The stage is set for a bumper boost to the Fylde economy forecast to be worth at least £2m a year.
Lytham Proms is being rebranded as a week-long festival which promoters Daniel Cuffe and Peter Taylor hope will attract 50,000 people – half of them from outside the Fylde coast.
It’s a fresh tourism tonic which has been greeted with delight by the area’s civic and business leaders – and has been predicted to have the potential to be even bigger for many local traders than the staging of the Open Golf Championship once a decade.
Running from August 2 to 9 next year, the new-look Festival will include for the first time four performance evenings on The Green – just five years after the Proms’ debut as a single concert by soprano Lesley Garrett.
While a Thursday show will be added to the Friday, Saturday and Sunday schedule which has applied for the last four years, the Festival will also include additional events such as comedy, literature and even more music at a wide range of venues across Lytham throughout the week.
The promoters, whose business began in St Annes after the 2010 Proms debut and is now based at Bartle near Preston, say their forecast of a £2m boost for the Fylde economy is based on the benefits of similar events in cities such as Manchester and is a ‘conservative’ estimate.
Cuffe and Taylor director Peter Taylor said: “We are really excited about Lytham in 2015.
“This marks a huge change for us to move from the three-day Lytham Proms on a single site to a week-long Lytham Festival but we are sure it will be a great success.
“People attending the event over the last four years have been really loyal and have thoroughly enjoyed the wide range of music that has been available.
“We are not going to change that because it is a formula that works.
“However, we want to offer people more choice and therefore we are expanding our event to cover a variety of venues in Lytham and to offer much more in the way of entertainment.”
When the Open Golf Champion was last staged at Royal Lytham and St Annes in 2012, attracting some 180,000 visitors, a financial study claimed the event was worth £65m to the Lancashire economy, made up of £28m spent across the county – the vast majority of it on the Fylde Coast – and £37m in valuable TV exposure.
But some local businesspeople claimed their premises were actually quieter than normal during the days of play, as fans were all on the course.
Coun Susan Fazackerley, Fylde’s Council’s leader and also cabinet member for tourism and leisure said: “The growth of the Proms Festival is great news and a very welcome further boost for tourism to our wonderful borough.
“The Open Golf, when it is staged here, brings a lot of benefits which aren’t quantifiable. The Festival benefits will be more direct and very much welcomed by the local business people.
“Other events have been established and grown in recent years as well, such as the Wartime Weekend later in August, the St Annes Kite Festival and the Lytham and St Annes Arts Festival as well as our club and carnival days and In Bloom successes and this is another really exciting development which is very welcome indeed.”
Robert Silverwood, proprietor of Lytham’s Lowther cafe and vice-chairman of the town’s Business Partnership, greeted the announcement as ‘fabulous news’ and praised Cuffe and Taylor for their enterprise and loyalty to Lytham.
“Lytham Proms has provided a brilliant boost for local businesses over recent years and the prospect of the event being extended is really exciting,” he said.
“All credit to Peter and Daniel for what they have achieved and long may it continue.
“I said at the time that the Open Golf was last here a couple of years ago that, as much as people said it provided a long-term boost for the economy in terms of visitor awareness, during the actual event, it was the kiss of death of many local businesses in the daytime as golf fans were on the course and not spending in town,
“During the Proms Festival, people will be here looking to eat, drink and browse the shops and the fact that they will be potentially in town for longer is a major lift for us all.”
Barbara Mackenzie, president of the Lytham St Annes Holiday Association, said: “The hoteliers will be delighted at this news. Proms weekend and the visitors it attracts is a very welcome time of year for all local businesses which rely on tourism and the growth of this event, alongside everything else which is going on locally, is great.”
Cath Powell, community development manager at Park View 4U, said: “We are really excited and looking forward so much to the Festival events. There will be something for everyone,”
The Proms’ rapid rise to prominence has seen the likes of Tom Jones, Boyzone, Katherine Jenkins and Russell Watson grace the Lytham stage – bringing thousands of visitors to town in the process – and the headliners for next year’s concert evenings are set to be announced soon. The extra evening is expected to be ‘picnic-style’, as with the ‘Last Night of the Proms’ element of the event.
The announcement of the new look for the Lytham event comes just days after Cuffe and Taylor announced American superstar Neil Diamond as headliner for their second concert to be staged at Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road and they say fans of the original Lytham format need not worry as they pledge that A-List talent from the classical and pop worlds will remain the jewel in Lytham Festival’s crown.
Meanwhile, comedy and literature, for children and adults alike, will feature in the expanded Festival programme across a whole week starting on Sunday, August 2.
Venues will include The Piazza, Lowther Pavilion and Gardens, the Assembly Rooms, venue for a jazz café, the Hewitt Lecture Rooms in Bannister Street, where festival-goers can discover spoken word and poetry.
Park View 4U will host a comedy big top as well as it being the venue for a specially-devised Festival of Stories .
That will celebrate heritage and creative storytelling aimed at children, young people and their families and will include published children’s authors, workshops and exhibitions.
“We have always been looking to grow the event but didn’t feel we were in a position to do that until now,” added Peter.
“Lytham was our first event, dating back even before Cuffe and Taylor was formed as a company, and it will always have a special place in our hearts.
“We want people to come to Lytham Festival and enjoy a few days away.
“This is the perfect festival for all the family to come and enjoy some amazing entertainment while also experiencing the wonderful Fylde Coast.“
The additional activity running alongside the main Lytham Green arena events will include both free and ticketed options and updates will be available via www.lythamfestival.com