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The Winter Garden, Blackpool

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posted by alias Jelltex on Saturday 4th of December 2021 01:20:57 PM

Blackpool is where the north, and most of Scotland, used to go on their holidays. Once unions and pressure had allowed for workers from industrial towns used to travel en masse, buy train, to one of the three huge stations the town had, for a week. Each town had their own week, a wakes week, when it would go on holiday to Blackpool. Blackpool grew huge and prosperous, catering for the masses going on holiday at the seaside The town had three pleasure piers, a Winter Garden, threatres, a Pleasure Beach and hotels and B&Bs all the way down the Golden Mile that looked onto the Irish Sea. In the centre was the Tower, and below that the Ballroom. Its all still there, and at the end of the 19th century, when electric light was brought to the town, there came the "illuminations", brightly lit displays that lined the Golden Mile, and stretched the holiday and visitor season well into autumn. The illuminations are best seen in the autumn, when night falls ever earlier, and at five (or was yesterday), they are switched on, so a long line of cars and coaches inch down the Promenade admiring the lights. Also in Blackpool is the trams, the largest Victorian Tram system still working in the country, been there so long it saw just about every other system taken down, and is now witnessing new ones having been put into cities like Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham, Nottingham, London (well, Croydon), and Edinburgh, with many more planned. Although the best way to see the lights is by foot or by tram, and best to arrive by train. Which is why we were getting up at half four on a Saturday morning, so to travel to London to board a railtour that would take us to Blackpool and back in a day, though arrive back too late to get us back to Dover so a hotel in that London would be needed. We have coffee and do the last of the packing. Our friend, Gary, was coming in to feed the cats on Saturday afternoon and Sunday evening, so no cat roundup needed. And so at quarter past five into the darkness and light drizzle. It was very cold. I found a place to park on Priory Gate Road, Jools went to buy the tickets, and with the train already in the platform, we go on and took our coats off. We left on time, 05:49, and were in London some 70 minutes later, all ready to walk the ten minutes to Euston. Now if only we could find a place for some light breakfast. Pausing only for some grabbed shots, we took the escalators down to the undercroft and headed out the westerly exit behind the British Library and the Crick Institute, where a bright light shone brightly in the distance, offering the hope that a café might be open. King's Café was just opened for the day,, but they were willing to serve us. We had coffee, of course, while I opted for nutella on toast while Jools had a mountain of mushrooms on toast. Both good, and all for under a tenner. Our hunger not killed off, but we were due to have fried breakfast on the train. A short walk from there to Euston, and quickly walked to Platform 16 where the train was waiting, and thankfully with the heating fully on. The train, eight carriages and two service coaches top and tailed by class 90s, all prepped and raring to go, and the smells of breakfast was already escaping the kitchen car. We were sat at a table for four, on the other side a single guy sat, who had plenty to say, not all of it good. Initially, it seemed he knew what he was talking about, but then he mentioned Liz Truss had done a good job, then that Nigel Farrage should be brought into the Government. I replied that there isn't a gibbet high enough in London town to hang that traitor from. He changed the subject That notwithstanding, and his jibber jabbering, it was a fine trip up, us having breakfast served before we had even left the London suburbs. Fruit salad followed by a full try up then rounded up with toast and preserved. All freshly cooked or prepared, and served with lashings of tea of coffee. Would we like a drink, was the next question. It was nearly ten, and opening time somewhere. So, I asked what ales they had. He got as far as Bishop's Finger and I told him to stop, bring me a bottle forthwith! The journey north, however, was becoming difficult. Friday had seen a storm batter the north east and north west, with there being many trees down and trains in the the wrong place. The WCML was also closed, so we had to meander our way north via Stoke before edging back along a single line to Crewe. Everywhere there was huge crowds of people just waiting for a train, we inched past as I supped dark, strong ale. At one point it seemed possible we were not going anywhere. We had reached Northampton, and apparently Network Rail had no requests for us heading any further north. So, we sat there for 40 minutes whilst the paperwork was sent in and approved before we moved off. All around us was a covering of dusty snow, not much, but enough to make the scene pretty as a Christmas card. It looked cold, this was because it was cold. Anyway, we reached Crewe, moved north through Warrington and Wigan before halting again at Preston. This was where the line to Blackpool branched off, on the station people were waiting everywhere, we were sat in British Rail luxury in the best carriages the British rail industry ever made, the Mk 3s. We pulled out, and snaked across the main line onto the newly electrified line, and headed to the coast. At station photographers were waiting, recording our progress, while inside we got ready to head out once we arrived at Blackpool North. We walked to the end of the platform, through the station and across the main road, heading into the town centre. When we reached the top of the slope, the north wind hit us like a truck. It took our breath away. Now, even though we had two breakfasts, we were both hungry, so once we decided which place to try, we went into a local version of Wetherspoons called Vintro Lounge, and got the last table . We felt normal, but around this were Mothers with daughters, and the daughters have very inappropriate make up, some with false eyelashes, all this on girls no more than ten years old. There will dolls, all delicate with painted faces. We found out later there was rehearsals at The Winter Garden, and these were trying out for the chorus, but it did look odd, to say the least. We both ordered the sweet potato and lentil curry and people watched, and it has to be said, has a different class of people to watch. I have been to Blackpool many times; first time as a child of about four when we were on a coach tour, and we travelled in said coach to see the illuminations late that summer evening, although I guess they were not the full show being in summer. I returned twice with my second wife and her son, and I did enjoy the experience, but it did seem to be a town that was trying to wring every last penny from my wallet. Finally, I did an HGV course round here, and drove down the Golden Mile curing the course of one lesson, not able to admire all the trams on the prom. I have been up the Tower and to the Pleasure Beach, rode "The Big One", so, what else is there to do? On a bitterly cold November afternoon, little more than go out for short periods before diving back inside a bar or a place for a coffee. Trams were terminating at the pier, and so the plan to ride to Fleetwood was blown out of the water, so, after photographing the prom around the tower and finding the North Pier closed, we retired to the Winter Gardens for another coffee and to shelter until the sun went down. The Winter Gardens was playing host to a Labour Conference, so earnest men in sharp suits talked in heated tones hunched over bottles of Italian lager (brewed under licence), and I thought of all the open goals that Labour has missed these last five years, and that the party seems happiest fighting amongst itself. I looked down at Dad's union badge on my coat, and thought of the firebrands of the past who wouldn't have done this. At half four, we went back outside to snap some lights during the blue hour, but found most of the lights were not yet on. We were to learn that they got switched on at five. We had tickets for a free ride on a vintage tram, so went to the stop before time, and saw a large crowd on men of a certain age had already gathered and were trying to board the tram already there. A second one trundled past us, we kept pace with it, so when it stopped and the doors opened, the conductor had just to mouth the words "railtour ticket holders only", we dived on and bagged seats upstairs at the back, which would soon be at the front as the tram was at the end of the line. They turned the heating up so we could warm up, but that meant the windows misted up. Bugger. I tried to get good shots, and did OK on the trip back. The wind was blowing sand along the prom, causing cars parked on the side of the road to become embedded in drifts. And a group of drunk young men tried to force themselves onto the tram only to be foiled when we didn't halt at the next stop. Seeya guys. We got back at ten past six, we had an hour to kill, so we went to find a micropub I had spotted earlier, passing long lines in the cold night waiting to get into 'Spoons. The pub was a quarter full, I had a pint of chocolate stout, and Jools had a cider. It was warm, welcoming, all that a pub chain isn't. I had a pint of Stay Puft, another sweet stout, which was most excellent too. We walked back to the station and got back on board, settling down in our seats, letting the heat revive us. Jabber was back too, his pub crawl round the region's Wetherspoons had been foiled due to trains being cancelled and the suspension of most of the tram route. I delighted in telling him of the several pints of fine stout I had supped. ----------------------------------------------- The Winter Gardens is a large entertainment complex in Blackpool, Lancashire, England, which includes a theatre, ballroom and conference facilities. Opened in 1878, it is a Grade II* listed building,[1] operated by Blackpool Entertainment Company Limited[2] on behalf of Blackpool Council, which purchased the property from Leisure Parcs Ltd as part of a £40 million deal in 2010.[3] The Winter Gardens has hosted the annual conferences of British political parties and trade unions and its owners claim that every Prime Minister since World War II has addressed an audience at the venue. It has also hosted the Blackpool Dance Festival since its inception in 1920, and the World Matchplay darts tournament since 1994. The annual dance competitions Miss Dance of Great Britain and Dance Master UK are hosted there annually. The Winter Gardens Company bought the site in 1875 for £28,000.[4] The Winter Gardens was built on the six-acre Bank Hey Estate and officially opened on 11 July 1878. The original intention was "to place on the land a concert room, promenades, conservatories and other accessories calculated to convert the estate into a pleasant lounge, especially desirous during inclement days."[5] The Vestibule, Floral Hall, Ambulatory and Pavilion Theatre were all built in the 1870s[1] and the Opera House Theatre originally opened in 1889.[6] The Empress Ballroom was built in 1896[1][7] together with the Indian Lounge (now the Arena).[8] The long-gone Blackpool Ferris wheel, erected in 1896, was also located at the complex. In 1910, the Opera House Theatre was rebuilt.[6] Ownership of the complex changed in 1928 when the Winter Gardens Company was taken over by the Tower Company.[4] In 1930, the Olympia was built[9] and the following year saw the addition of the Galleon Bar, Spanish Hall and Baronial Hall.[1] The Opera House Theatre was rebuilt in 1939.[6] EMI took over the complex in 1967, and ownership changed hands again in 1983 when it was bought by First Leisure.[4] In 1998, Leisure Parcs acquired the Winter Gardens from First Leisure's Resorts Division as part of an estimated £74m deal which also included Blackpool Tower, and the resort's three piers. On 3 December 2009, it was revealed that Leisure Parcs had accepted an offer of £40m from Blackpool Council to buy the Winter Gardens as well as the Tower, and other sites in the resort. The deal, financed through a combination of government regeneration cash, European funding and a loan, was finalised in March 2010.[10][11] Political party conferences have increasingly taken place in major cities with modern, purpose-built conference centres such as Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester, with the most recent major conference in Blackpool being the Conservative conference in 2007.[12][13] Since 1996, the venue has hosted the yearly Rebellion Punk Festival.,_Blackpool

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