Eric Morecambe’s widow battles to save ABC Theatre
6 October 2013
Last week Blackpool Council applied for permission to demolish the former ABC Theatre where stars including Morecambe and Wise and the Beatles performed.
Famous for its revolving stage, the venue played host in the mid-Sixties to the TV varietyshow Blackpool Night Out, which also featured Tommy Cooper, Cilla Black and Cliff Richard.
But after being transformed into a “superclub” in 1992, it closed its doors for the last time in 2011 and has remained empty since.
The council, which bought the club for £635,000 last December, wants to replace the buildingwith a 65-space car park at an estimated total cost of £1.3million.
More than 3,000 people have joined a Facebook campaign to save the building and develop it as a performance centre, but with no firm business plans or investment on the table, the council decided to press on with demolition.
Now Joan Morecambe, 87, has called in a letter for “a change of heart”.
She wrote: “I have such happy memories of Morecambe and Wise appearing at the ABC Theatre. I hope there will be a change of heart and this part of Blackpool history will be kept alive.”
She was “very sorry” to see plans for a car park “as there does not appear to be a shortage of parking facilities”.
She added: “I appreciate that theatres along with other commercial businesses need to pay their way but if Blackpool is looking to regenerate itself it seems a backward step to dispense with one of its attractions.”
The council wants to operate the car park for up to five years. The site may then be used for a hotel to help the Winter Gardens attract more conferences.
Originally opened as the Empire ballroom and music hall in 1895, the building was taken over by Associated British Cinemas in 1929.
In 1963, it was redeveloped into the ABC television theatre. Blackpool Night Out was filmed there in 1964 and 1965 and in the late Seventies it was used for the BBC talent show Rising Stars before it was converted into a three-screen cinema and then a nightclub.
Gill Payne, who started a petition to save the building, said it could be used “in a variety of manners, especially for the cultural heritage of Blackpool” and demolishing it would destroy an “important part” of the town’s heritage.
But Elaine Smith MBE, of Blackpool Civic Trust, claimed people “are confusing memories with heritage”.
She added: “I cannot understand why people are fighting for it to be saved. I have loads of memories of the ABC Theatre, I saw the Beatles there, but all the heritage went with the nightclub.”
A spokesman for Blackpool Council said the authority did not wish to comment further.