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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Back to the Future

Leopold Grove, Blackpool provides the rarest glimpse of both past greatness and the town's new beginnings. Marvellous visuals on protective hoardings provide images of the soon to be created conferencing centre joining together old designs and the new.

While this is not going to be some amazing new edifice it will nonetheless stand to serve as evidence of what is actually achievable in a compact space abutting period structures, themselves iconic marvels in their time. The Winter Gardens and the Opera House built in era when Blackpool was undergoing earlier transformation will soon be joined by the 2019 Winter Gardens Conference Centre on a site that stands apart from long familiar Church Street venues.

The Council is to be congratulated on moving this project forward at a rapid pace - by Council standards, and underpinning long held aspirations for a modern conference venue. Twists and turns and avoidance of market trends and realities have ensured that forward looking cities like Liverpool and Manchester have seized on a tide of change by creating large exhibition and conference space suited to the 21st century (the early part). Whilst Blackpool has allowed its pre-eminence and foremost role in the conferencing arena to be dimmed and diminished, but not quite extinguished.

A unique passing visual with the Tower, the original Winter Gardens structure immediately in front of it; the Olympia Building to the left and the rear actually the stage element of the 'new' Opera House (1939) to the right.

There is a strong argument that hosting large political gatherings and major Party conferences comes with a very costly price tag of security and other impediments on the hosting authority. Far better that larger urban centres with deeper pockets and resources take on this mostly onerous role. Blackpool is favoured for the lighter touch

with a mix of eccentricities, fresh air and iconic buildings by the seaside. Very soon its physical links with the rest of the country will be further strengthened by electric trains, and even dare it be said, direct rail service with that cornocupia of metropolitan wealth politics and business - the country's capital. Below : Work in progress. At the rear the tiered structure of the Opera House provides the backdrop to the neat new Conference centre being fitted into space cleared in 2018 for this purpose along Leopold Grove. A smart visual of the new structure at street pedestrian height and its integration into the existing Winter Gardens complex of previous era - provides diversity of classic designs and popular taste over two centuries. All Images : John Woodman

Through now inexorable inevitability, the town's fortunes are perceptibly changing. Physical signs are evident on Leopold Grove, North Station, Talbot Road, Clifton Drive, the Pleasure Beach, the new Energy Centre and Enterprise Zone on Squires Gate Lane (perhaps we might change that to 'Boulevard' or 'Drive'). Now if only we could pull the town's football club into the 21st Century through a reinvigorated and wholly new ownership - that really would make the media give the town sustained attention. Wembley anyone?

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