpool’s first museum, the project is seen as an opportunity to help regenerate the economy and revive local pride, after the town has repeatedly been identified as one of the 20% most deprived areas in England.

“Blackpool has the greatest concentration of deprivation in England, with high numbers of incoming low-income and vulnerable people with poor social networks,” said Kerry Vasiliou, learning and engagement manager at the Blackpool Museum Project.

“The museum will deliver many benefits for the town, its people and its heritage, playing a critical role in Blackpool’s much needed and ambitious regeneration plans and will make a significant contribution to the economy of the region.”

Originally intended to be called Amuseum, a new name will be announced later this year, capturing a “fresh approach that reflects the lively spirit of Blackpool”.

The museum will cost £12.6m and has received more than £7m in external funding, including £4m from the Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund and £1.75m from the Coastal Communities Fund (England). The £4m National Lottery Heritage Fund (Heritage Fund) grant just announced marks the "final piece in a £13m funding jigsaw." Blackpool Council will provide £1m towards the project.

It is expected to attract 296,000 visits annually, deliver 39 FTE jobs and provide £13.16m of regional economic benefit.

The Blackpool Museum Project is one of several heritage-led regeneration projects across the north of England to be given a boost by the latest round of Heritage Fund grants. The other recipients are:

  • Bradford Live – awarded just under £1m to help transform Bradford’s Odeon into a world-class commercially sustainable 4,000 capacity entertainment venue

  • Stockton Town Centre Northern Gateway – awarded just over £1.8m to “complete the jigsaw” of heritage-led regeneration and redevelopment in the town centre

  • The Whitaker Experience – awarded just over £1.7m to reimagine a key museum for Rossendale as part of its tourism and regeneration strategy

  • Dippy on Tour – awarded £159,000 to see the north-west play host to the Natural History Museum’s most famous dinosaur.
David Renwick, the Heritage Fund’s director for England, North, said: “Together with the other awards made today, this funding gives a clear message of how heritage-led regeneration can play a key part in the future of the north. We cannot wait to see these projects in action.”

The Heritage Fund announced last week that it was relaunching large-scale grants of £5m or more after a two-year hiatus.  Applicants have until 11 October to submit an expression of interest.