What's the future for Headlands open air concert site?

Serious questions over the future of the Tower Festival Headlands as a major music venue were raised today after it emerged not a single big concert is planned for this summer.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 29th March 2016, 5:06 pm
Updated Saturday, 2nd April 2016, 9:29 am
Elton John's concert on Blackpool promenade.
Elton John's concert on Blackpool promenade.

The £15m Headlands site has played host to McFly, The Wanted and Elton John but apart from September’s Switch-On, the council confirmed no major concerts are planned on the site, which is opposite the Tower.

In 2013, Marketing Blackpool advertised for a company – on a £1m contract over three years – to provide the logistical support needed to put on major events, but the organisation was then dissolved and events were brought in-house.

And with Lytham Festival attracting bigger names every year – Noel Gallagher and Bryan Adams are set to headline this year – pressure is mounting on council officials to utilise the venue with big name events.

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PICTURES MARTIN BOSTOCK Fans of The Wanted and McFly at the Tower Headland, Blackpool.

Coun Tony Wiliams said: “I am extremely disappointed that the council have failed to utilise the Headlands for the promised series of live music and other events. This is a purpose-built public arena and was launched with the promise that the town would promote live music from all sections of performing arts.

“Apart from the Elton John concert, which was abandoned due to bad weather, the arena has not been used during last year’s summer months when it would have been ideal for outdoor concerts.

“The council really must embrace this feature and start to fulfil their promise to support live entertainment.”

It is understood promoters are reluctant to host big concerts at the site due to potential problems with the weather after 11,000 people were left disappointed when Elton John had to abandon his concert in June 2012 due to high winds. He promised to return, a pledge still to be fulfilled.

PICTURES MARTIN BOSTOCK Fans of The Wanted and McFly at the Tower Headland, Blackpool.

When the Headlands scheme was first revealed, council documents described it as: “The Tower Festival Headland will embrace the town’s heartland, creating a festival and events zone that aims to generate excitement for both residents and visitors. An essential part of the town’s regeneration masterplan, the investment will not only provide a new entertainment zone, it will provide new commercial and employment opportunities for businesses and residents of the town.”

In their defence, council chiefs today reeled off a list of events hosted at the site but insisted the Headlands was “never intended to be a regular concert venue”.

But they admitted no big concerts are planned this year at the site, other than the annual Switch-On extravaganza.

Coun Gillian Campbell, deputy leader of Blackpool Council, said: “The Tower Festival Headland is a fantastic events space and the location of the much-visited Comedy Carpet artwork.

“In the last 12 months alone the Headland has been used for 40 smaller events in addition to high profile events such as the filming for Tim Burton’s latest film, the annual Switch-On festival and LightPool projections throughout the Illuminations season.

“Creating an event space of this size has enabled us to attract a wide range of people to come to Blackpool to host their event or carry out filming which we just didn’t have the space for in the past.

“The Headland is always attracting media attention from landing a Lynx helicopter during Armed Forces Week to hosting a three-day BBC exhibition.

“Although we host three large-scale concerts over Switch-On weekend, the Headland was never intended to be a regular concert venue. That said, we would never rule out other concerts during the year although that does have to be weighed up against the disruption to the town if the Promenade is closed.”

Elton John officially launched the Headlands arena on June 16 201,2 before the weather intervened, The Wanted and McFly playing the same venue the following weekend.

Big gigs have been held in Blackpool since, namely Rod Stewart and Neil Diamond at Bloomfield Road, but these were organised by Cuffe and Taylor, the organisers behind the Lytham Festival.

The Gazette revealed earlier this month how promoters for Lionel Richie had approached the council to see if it wanted to be included on his UK tour.

Council chiefs expressed an interest and suggested a ticketed gig during Switch-On weekend but the initial discussions were not followed up and Richie announced gigs in Manchester instead.