90 years of magic as Blackburn's King George’s Hall reaches another special milestone (From This Is Lancashire)
90 years of magic as Blackburn's King George’s Hall reaches another special milestone
ALL the famous names of the last century have passed over the steps of King George’s Hall.
From prime ministers and kings to pop stars and comedians, the entertainment complex, originally named Blackburn Public Halls, has played host to them all.
The very first concert in October, 1921, saw the prestigious Halle Orchestra perform and later this month the Manchester musicians will return for a special anniversary concert.
Ninety years ago, 60 players performed a variety of Elgar and Wagner — and programmes were a penny.
Nearly 3,000 people attended and the benchmark was set for a future of big names and hitmakers to grace the main stage.
Highlights have included 1950s musician Ted Heath, who led Britain’s greatest post-war big band.
The Beatles visited in 1963 with Roy Orbison and Gerry and The Pacemakers, as part of a UK tour.
David Bowie brought his Ziggy Stardust tour to Blackburn on May bank holiday in 1973, Paul Weller has sold out King George’s Hall on more than one occasion and The Clash did a gig in 1984 for £4 a ticket.
Regulars over the years included Slade, David Essex, Status Quo and Daniel O’Donnell.
More recently Boyzone, Manic Street Preachers, Robbie Williams and McFly have all enjoyed gigs at the complex.
Retired box office worker Maureen Jones remembers fondly the stars she has met at King George’s Hall over the years.
The 75-year-old, of Lammack, Blackburn, worked in the box office and front of house from 1984 until 2001.
She said: "The stars we used to meet was a regular thing. We’d make them super and go back stage. I remember Boyzone’s people doing my hair for me.
"My street cred certainly improved with my granddaughter when I told her how I’d met Robbie Wiliams.
"If I’d got autographs of all the names we met I’d have made a fortune. I could write a book with all the tales.
"I honestly couldn’t pick a highlight, it was all such a joy. It’s the sort of place that gets under your skin, we were always like one big family."
But she did have a favourite act from her early days in the job.
"Of all the celebrities I’d say Daniel O’Donnell was one of the nicest," Maureen smiled.
"He was so popular women would camp out for a week when tickets went on sale, they’d come in to use the bathroom and go to Blakeys for meals.
"We could always name the first six in the queue. There was one woman who used to travel up from Cornwall, she still sends me clotted cream at christmas.
"He came back several times and we got to know him quite well. He even sent me a card when I retired.
Once a lady collapsed at one of his gigs and was taken to Blackburn Royal Infirmary. Daniel went to visit her and paid for her sisters to stay overnight in a hotel nearby."
And it hasn’t only been the stars of the music business that have been drawn to Blackburn.
The country’s top comedians have brought their tours to the town over the years including Jo Brand, Steve Coogan and Billy Connolly.
And today’s successful stand ups continue to visit the venue with recent visits from Lee Evans, Jimmy Carr and Jason Manford.
The idea for King George’s Hall was born in the early 1900s when it was decide that the council buildings which hosted entertainment were too small.
And so the land on Blakey Moor was purchased in 1905 at a cost of £80,244.
The final cost of the building, visited by prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in 1939, was estimated at £345,000.
The Foundation stone, quarried at Butler’s Delph in Pleasington, was laid by King George V (hence the name) in July, 1913 but the hall didn’t open as an entertainment venue for another eight years as the Frst World War broke out and it was temporarily used as a Red Cross Hospital.
Inside King George’s many original features have been retained to this day, including much of the original feature plaster work.
In the main auditorium the Art Deco house lights also remain.
Technical manager Howard Alderson-Perkins has worked at King George’s since 1979. He was called in one night in the early 1980s when half of the main hall was destroyed by fire.
He said: "It’s still not known how it started but we didn’t let it stop us. It was very sad the damage that was caused but most of it was rescued. We still got two out of three shows on that week despite the fire.
"The team worked through the night to clear the stage and clean things up."
Howard also revealed that King George’s Hall has it’s own resident ghost.
"There has been many occasions over the years when I’ve been working over night and there’d be weird goings on,” he said.
“Stewards report seeing a man walking around wearing a navy suit or a boiler suit, when the building is empty. It all adds to the history for me."
The 90th anniversary, will be marked by the Halle concert on October 28, an exhibition of memorabilia in Blakeys runs throughout the month, and there is a free behind the scenes tour of the building on November 9.
For more information contact the box office on 0844 847 1664.
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