Prince Philip enjoyed visits to Blackpool's Opera House

As respects are paid to the late Prince Philip after news of his death today, aged 99, we recall the visits he made to Blackpool - and the famous Opera House.

Friday, 9th April 2021, 3:37 pm
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh at Blackpool Opera House for the Royal Variety Performance. Historical dated 13/04/ 1955

Prince Philip, then Duke of Edinburgh, accompanied The Queen on a number of visits to the area, spanning more 60 years.

Two of those occasions involved the proud moments when the town's Opera House played host to the Royal Variety Performance shows, in 1955 and 2009.

Michael Williams, managing director of the Winter gardens complex which includes the Opera House, paid tribute to the Duke.on behalf of Blackpool Entertainment Company Limited:

The Duke of Edinburgh and The Queen meet American star Eddie Fisher (left) at the Opera House in 1955. Getty images

He said: “The Winter Gardens, Blackpool, is sorry to hear about the passing of HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, and offers our condolences to the Queen and Royal Family at this sad time.

"Over the years, the Royal Family have been great supporters of theatre and the arts, and have attended the venue on many occasions, including The Duke’s visit to the Royal Variety Performance in 2009, and we remember these special visits and moments with great fondness.”

Our atmospheric black and white photo recalls the first occasion The Queen and Duke attended, in 1955.

They were entertained by a show which included Tower Ballroom organist Reginald Dixon, comedy stars Jimmy Jewel and Ben Warriss, Tower Circus immortal Charlie Cairoli and Paul, Lancashire legend George Formby and the American star Eddie Fisher.

The Duke of Edinburgh and Queen Elizabeth II meets comedian Frank Carson ahead of the Royal Variety Performance in Blackpool in 2009. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo

Arthur Askey was there and so were a couple of young comedians by the name of Morecambe and Wise.

Some 54 years later the Queen and the Duke were back at the Opera House for the 2009 Royal variety show, when funnyman Peter Kay hosted a glittering show including soprano Katherine Jenkins, American stars Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus and Whoopi Goldberg, crooner Michael Buble, singer Alexandra Burke and dance act Diversity.

Former Blackpool MPs Gordon Marsden and Joan Humble were among dignitaries who met the Duke of Edinburgh when he accompanied the Queen to the Royal Variety Performance at the Opera House in 2009.

They recalled a special night of entertainment for the Royal couple.

Mr Marsden said: "The Duke and the Queen have a very special link with Blackpool because of the Royal Variety Performance.

"They were very gracious on the night, it was a lovely evening and a step in putting Blackpool on the national map.

"Their visit in 2009 was recognition of the way in which the role of Blackpool in public life had been pushed to the fore in recent years.

"There had been all the issues around the casino bid, and though we didn't get the casino, people started to think this town does need support.

"The Queen and Prince Philip were part of that acknowledgement".

Joan Humble, who is chairman of the Blackpool Civic Society, recalled the 'privilege' of meeting the Queen and the Duke.

She said: "They came to Blackpool twice for the Royal Variety Performance over a span of very many years, which reminds us just how long they have been married, and how they have supported each other in that long marriage.

"The Opera House was packed in 2009 for some wonderful entertainment in front of Her Majesty and the Duke in Blackpool."