The Friends of the Grand are invaluable in supporting this beautiful theatre and its wide-ranging programme. Would you like to join this 1,700 strong group of people and play your part in supporting Blackpool Grand Theatre?
The Contribution of The Friends of the Grand
Over the last 25 years, The Friends have contributed more than £1.7 million towards projects.
In 2015 The Friends provided huge help and support with the theatre’s Capital Project. Then in 2016 they purchased the shops under The Grand to restore the theatre building to Frank Matchams original footprint.
It was back in 1981 when The Friends purchased the Grade II* listed theatre from the then owners, EMI. However, crucially, the purchase didn’t include the row of shops below the dress circle on Church Street. Purchasing the shops under The Grand and returning it to the original footprint was one of main goals of the Friends. John Buck was delighted to have seen this come to fruition.
He said at the time ‘We were invited to buy the shops back in the 1990s, but, back then, the owners wanted more than a million pounds for them and we thought we’d never be able to raise that much. And we were right! Obviously, times have changed, and, thankfully, we’ve been able raise enough to buy them for less than half that price!’
More about the Friends of the Grand
The Friends of the Grand is a 1700+ membership group of people who support the beautiful Grand Theatre and its programme.
Formed in 1973 to save the building from demolition, the first Friends were literally ‘hands-on’. They painted the dressing rooms, repaired holes to the ceiling and helped to get the theatre into shape. Funds were raised in many ways, including Midnight Matinées; all part of the bid to save the theatre.
Early Friends included such names as Violet Carson (Ena Sharples), Alistair Cooke, Ken Dodd, Leslie Crowther, Tim West and Prunella Scales, Billy Pearce and Johnnie Casson.
The role of the Friends of the Grand has changed over the years; nowadays Friends support the theatre in different ways.
Today, Friends raise funds from subscriptions and social events to finance projects within the theatre. The main aim is to enhance the comfort of patrons. Over the last twenty years the Friends have contributed in excess of £750,800 towards projects including the provision of new carpets, seating and technical equipment.
By Autumn 2008, the Friends had contributed almost £250,000 to the Sam Lee Appeal to improve theatergoer amenities and renovate the interior of the Theatre to its near original splendour.
Why Don’t You Become a Friend of The Grand?
Along with fundraising, another way the Friends help is via volunteer teams. Front of House teams sell programmes and orange juice. Importantly, they also extend a warm welcome to patrons.
Mailing Team volunteers assist by stuffing envelopes with publicity material and often enjoy a morning coffee and drizzle cake during the process! As well as saving the theatre a great deal of money, belonging to a team gives members the opportunity to meet like-minded Friends and theatre buffs.
Become a Volunteer
You can join The Friends of the Grand online, or ring the Box Office on 01253 290190. Please mention you saw it on Visit Fylde Coast!
New Chairman for the Friends of the Grand
At the AGM in February 2018, the Friends of the Grand elected John Grady as the new Chairman.
John has been an active member of The Friend’s, holding the positions of Volunteer Co-ordinator, Treasurer and Vice Chair. Of his appointment he said ‘I am honoured to be voted Chairman of the Friends at the Annual General Meeting. I will make it my goal to continue the good work, grow the membership and support the theatre’.
Ruth Eastwood is Blackpool Grand Theatre (Arts and Entertainment) Chief Executive. She works closely with The Friends and their volunteers, who provide over 13,000 hours of time to the theatre.
The well attended meeting marked 45 years of this group. It was a bittersweet occasion as John Buck, the former Chairman for many years, also resigned.
Tribute to Former Chairman John Buck
Previous Chairman, John Buck, resigned due to ill health.
John was one of the original group who raised the money to save the theatre from demolition in 1973.
He, along with other passionate and dedicated Friends, cleaned, repaired and painted in their spare time. They got the building back on its feet, ready for its reopening and dedication from HRH The Prince of Wales in 1981.
He became Chair in of The Friends in 2002, after the death of the previous incumbent George Thomson.
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