Know your theatre:
Theatre architect Frank Matcham's masterpiece sits on a windy street back from the prom, on an awkward corner site that was once a circus.
Built between December 1893 and July 1894 at a cost of £20,000, today it is known as "Matcham’s masterpiece", a glorious, Grade II* listed, 1,100-seater four-level wonder of ornate gilded plasterwork.
The Grand is one of several Matcham masterpieces, but for Blackpool he was asked to design “the prettiest theatre in the land”. There might be arguments about that (Matcham's Buxton Opera House anyone?), but as well as being beautiful it had innovations such as cantilevered tiers, which needed fewer pillars and offered unobstructed views.
The theatre had been successful until the 1930s, but then faced competition from talking pictures. Outside summer seasons it also had to operate as a cinema. The vast, nearby Opera House in 1938, and later the arrival of TV, put the theatre into financial decline. Popular summer farces in the 50s and 60s couldn’t sustain it year-round, but thanks to Jeffrey Finestone of the Victorian Society, it was listed as Grade II* in 1972 and demolition plans proposed months later were rejected.
After tortuous negotiations and a spell as a bingo hall, the Friends of the Grand, with Blackpool Borough Council, bought the theatre in 1980 and it reopened with an Old Vic performance of The Merchant of Venice, with Timothy West and Prunella Scales.
Vast amounts of fund-raising have produced a couple of major restorations since then, and the "Glorious Grand" is now the UK’s National Theatre of Variety, and Lancashire’s top theatre for touring shows.
33 Church Street, Blackpool, FY1 1HT
Box office 01253 290190. Theatre administration: 01253 290111
As a late-Victorian theatre in a busy town, the Grand has the usual run of bars and a place for coffee and light snacks (Matcham Court Bar), but no restaurant. The theatre has relationships with a number of nearby chain restaurants, which sometimes offer deals on food for theatregoers. The theatre has baby-changing facilities and disabled loos (rear stalls). Assistance dogs are welcome.
Online box office:
The nearest car park to the Grand is West Street car park. The theatre offers a special parking ticket at this site only (£2.50, 5.30pm-12.30am, which is car park closing time), available only with a show ticket. Tickets can be purchased at the time of booking or on the evening at the box office.
Go here and follow the booking route to your show choice