BLACKPOOL REMEMBERED

My thanks to Meglos aka Russ for his snaps from the exhibition

Opening on 10th April 1974 and ending an incredible ELEVEN years later in October 1985, visitors entered through an enlarged police box, which led down a flight of stairs, In turn leading you through a maze of corridors and rooms lined with display cases and props from the series, admission was (circa 1983) 60p for adults and 30p for children.
Mobile Daleks guarded a TARDIS console at the end of it while on a nearby T.V. screen guests could observe a looped videotape of the Doctors various regenerations.
The exhibition was opened by the then Doctor - Jon Perwee on April 5th 1974, with massive crowds on hand to catch a glimpse of the star, just before he announced his retirement from the role. But it was Tom Baker beginning the next year, who would make the most impact with Blackpool.
1975, his first year on the series, would see his success with the role rewarded with an invitation to switch on the resorts traditional annual Lights display. A great honour… and a humbling one, as he would tell the weekly Reveille newspaper: -

BLACKPOOL ILLUMINATIONS
‘At last the day came to go to Blackpool for the great annual switch-on of the illuminations. They told me I was only the 43rd person to be invited to do the switch on; so l felt part of a very select group. Knees shaking, and with nervous jokes Ian Márter, Liz Sladen and I arrived in Talbot Square for the event!
There was a crowd — 20,000 strong! I’ve sometimes played to full houses, but
20,000!
The Mayor came out to address the people — and suddenly he was surrounded by Daleks. They told him to sit down or be exterminated. They went on about only Daleks being allowed to switch on illuminations and threatened to destroy the Blackpool Tower and blow up Woolworth's.
Just then two Cybermen arrived. By a stroke of good fortune, I had my sonic screwdriver with me and we managed to put the Cybermen out of action. This caused great uproar among the children, screams of happy terror. Then the Daleks attacked. Luckily there were some very large ‘Kiss Me Quick’ hats on the dais and Liz and Ian popped them over the Daleks.
As you know, if there’s one thing Daleks can’t stand. it’s being covered up. They spun around, and screamed and finally retired in sulky silence to the wings.
Then the switch-on. The crowd was hushed, I pressed the handle - and six miles of lights went on. We then toured the lights in Bessie. It was a wonderful evening.’

Four years later in August of 1979 the illuminations would feature a large display of Tom Bakers Doctor with K9 & Daleks among others… again Tom was on hand to mark the occasion.
Less well known though, seems to be the fact that Tom, Two years previously, had completed a tour of hospitals through the north-west visiting children’s wards in Preston, Blackpool, Liverpool and Blackburn; comforting and amusing those ill children.
Considering Doctor Who’s popularity and influence with children it is somewhat sad that few, if any, of his successors in the role were so inclined, and a testament to Tom’s character that such visits were not unusual.

The end of the Blackpool exhibition in 1985 was somewhat a parallel to the programmes fall from favour on television at that time. Though there are claims that the exhibition ended largely due to the lease on the building that housed it expiring.
Somewhat plausible when you consider that today there are still TWO large-scale exhibitions in the UK. One at Longleat house - the estate of the Marquess of Bath in London and the other in Llangollen, Wales and listed in many of Wales’ top attraction brochures.