Joe Longthorne Theatre (former North Pier Pavilion)
An Art Deco pier pavilion in Blackpool dating from the 1930s, now one of only six operating pier theatres in the country.
The Blackpool Pier Company opened the North Pier in 1863, and it is now the oldest of the surviving piers built by renowned promenade pier architect and engineer Eugenius Birch. The current Pavilion, in the Art Deco style, dates from 1939. It is Grade II listed, one of only six operating pier theatres in the country, and one of only four operating on the seaward end of the pier. The owner of the North Pier also owns the neighbouring Central and South Piers. Together with the neighbouring Central and South Piers, the North Pier was included on the World Monuments Fund’s 2018 World Monuments Watch list.
Why is this theatre at risk?
The Joe Longthorne Theatre has been on the Theatres at Risk Register since 2014.
In December 2013 the North Pier was severely damaged by strong winds. This caused the seaward end of the pier to close for health and safety reasons. During the storm, damage was also caused to the theatre. The pier reopened in April 2014, however, there are still concerns relating to the safety of parts of the structure.
During the winter of 2015 / 16 Blackpool Council undertook a structural survey of the pier to help engage with the owners on a structural repair programme. The survey led to a further review to examine options for the pier structure. The review led by the council, working in conjunction with the pier’s owner, has involved the support of Historic England, National Piers Society, Victorian Society and Theatres Trust. The work has yet to complete.
Following a successful bid supported by Theatres Trust, Blackpool’s three piers were placed on the World Monuments Fund 2018 Watch list. Inclusion on this list of cultural sites at risk helps raise public awareness, aids in fostering local engagement in their protection and helps to leverage new resources for conservation. Blackpool also hosted The World Monument Fund’s international conference on coastal heritage and climate change in September 2019, recognising the vulnerability of Blackpool’s piers to climate change.
The Joe Longthorne Theatre is a popular local venue that forms part of Blackpool’s overall cultural offer.
In summer 2020 the North Pier Theatre was renamed the Joe Longthorne Theatre in memory of the popular entertainer who lived in Blackpool, performed more than 20 seasons at the theatre and described it as his all-time favourite venue. A museum of memorabilia has been set up within the pier’s tea rooms.
Despite the theatre being open, it is still deemed at risk due to the condition of the pier and its extreme vulnerability to climate change.
Exterior image: Joe Longthorne Theatre, Theatres Trust; Interior image: Ian Grundy.