Blackpool Tower Ballroom: The Hidden Gem of Blackpool
As seen on television, Blackpool Tower Ballroom has featured on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing and is known worldwide for being the home of ballroom dancing. Niamh Shackleton finds out what makes the ballroom so popular…
In the heart of the popular coastal town, Blackpool, stands the Blackpool Tower. The 158 metre high Tower is home to the Tower Circus, the Tower Eye, the Tower Dungeons and the iconic Tower Ballroom.
Opened in 1899, the elegant Tower Ballroom is well known to ballroom dancers across the globe. The ballroom has hosted many dance competitions including The Blackpool Junior Dance Festival and the World Modern Jive Championships on its high quality mahogany, oak and walnut dancefloor. It is also of impressive size, boasting a 120 ft by 120 ft space. The selling points for the ballroom is the sprung floor, the extraordinary internal architecture and magical ambience. People travel from far and wide to come and dance at the Tower Ballroom because of the famous sprung dance floor as it enhances dancers’ routines and ensures their limbs do not get sore.
All ages come to enjoy the world class dance floor, including previous competing couple, Sari and Julian Baxter. Mr and Mrs Baxter have an annual pass to the ballroom and endure the 90 minute journey from Huddersfield a couple of times a month to come here. The couple have been ballroom dancing for around ten years and began when their children went to university.
Mr Baxter said: “When the children went off to university, we wanted to take up a hobby that the two of us could enjoy together. I used to dance when I was little as my mother was a dancing teacher, but Sari had no ballroom dancing experience. However, she had a bit of experience with Spanish dancing (since she grew up there), so agreed to start learning things like the Flamenco. Once she grew more confident, we then went on to learn more traditional ballroom dancing.”
Previously ballroom champions of the North East and ranked 7th nationally in the ‘60 and above’ category, the couple say it is the sprung floor that makes them come back to Blackpool and that it is on the top of their list of favourite places to dance. Mrs Baxter said, “Even people over in Spain, where I’m originally from, have heard about Blackpool Tower Ballroom and know it is the home of ballroom dancing.”
With the influence of television programmes such as Strictly Come Dancing and the USA’s Dancing With The Stars, ballroom dancing has seen a rise in popularity. In recent years, dancing schools have seen an influx of beginners wishing to earn such elegant dancing – from couples like Mrs and Mrs Baxter who want to do a hobby together, to young children wanting to dance “like the people on TV”.
People also look to begin ballroom dancing as a form of fitness; something more interesting than running on a treadmill for half an hour. It is said to be good for flexibility, strength, durability, calorie burning and for mental health as well because dancing raises endorphin levels. In addition to this, there is a great sense of community in ballroom dancing as events are often a communal thing, meaning it is great to meet new people and socialise.
Another element that makes The Tower Ballroom so popular is its famed organists that play there. The first well known organist was Reginald Dixon, who went on to be known as “Mr Blackpool”. He played at the Ballroom for 50 years until he retired in 1970. Five years into his time at the ballroom, he designed his own Wurlitzer organ that is still used today – it is made up of 1034 pipes.
Mr Dixon throughout his career well and truly put Blackpool Tower Ballroom on the map. Within a short period of him being hired at the tower, the BBC began broadcasting him play from the ballroom to the rest of the nation. In 1946, when he returned to the Tower after his stint in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, Dixon’s broadcasts became available to the rest of Europe.
Mr Dixon went on to achieve an MBE for his entertainment of the nation. Whilst his pin was being given to him by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II she openly told Dixon she often listened to his broadcasts herself. Dixon retired from the Tower Ballroom in 1970, however he continued to broadcast to his extremely large audience and also toured the UK and Europe.
Several dance competitions take place across Blackpool every year in the Empress Ballroom (in the Winter Gardens) and in the Tower Ballroom. The Junior Blackpool Dance Festival was hosted in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom until 2010 when it moved to the Empress Ballroom. This dance festival has been running since 1947. Children, ranging from ages 6 to 16, come from all over the world to take part in this competition – in 2016, there were 33 countries represented. There are three branches to the festival; Latin American, Ballroom and Sequence.
Overall, Blackpool is thriving with ballroom dancing fanatics every year and people travel from all over the world to be part of the glamorous experience. With the sprung dancefloor, charming interior and savvy organists you can understand why the ballroom is as popular as it currently is and always has been.
Blackpool is quite an infamous area with a high poverty rate and attractive to those seeking a cheap, low-end beach holiday. However, the hidden gem that is the Tower Ballroom is an oasis of civility, charm and elegance; a throwback to a more sophisticated time.
If you wish to dance at the tower Ballroom, or simply just sit and watch whilst having afternoon tea, go to www.theblackpooltower.com for more details on how to do so and to view other events taking place this year.
REVIEW: Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Cinderella
Created in 2010, David Bintley’s Cinderella finally came to the Lowry Theatre and it definitely did not disappoint. With glamorous costumes and fantastic choreography, this performance brought a hint of magic to Salford Quays.
Many may find a dialog-less performance mundane and uninteresting, but this ballet was perfectly executed and directed that the lack of discourse goes completely unnoticed. It was so enjoyable that both ballet enthusiasts and novices can equally appreciate its brilliance.
First off a huge congratulations is in order for the dancers who completely blew the audience away. Award winning Yaoqian Shang played Cinderella and her performance was utterly flawless, as was Prince Charming’s performance played by Yasuo Atsuji. Both lead dancers received a roar of approval at the end of the ballet.
Alongside Shang and Atsuji was dancers Alys Shee and Laura Day who fantastically portrayed the “ugly step sisters”, Skinny and Dumpy. Throughout the performance they had the audience in stitches due to their comical scenes which massively added to the entertainment value overall. The rest of cast did brilliantly as well performing each dance exceptionally.
In addition to the cast was the phenomenal costume design. From enchantingly sparkled tutus that genuinely appeared diamond encrusted to strikingly realistic mice, toad and lizard costumes. The cast looked truly sensational; costume design is of course a huge element to a ballet and the designer knocked it out the park for Cinderella.
The set design was also outstanding and extremely well thought through. It was reasonably simple but with the costumes being so extravagant along with the choreography – a more straightforward backdrop was ideal. Saying this, the use of the impressie, large clock was excellent and really added to the drama of the scene where Cinderella has to leave the ball at midnight. The use of the smoke when the Fairy Godmother comes on the stage was well used as well – it gave a brilliant cloud effect.
Lastly, there was the music which was beautifully written by Sergei Prokofiev. The music was the finishing touch the to enchanting production truly bringing an essence of magic to the theatre. Whether it was adding to the drama, the comedy or the beauty of the ballet, it was the music that perfectly stood in place of any dialog and over all completed the delightful performance.
Over all, Birmingham Royal ballet superbly performed an enchanting take on a Disney classic which can be enjoyed by both adults and children.
STUDENT starts petition to improve safety on campus
Last week, a petition was started called ‘Light Up Salford’ with the intention of gaining enough signatures to capture Salford City Council’s attention. The aim of the petition is to get the lighting on Wallness Lane, located next to the Salford University’s main campus, due to the fact it is currently extremely poorly lit.
In the evening’s, many students fear walking down Wallness Lane as many incidents have taken place there; ranging from muggings to sexual assaults. In recent weeks, 20-year-old Demetra Doka, was mugged on her way home from work at the Student Union bar:
“I really wasn’t expecting it, I mean, it was only 9 o’clock at night but it was the scariest thing of my life. I definitely wouldn’t wish it on anybody.”
Miss Doka explained how she was walking home from work a man stopped her to ask her for the time at the end of the park, whilst she was on the phone to Father. As she politely replied, he persisted in following her and asked her again to double check the time.
Continuing to follow her, once by Tramways accommodation, the man grabbed Demetra’s phone from behind her – she tried to fight the phone back off him but he sprinted away. Since the incident, Demetra has become increasingly more scared to walk alone – particularly down Wallness Lane.
Demetra added: “It’s about the safety of students, no one should have to feel like they’re at risk when walking home, going to uni, going to work. It’s just a horrible thing to think that you’re being followed and you’re not safe.”
Currently, the ‘Light Up Salford’ petition has 481 signatures and 75 comments. The comments add to fact that many people agree this needs doing:
“This needs to be done and fast – Wallness Lane is terrifying to walk down alone, especially as a female.” – Anonymous
“When I lived on Wallness Lane my house was burgled in the evening around 5pm but no one noticed because it was so dark.” – Jessica Harris
“As a parent of a University of Salford student, his safety and that of his friends and fellow students must come before money saving exercises.” – Mark Shaw
Sociological studies have been conducted proving that improved lighting in poorly lit areas where crime rates are quite high has decreased crime rates considerably. The study, conducted by Painter and Farrington, suggests that better lighting increased surveillance of potential offenders, therefore deterring them from committing the crime in the first place.
Their studies also suggested by improving neighbourhood conditions, it will improve community confidence and cohesion (a feeling of being united). More positive neighbourhood conditions would therefore lead to a more positive outlook on the area; which Wallness Lane is severely lacking.
To encourage the council to improve the lighting on Wallness Lane for the sake of everyone’s safety, go to www.ipetitions.com/petition/light-up-salford and sign the petition.
Hindu Holi Festival celebrated Salford University
At Salford University, the Indian Society decided to bring a piece of India to Greater Manchester with the Holi Festival to celebrate life, passion, energy and love with both Hindu and non-Hindu students.
Holi Festival, also known as the “festival of colours” or “the festival of love”, is a Hindu tradition that takes place on full moon day, which fell on the 12th March this year.
The festival signifies the success of good defeating evil and it symbolises a new beginning filled with happiness – it also represents the arrival of spring.
The celebrations go on for two days entailing a-free-for-all carnival of colour throwing, eating and drinking festival delicacies, lots of music and visiting family and friends.
At Salford University, students gathered together to do the ritual colour throwing together on campus with a DJ and drummers outside to aid the festivity.
Niyati Takiar, chair of the university’s Indian Society, said: “It’s always nice being Hindu to celebrate Holi wherever we are with whoever we’re with, so it’s really nice to do it here in Salford as we can spread the culture and carry on the traditions.
“It’s amazing to spread it to other people of other religions and share the cultural experience with them.”
With around 45 members of the Indian Society and approximately 100 people in attendance yesterday at the Holi festivities, the Indian Society successfully welcomed both Hindu students and non-Hindu students to the celebrations.
Aditi Saha, a Hindu student at Salford University, said: “It’s such a nice thing to see people’s minds become more open to accept the beauty of other cultures and kind of encourage people to explore Indian culture more.”
In addition to the Holi Festival, the Salford Students Union are hosting “One World Week” that is filled with multicultural events and activities such as international movie night, an international food festival and a henna tattoo session. To see what and when cultural events are taking place this week, click here.
Money saving ideas for students
As exciting and fun as university can be, there is one big problem the majority of students will face for the first time in their lives – money issues. The idea of being handed £1000+ every term sounds great… until you realise you’re -£2000 a month later.
In recent years, there has been a rise in depression seen in students and an element to their depression is because of money worries. Savethestudent.org conducted a survey that found that 78% of students that took part think student finance is unfair and that 80% worry about financially making ends meet, which therefore affects their diet and grades.
To prevent working yourself up over money problems, here are some money saving ideas that you’ll thank yourself for doing later:
- Girls, pretend you’re interested in a product and ask for free samples! They last longer than you think.
- To those living in a house where the bills are not included, keep an eye on your electricity. If you’re not using a light or an appliance, turn them off.
- Stay away from big name shops like Tesco; you’ll get exactly the same stuff for half the price from Aldi.
- Keep unnecessary luxuries like cigarettes and take aways to a minimum; firstly, they’re both pretty bad for you and secondly, they cost an arm and a leg to have frequently.
- Go to the magical world of the pound shop, you’ll never know what hidden cheap treasures you’ll find in there. Shampoo, candles, chocolate – who knows?
- Use your student card to your advantage and ask whether they do discounts. You don’t get if you don’t ask!
- For those who go out a lot and refuse to be an ‘outfit repeater’, rather than buying new clothes every time, swap and borrow outfits off your friends who are a similar size to you.
- Skip the expensive beauty products and make your own! It’s pretty easy to do. Click here for some DIY face mask ideas.
- Get a 16-25 railcard to make your train journeys cheaper. Those of you who have a student account with Santander banking are eligible for a free railcard!
- Try washing your laundry in cold water instead of hot; it reduces the energy by 50%! Also, air dry instead of using a dryer if you can to further save energy.
- Unsubscribe from emails selling you things – you do not need that jacket from Asos that has 20% off today.
- Be aware of your overdraft. Many students do have an interest free overdraft to a certain amount, once you’re over the limit, it costs you more the longer it takes you to pay it back.
Hopefully these simple ideas will assist you in saving some money during the financially difficult times. It’s important to enjoy university, but at the same time live within your means. Have a try at these techniques and you never know how much you’ll save.