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Blackburn leisure boss aims for revival of King George's Hall
A MAJOR review into reviving the fortunes of one of East Lancashire’s top venues has been launched.
Blackburn with Darwen leisure boss Damian Talbot wants King George’s Hall re-established as one of the region’s leading rock and pop venues.
In recent years, King George’s has been losing £300,000 a year.
Last year’s deficit was down to £190,000 and last week’s council executive board deferred a £50,000 cost-saving plan for the coming year while Mr Talbot reviewed how to return King George’s to its regional pre-eminence.
In the 1970s to 1990s it headlined top acts including The Clash, Def Leppard and the Manic Street Preachers, boosting Blackburn’s reputation as one of the places in Lancashire for young people to gather.
Council leisure and culture cabinet member Mr Talbot believes that, with the hall’s 61,000 attendance in the first quarter of this year nearly double the 35,000 for the same period in 2011, now is the time to strike.
He said: “King George’s still has a lot going for it. We sell out top comedy acts like Jimmy Carr , Sarah Millican and John Bishop.
“It is the only concert hall in East Lancashire to host major orchestras like The Halle, who are coming here four times this season, and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. We sell three-quarters of the seats.
“Our soul nights are popular and this week King George’s was filmed for the Wigan Casino tribute ‘Northern Soul’.
“Our Utopia reunions have been another success so there is a niche there which shows we can still draw people in.
“At one point, King George’s Hall was a big rock and pop venue and that is something I want to re-establish.
“There is a Catch 22. Promoters want to be sure of selling tickets so we can’t book big acts until we prove that – yet we can’t prove it till we book them.
“Eighteen months ago we had Paolo Nutini at the top of his fame and sold out within hours so we know we can. We need to promote ourselves not just as the venue for Blackburn’s 130,000 people but for East Lancashire with a catchment of half a million.
“Maybe now is the time for a big push or even taking a risk. If we fill King George’s, we fill the pubs, bars and restaurants around which is a key to reviving Blackburn’s night-time economy.
“We had a meeting recently to review the situation and asked for another report with recommendations on how to go forward.”