Publicity officer, Rowan Bridgwood, had the pleasure of meeting with Rachel Sykes of Blackpool Council to discuss plans for a fascinating new museum in Blackpool centered around the topics of heritage, community, and memory.
Can you tell us briefly what the project is all about?
Blackpool Museum will tell ‘The Blackpool Story’- the story of a seaside town that became the world’s first mass tourism destination and the UK’s most popular entertainment venue. This will be no conventional museum – it will be a dynamic and celebratory space - a blend of museum, visitor attraction and theatre, filled with artefacts, film, music and performance. It will be immersive, participatory and inclusive. It will have a strong personality with a memorable and distinctive take which is true to the lively spirit of Blackpool.
What was the impetus to begin the Blackpool Museum project?
Blackpool’s heritage is currently untold. The urgency is to tell the stories, gather artefacts and recognised historic buildings which evidence and celebrate Blackpool as the world’s first working-class seaside resort and its contribution to British popular culture from 1870s to the present day. Blackpool was a product of the world’s first industrial revolution, a playground for northern manufacturing towns and an international centre for popular culture. In its heyday the entire town was a place for performance, from the beach and the pier to the opera house, the theatres and the amusement parks.
Our project intends to draw together the nationally significant historic collections and places them in the Winter Gardens, the earliest, most ambitious and most complete Victorian entertainment complex in the country.
You have taken the project outside of Blackpool to visit local areas. What advantages have you encountered in taking a heritage project such as yours out to the community?
The Museum team took the decision to engage with the wider audience and visit those towns that had traditionally come to Blackpool in the wakes weeks. The days in Bolton, Bradford and Glasgow enabled us to establish the historical attraction of the town from a visitor’s perspective, whilst highlighting areas of popular remembrance as well as those things that are long forgotten.
Preservation of history is a clear benefit of the Blackpool Museum Project, do you think there are therapeutic effects for those sharing their memories?
Reminiscence has been a major contribution factor to our oral history collection. It has enabled us to underpin the desk based research adding context to the various themes that are present within the town. These testimonies are essential for us to identify the social history that has gone before us whilst allowing people to recall and reminisce. The focus of reminiscence is highlighted through partnership working with dementia groups and institutions. The Museum team recognised the benefit of reminiscence prompted by historical artefacts and objects. Memory sessions have been welcomed by care homes and day centers prompting recollection through the use of the memory boxes and allowing their service uses to remember happy times and share conversations with family and staff members.
Blackpool has been a traditional holiday destination for Northern families for generations. What do you think is the timeless appeal of Blackpool?
Blackpool is renowned for its iconic landmarks such as the Blackpool Tower and the Trams. These unique memories stay in the minds of those who visited as children, their experiences and recollections create an appeal for generations of families to retrace their Blackpool holidays, enabling them to share their experiences with their own families.
Finally, could you share a favourite Blackpool Aspect of your own?
The Blackpool Museum Project team consists of a variety of people who were born in Blackpool, those who came to live here many years ago and these who have moved here for the project.
As quick survey of our favourite aspect of the town has resulted in:
Belinda –Project Director-The Sea/Tide/Promenade
Kerry-Community Engagement Manager- Signage
Rachel –Community Engagement Assistant- Dance Festival
Emma- Curator- Tower
John-Learning and Skills Manager-‘Normal’ things that happened in Blackpool that didn’t happen anywhere else.
Deborah- Finance and Admin Manager- Diversity
Tracy- Admin officer- Pleasure Beach
More information on the plans for Blackpool Museum can be found at www.blackpool.gov.uk, facebook.com/blackpoolmuseum or on Twitter @blackpoolmuseum.