Monday, 30 January 2012

Memory Lane: Hub’s back on the Prom

" The new Information Bureau on the Blackpool Promenade, which has been much admired and much used by visitors only needs its clock for completion" Dated: 1934
BLACKPOOL’S Tourist Information Centre is now back on the Promenade, which many would say is its natural home.
Yet, over the decades, staff have found themselves going backwards and forwards more times than a double deck tram (remember them?) trundling along the nearby tracks.
Well, perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration, but the provision of visitor information on the seafront has certainly been something of a moveable feast, as the oldest of our pictures, from the early 1930s, shows.
This was Blackpool’s mobile information bureau, little more than an embellished wooden hut, being transported by tractor and trailer (registration FV 93) from its winter quarters to its summer home by the promenade railings. Look closely and you’ll glimpse the old Illuminations windmill to the left, an icon which Lights fans live in hope of seeing restored some day.
In 1934, Blackpool’s visitors were literally flocking to the showpiece Art Deco bureau almost opposite West Street. As The Gazette reported in August of that year: “The new Information Bureau on the Blackpool Promenade has been much admired and much used by visitors and only needs its clock for completion”.
This was quickly followed by the announcement that “trippers and excursionists” could now “count their happy hours on holiday by the electric clock above the entrance to the facility”.
The first signature in the visitors’ book was that of Frank Pettingell, stage and screen actor who, at the start of the 20th century, was a cartoonist and assistant reporter on The Gazette. He wrote: “Blackpool – the name spells magic and joy. No place like it – motto Progress.”
This fine-looking bureau, with its structural problems, closed in 1981 (to be demolished two years later, along with the public lavatories beneath) with the opening of the tourist information centre in Clifton Street.
A new seasonal centre rose from the rubble, but it was all change again in 2008 when it became the year-round offering with the closure, on cost grounds, of the Clifton Street counter.
Within a season or so, the Promenade building was bulldozed as part of the regeneration works and visitor centre staff were back in Clifton Street.
That was until last Wednesday when the brand new information centre opened its doors to the public from a new permanent home inside Festival House, on the new Tower Festival Headland, opposite Blackpool Tower.

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