ABC Blackpool

130-140 Church Street,
Blackpool, FY1 3PR

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terry on November 4, 2020 at 8:38 pm

The first five minutes of one of the 1960’s ABC TV ‘spectaculars’:-

Appearing in the above: Peter Gordeno & Dancers, Tony Hancock, John Junkin and Bob Sharples & the ABC Television Orchestra. I believe that others appearing on the same bill included Freddie Davis and Jeannie Carson.

“Who were they?”, I hear many people asking…..

I understand that these TV recordings survive intact and, if so, one would have thought that the enterprising married couple who own and operate the wonderful (I think) ‘Talking Pictures’ TV channel would try and acquire them for Sunday evening screenings as a refreshing change from the third repeat of the same episodes of ‘Sunday Night at The London Palladium’. The ABC Blackpool shows were equally as good and often featured the ‘revolve’ (yes, like the London Palladium had).

terry on November 12, 2019 at 4:56 pm

Three photos uploaded going back to the ‘heyday’ of the wonderful ABC Theatre – long before its very sad subdivision….

GramRfone on November 26, 2017 at 5:20 pm

I was the Chief Projectionist at the ABC Lyric, Wellingborough & when I heard about the plans for the ABC Blackpool I applied for a position and became Co-Chief Projectionist / Lighting Engineer. My interview was with the (in) famous Nick Mole who was in charge of all the ABC Circuit projection equipment. The other Co-Chief was the Sound Engineer Brian Wall who came from the Regal, Chesterfield, and who I understand remained at the cinema right up to the day when it ceased showing films…having been tripled for some years. The Manager was indeed Robert (Bob) Parsons, a Manager who I found to be very un-approachable and not made any the better because he’d expected the Chief projectionist at his former cinema to be given the position that I had! In turn Bob Parsons was replaced by Mr Chadwick, who it may not be known was the brother of the very famous Cinema, broadcasting and recording organist Doreen Chadwick. The Strand Board arrived one morning prior to the opening of the theatre, and it was manhandled by 6 of the projection & (visiting) Strand Engineers from street level up to the mid Circle entrance, and then right up to the back wall where there was a huge hole waiting for the console to pass through. The wall was then bricked up and decorated to fit in with the theatre decor. The Sound Engineer had a box sited on the back row beneath the projection room portholes, from where he controlled all the mics and sound levels /tape machines etc for the live shows. The room containing all the lighting switches, circuits and solenoids to actuate them was several floors up above the dressing rooms back stage, but almost in line with the projection room, from where the multi cable from the console travelled across the ceiling void and into this room. Now the problems began! The building was still being knocked about and rebuilt into what were the four exterior remaining walls of the original cinema/theatre (The Hippodrome) and so dust was flying and settling everywhere. The Strand Engineers (I believe one was a Mike Brown) had already spent many days in this switch room installing all the stacks and circuits. The settling dust caused them huge headaches as it got into all the contacts, despite the entire room eventually being shielded in poly sheeting. Came the very first day of rehearsal for the Cliff Richards Show. It had been agreed that prior to rehearsals I would go down to London to Strand and be given tuition on the board. This never happened and so the first time I even saw the Lighting Plot for the show was on the morning of the first rehearsal. The aforementioned Strand Engineer was designated to sit next to me at the console in order to show me what switches, pre-sets etc did and also how to set them up for scene changes and store the settings for immediate re-capture. I set up Scene 1 on the top bank and Scene 2 on the lower bank. On cue I pressed the first pre-set. The Producer of the show got on the intercom and told me to re-check everything as this was not what he had written down. Doubled checked everything and we began again. He called a halt as it was still wrong. The Strand Engineer then took over and set it to the lighting plot. It was still not correct. Rehearsal was cancelled as it was obvious something was wrong. After several hours the fault was traced to the wiring …which at least exonerated me. The fault? When they wired up the console they did it in reverse. So every time I selected (for instance) Tab 1 which should have given me circuit 1…..the switchgear at the other end of the building actuated circuit 200. Tab 2 = 199 / Tab 3 = 198 etc etc. Only one circuit was correct i.e.: circuit 100 which was half way between the wrong and correct circuits of 200. The entire Lighting plot had to then be re-written showing the opposite numbers to the original ones. Even when the board was then up and running the dust still permeated the switch room and for the first couple of weeks the Strand Engineer spent his time in the theatre sorting out all kinds of associated problems. In the Pathe News sequence, which shows the very last time that a tram travelled down Church Street, there is a brief shot of me operating the board at 5’45”. I later moved into TV at Granada Studios in Manchester and a couple of years ago I tried to find out if the Strand Console was still there, because the only way it could have been removed would have been to have smashed a hole in the front projection room wall again. Over the years the cinema eventually was tripled and the board was still there, but there was no use for it anymore. It was then gutted and turned into a Nite Club, and I learned that the console was removed and was last known to have been stored in an understage dressing room from where it was eventually sold. It now resides, purely as an exhibit, in the foyer of a huge Production Resource venue [LS-LIVE] in West Yorkshire.

Mike_Blakemore on April 24, 2017 at 8:17 pm

Terry I have seen a picture and thought I had a copy. Someone had put it and a number of other pictures in a safe place

terry on April 24, 2017 at 7:25 pm

If anyone has a copy of ‘ABC News’ from May 1963 there are a number of photos of the proscenium both with house tabs fully closed and with Cliff Richard, Carole Gray, The shadows etc in front of a huge ‘Elstree Studios’ backdrop. I used to have a copy (together with about 200 others, all of which I foolishly parted with).

Perhaps if someone out there still has a copy of this magazine (an ‘in house'glossy monthly)they would scan the relevant pages and upload them.

Ironic that the theatre is preserved on videotape somewhere (as I understand that many of the ABC TV Sunday spectaculars survive) but no one, it seems, bothered to photograph the impressive 60' pros….

Mike_Blakemore on April 24, 2017 at 7:05 am

Its is a pity that there is no picture of the Proscenium end.

terry on April 23, 2017 at 4:03 pm

4 images uploaded

terry on March 29, 2017 at 3:24 pm

New link to the famous ‘Beatles Live at the ABC’ :–

It will be interesting to see how long this remains on YouTube but, for those who have not seen it before, there are some good shots of the stage from various angles plus Paul McCartney performs ‘Yesterday’ for the very first time publicly accompanied by the Bob Sharples Orchestra.

terry on September 25, 2016 at 5:08 pm

Although, as I recall, the Dick Emery Show in 1976 was presented at ABC Great Yarmouth the previous year ie 1975.

rasLXR on September 25, 2016 at 4:50 pm

Most of the Summer Season shows went to the ABC Great Yarmouth the following season.

terry on September 23, 2016 at 1:30 pm

3 images uploaded.

terry on September 17, 2016 at 2:47 pm

Image uploaded to photos section.

70mmbobbyj on August 13, 2015 at 12:32 pm

The save the ABC Facebook page has posted a picture showing the demolition of the building.

terry on April 27, 2015 at 4:57 pm

I have uploaded a shot of the auditorium taken from the stage which will be more appropriate than the present profile photo which happens to be the Hippodrome prior to its 1963 reconstruction as the ABC Theatre.

I wish that there were some photos available of the stage from the auditorium. I used to have a May 1963 copy of the in house staff magazine ‘ABC NEWS’ which had a feature article and a number of photos of the place but unfortunately I gave it and many other issues to a friend in Sussex many years ago.

If anyone happens to have a copy, however, it would be obliging of them if they were to scan one of the photos I refer to and upload it to here. One is of the stage and proscenium with the house tabs fully across whilst another is of the stage show ‘Holiday Carnival’ with the full cast in front of the ABPC Elstree Studios backdrop.

I shall always maintain that there was and is not a theatre as wonderful as the ABC Blackpool – what a sad loss!

terry on September 4, 2014 at 4:26 pm

From the British Pathe Library :– (The opening of ABC Blackpool at 05:20)

The Beatles Live: ABC Blackpool 1965 :–

Watch out for the all-star line up at the end!

Robbie25646 on July 28, 2014 at 8:54 am

I spent a wonderful summer season here with Tommy Steele, Billy Dainty and Mary Hopkin, I think it was 1968 loved every minute of it.

LoveCinema on July 28, 2014 at 2:35 am

Being raised in a family with cinematic background in a small town in Germany (my Great Grandparents opened their first Cinema back in 1929)I’ve always been “addicted” to Cinema since.

I remember going to the “ABC” Blackpool whilst staying in Poulton-Le-Fylde with my british stepfather and family attending great Summer Shows.

In 1984 I experienced the “ABC” (big Auditorium) as a technically perfect Cinema, but undergoing dramatic convertions, of course. Sorry to see it being pulled down. Happy Memories.

Mike_Blakemore on July 12, 2014 at 3:59 pm

I forgot to mention from my notes Modernisation Ltd., The Freize-Greene company did the interior decor and fittings. I believe it was Hall Stage that fitted out the stage house

70mmbobbyj on July 12, 2014 at 1:54 pm

According to the Facebook page the local council which borrowed money to knock it down and will have to pay back £4.5 Million all so they can have a “SMALL” car park have “RUN OUT OF MONEY”. They can no longer afford to demolish it.

Also there are problems with the adjoining buildings who are worried about the party wall, and the company which owns the telecom equipment on the roof has not found another suitable location yet.OOPs

terry on March 15, 2013 at 8:02 pm

I attended a few reunions in Bournemouth which were arranged by my friend and former colleague, Richard Roper.

Many people present were, as you aptly put it, Real ABC, although a number were there purely on the basis of having worked for the Company that simply bore the relaunched name.

Bob Parsons had moved to pastures new by the time I had anything to do with the North West but I knew Gordon Chadwick and Brian Wrathall very well at the A B C ( Gordon’s wife, Joan Chadwick was Bar Manager and had managed a number of A B C theatres including the Empire Stockton and Regal Bridlington) as well as Chuck Walker at the Princess.

Gordon Chadwick had managed the ABC Globe Stockton which was another important and large ABC live venue and, I am pleased to say, is currently undergoing restoration.

Mike_Blakemore on March 15, 2013 at 6:55 pm

I remember the First Manager of the of the Facelift Theatre.. Bob Parsons the following one was Frank Chadwick. If my memory is correct..

Mike_Blakemore on March 15, 2013 at 6:52 pm

I did cover at the ABC Chester.. when it was moved to our Zone.. I was able to do a Full Theatre Advance Booking. So I got lumbered. Morcombe & Wise Show and an Orcestra Concert.. for the Chester festival.. We at least we worked for the Real ABC company :o)

terry on March 15, 2013 at 6:31 pm

I see your point also; I did, however, say that the auditorium of the A B C bore no resemblance to that of the Hippodrome whilst I am aware that much of the shell of the original building was retained.

I am also ex A B C and managed the ABC’s South Shields, Chester, Newcastle upon Tyne (Haymarket and Westgate Road) and Darlington. The latter, like Blackpool, was a partial rebuild (of C J Phipps' Theatre Royal) and much of the old superstructure remained.

Mike_Blakemore on March 14, 2013 at 7:25 pm

I can see you point.. But under normal practice on this site.. A LEGAL FACT.. ABC Theatre was not a NEW Theatre as such. The 4 Walls of the original theatre, where used in building of the Refurbed theatre.. This apart from cost.. Was a contrivance to legally get round the planning laws. Interior was gutted and old roof removed. New spans where installed on the Original Walls. Exterior got make over.. Internal. Had new steelwork and refit etc etc… One here a great number of theatres have had such a make over.. and not had seperate entires..
I am Ex ABC and knew members of the design team and even met Jack Foster) As I was interested in design. He explained what work was done..

terry on March 14, 2013 at 6:08 pm

Please caption the photo ‘HIPPODROME BLACKPOOL’.

The 1963 A B C auditorium bore no resemblance to this at all. It would be even better if someone with extensive knowledge of the Hippodrome were to compose a separate article about the place and the photo were to be used in conjunction with same.