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Last Updated: Monday, 21 March, 2005, 14:09 GMT
Blackpool set for variety 'home'
Blackpool already has a thriving variety entertainment scene
Blackpool could become the new home of variety entertainment under plans to create a national centre of excellence.

A National Theatre of Variety could be up and running at the town's Grand Theatre by 2006.

The move will provide a home for traditional variety acts - such as ventriloquists and magicians - and nurture new talent.

The Grand Theatre and the actors' union Equity are working on the plans, which include a variety festival and archive.

Variety is enjoyed today and will be treasured for years to come through the National Theatre of Variety
Roy Hudd, entertainer
Christine Payne, of Equity, said one of the aims was to nurture new elements of variety entertainment that have emerged through street theatre, and celebrate established acts.

"Variety theatre has played a key part in British entertainment since evolving from nineteenth-century music hall," she said.

"Despite its recent encore as 'New Variety', there is no national centre to showcase and celebrate this inclusive art form. We hope that this joint venture will put that right."

Ms Payne added that the idea for a National Theatre of Variety was first suggested in 1999.

She added: "During the past few years, Equity has had discussions with artists, theatre managers and funding bodies.

Ray Allan and Lord Charles
Acts such as ventriloquist Ray Allan made variety popular

"After an exhaustive process we have invited the Grand Theatre, Blackpool to join us in this exciting project."

Comedian and playwright Roy Hudd said it was "a dream come true".

"Variety was one of the great inventions, inspirations and innovations of twentieth-century theatre," he said.

"The entertainment of the people shone in the resort of Blackpool above all other towns, and still the best comedians, singers, ventriloquists, dancers, instrumentalists and circus artists are seen at the Grand Theatre, the Pleasure Beach and the Winter Gardens.

"Variety is enjoyed today and will be treasured for years to come through the National Theatre of Variety. It is a dream come true."

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