Blackpool has a local history archive that is more than local, in fact it touches on the childhoods of many, many people in the UK. The town was the entertainment centre for the Northern England up until the early 1980s. In the archive are photographs, postcards, programmes, letters and a myriad other souvenirs of everyone from The Beatles to Shirley Bassey, from Gracie Fields to Marlene Deitrich.
The photos (mostly the jewels here are photographs) bear the marks of age. They are yellowing, pitted and printed with handling, stamped with the business addresses of agents and photographers - and finally, they are often signed by the stars. I found myself very moved by our workshop today, in which participants searched through file after file for iconic photos to work from. Their short-list is a roll call of the early evening stars who glimmered on stages from the beginning of the 20th Century, and then on British TV in the 1960s and 70s.
Sooty and Sweep, Cilla Black, Eric and Ernie, Roger Moore, Ken Dodd, Shirley Bassey, Tommy Cooper, Ian Botham, Beatles and Stones. In the wings are Gracie Fields, Judy Garland, Lilly Langtree, all from other eras. As the group worked, they expressed their glee at the treasures they unearthed from the quiet green files of the archive.
The work is destined for a dementia ward at The Harbour mental health facility. It's hoped that these familiar faces from the past will not only look friendly, but they might usher in some good memories. People who have dementia remember early memories best, as most people do. With the pleasure of reminiscing can come pleasure in remembering more generally, taking a little of the fear out of the dementia. It is good to think that these faces from the past are coming out once more and delivering a performance that might just be one of their most appreciated.
Ladies and Gentlemen - it is our great pleasure to introduce...