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Blackpool - England
Blackpool is a seaside town and the unitary authority area of Lancashire, in North West England. Located along the west coast of England by the Irish Sea, between the Ribble and Wyre estuaries it lies 17.5 miles or 28.2 kilometers northwest of Preston, 27 miles or 43 kilometers north of Liverpool, 30 miles or 48 kilometers northwest of Bolton and 40 miles or 64 kilometers northwest of Manchester. It is the third most populous town in North West England after Manchester and Liverpool, with a population density that makes it the fourth most densely populated borough of England and Wales aside from Greater London. In the mid 18th century when it became fashionable in England to travel to the coast during the summer to bathe in sea water. In 1781, holiday visitors coming to Blackpool's 7-mile or 11 kilometer sandy beach were able to use a newly built private road, built by Thomas Clifton and Sir Henry Hoghton. Stagecoaches began running to Blackpool from Manchester in the same year, and from Halifax in 1782. In the early 19th century, Henry Banks and his son-in-law John Cocker erected new buildings in Blackpool such that its population grew from less than 500 in 1801 to over 2,500 in 1851. Buildings such as St John's Church in Blackpool which was consecrated in 1821. Blackpool rose to prominence as a major center of tourism in England when a railway was built in the 1840s connecting it to the industrialised regions of northern England. The railway made it much easier and cheaper for visitors to reach Blackpool, initiating an influx of settlers, so that in 1876 Blackpool was incorporated as a borough, governed by its own town council and aldermen. In 1881 Blackpool was a booming holiday resort with a population of 14,000 and a promenade complete with piers, fortune-tellers, public houses, tram and donkey rides, fish-and-chip shops and theatres. By 1901 the population of Blackpool was about 47,000 making it an archetypal British seaside resort. Changing tastes combined with increased opportunities for British to travel overseas, supplanted Blackpool's status as a leading resort during the late 20th century. Nevertheless, Blackpool's urban fabric and economy remains relatively undiversified, and firmly rooted in the tourism sector, and the borough's seafront continues to attract millions of visitors every year. In addition to its sandy beaches, Blackpool's major attractions and landmarks include the Blackpool Tower, Blackpool Illuminations, the Pleasure Beach Blackpool, the Winter Gardens, and the UK's only surviving first-generation tramway.
Blackpool is often described as the gay capital of the North with Brighton often being referred to as the gay capital of the South. Blackpool had its first gay pride celebration in 2006, since historically seaside resorts have been able to provide niches for minority groups. Blackpool, like other English resorts, has had a reputation for being a safe community for gay people and during World War II, there was a proliferation of cafés, pubs and clubs where homosexual men could meet in Blackpool. In the 1990s, the town began to be promoted as a gay tourist destination. It contains several bars, pubs and nightclubs aimed at the LGBT community. These include Funny Girls - a burlesque cabaret showbar, Buzz, the Flamingo, the Flying Handbag, Roxy's, Mardi Gras, KAOS, and Taboo/Lucys @ tabago. The local gay community is now also catered to by three online radio stations – 3D Radio, Flash Hitz Radio and Blackpool Gay Radio featuring a mix of music, local news, features and celebrity interviews. Blackpool remains a summer entertainment venue, specialising in variety shows featuring entertainers such as Ken Dodd and Roy 'Chubby' Brown. Ken Dodd can regularly be seen throughout late summer at the Grand Theatre Blackpool. The Grand Theatre Blackpool was designed by Victorian theatre architect Frank Matcham and was opened in 1894 at a cost of £20,000. The project was conceived and financed by local theatre manager Thomas Sergenson who had been using the site of the Grand for several years to stage a circus. Matcham's job was to build Sergenson the prettiest theatre in the land. The Grand was Matcham's first theatre that used an innovative cantilever design to support the tiers, thereby reducing the need for the usual pillars which allowed clear views of the stage from all parts of the auditorium. Sergenson's successful directorship of the theatre ended in 1909 when he sold the operation to the Blackpool Tower Company. The success of the Grand Theatre Blackpool continued through World War I and on until the 1930s. The theatre then faced stiff competition from the newly introduced talking movies and the building was operated as a cinema outside the summer tourist season. This practice continued until 1938 when the nearby Opera House was constructed. The Grand was able to stay open during World War II but the post-war rise in the popularity of television was probably the cause of the theatre's dwindling popularity in the 1960s. Plans were filed for the demolition of the historic building in 1972 but the Grand's status as a Grade II listed building was sought and obtained by a group of friends and the demolition was prevented. An agreement was reached with the Grand's owners, EMI, that a refurbishment of the then unused building would take place if it could be used as a bingo hall. After three years of bingo use, the group of friends, now called the Friends of the Grand, with the support of Blackpool Borough Council negotiated a lease and eventually a purchase of the theatre from EMI over a period of a few years. The purchase was completed 1 October 1980 and refurbishment was achieved partly through voluntary efforts. Finally, on 23 March 1981 the Grand re-opened as a theatre once again to stage an Old Victorian performance of William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. The theatre's return was further confirmed in May of the same year when a Royal Variety Performance was staged in the presence of Charles, Prince of Wales.
Blackpool Dance Festival is a world famous annual ballroom dance competition of international acclaim. For the last three years, Blackpool has played host to the Rebellion Punk Rock Festival, an annual event which moved back to Blackpool after being held for a few years in nearby Morecambe. The Blackpool Illuminations, which consist of a series of lighted displays and collages arranged along the entire length of the sea front for seven miles or 11 kilometers in total, attract many visitors from late August to early November. This results in some spectacular traffic jams as most people now view the lights from their cars and from coaches which crawl bumper to bumper along the entire length of the sea front, especially on weekends and during school holidays. Every season a famous person throws the switch to turn the lights on in an opening night lighting up ceremony. Much of the growth and character of Blackpool from the 1870s on was based on it's pioneering use of electrical power. In 1879, it became the first municipality in the world to have electric street lighting, as large parts of the promenade were wired. The lighting and its accompanying pageants reinforced Blackpool's status as the North's most prominent holiday resort, and its specifically working class character. It was the forerunner of the present-day Blackpool Illuminations. In 1885 one of the world's first electric tramways was laid down as a conduit line running from Cocker Street to Dean Street on the Promenade. The line was operated by the Blackpool Electric Tramway Company until 1892 when their lease expired and Blackpool Corporation took over running the line. A further line was added in 1895 from Manchester Square along Lytham Road to South Shore, and the line was extended north, first to Gynn Square in 1899, and then to Fleetwood. In 1899 the conduit system was replaced by overhead wires. The tramway has remained in continuous service to this day. Blackpool gained its reputation as a holiday destination and by 1920 it claimed around eight million visitors per year, three times as many as its nearest British rivals, still drawn largely from the mill towns of East Lancashire and West Yorkshire. Stanley Park was laid out in 1920 and opened in 1926. The area round the park has become renowned for some of the most desirable residences in the area. Documents have been found that suggest that the reason Blackpool escaped heavy damage in World War II was that Adolf Hitler had earmarked the town to remain a place of leisure after his planned invasion.
Blackpool is heavily dependent on tourism. In what is often regarded as its heyday from 1900 to 1950, Blackpool thrived due to the factory workers of northern England taking their annual holidays there. Any photograph from that era shows crowds of tourists on the beach and promenade. Blackpool was also a preferred holiday destination of visitors from Glasgow and remains so to this day. The town went into decline when cheap air travel arrived in the 1960s and the same workers opted for the Mediterranean coastal resorts due to lower prices and warmer weather. Today Blackpool remains the most popular seaside resort in the UK, however the town has suffered a serious drop in numbers of visitors which has fallen from 17 million in 1992 to 10 million today. Pleasure Beach Blackpool was the country's most popular free attraction with 6 million visitors per year but due to losing over a million visitors since 1998 it has recently introduced a £5 entrance fee. These days many visitors opt to stay for just the weekend rather than for an entire week. In July 2010, an independent survey of 4500 members of the general public by a consumer magazine declared that Blackpool is still the UK's all-time favorite seaside resort, followed by Brighton, Whitby, Bournemouth and Scarborough. Holiday visitors love the special atmosphere in the town, as well as the spectacular annual seaside illuminations. Blackpool has now improved the seawall and promenade as well as a refurbishing of the Blackpool Tower. Blackpool International Airport operates regular charter and scheduled flights throughout the UK and Europe. The airport is actually just over the borough boundary into Fylde Borough, although a proposal to reorganise Blackpool's borders would see the airport incorporated into Blackpool Borough. This airport which was formerly known as Blackpool Squires Gate Airport, is one of the oldest in the UK. Airlines currently serving Blackpool include Jet2, Manx2 and Aer Arann.
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