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St Annes plans to become a centre for the arts

PUBLISHED: 00:01 13 February 2014

The Back West Art Trail

The Back West Art Trail

Archant

A new arts trail could be just the beginning as St Annes puts itself in the frame for a cultural revolution, as Paul Mackenzie reports

St Anne's PierSt Anne's Pier

It may be little more than a back street at the moment but it could become the latest tourist attraction in St Annes. Generations of holiday-makers and daytrippers have enjoyed the town’s beach, pier, shops and restaurants and visitors can now see the beginnings of an arts trail which will lead them away from the promenade and main streets.

The first paintings – a mix of new pieces by local artists and paintings from the Lytham St Annes Art Collection – have gone up at one end of Back West Crescent, which runs parallel to the main shopping street, and further works of art will be added along the street this year.

The scheme is the brainchild of Guy Pople whose St Annes Music shop used to be based on Back West Crescent and Arnold Sumner from the town’s Chamber of Trade. And they are working alongside artist Richard Marshall who has even grander artistic plans for the town.

Guy said: ‘Our idea was to pretty-up a grimy alley with art and flowers and maybe attract some of the crowds who come to St Annes and walk along the front and the main street to go somewhere else and find some other businesses.

‘So far we have art works at one end of the street – three from the collection and three by local artists – but over time we want to extend the trail and have pieces at each corner and to make it a real attraction.’

And Richard, who is one of the local artists to have his work included in the trail, added: ‘It is a project that aims to not only enhance local interest in the arts but develop cultural tourism. The arts trail will build to become a visitor attraction in an area that requires development and it will also include images from the local art collection and therefore also raise awareness.

‘In time we think it could develop into an artists’ quarter with artworks along the street and studios down there too.’

Richard is also co-ordinating a scheme which began last August to catalogue the items held in the Lytham St Annes Art Collection at the town hall and he wants to see the treasures now stored there put on permanent display.

‘St Annes is a superb seaside resort but lacks the cultural attraction that most major towns have,’ he said. ‘And that’s ironic because St Annes holds a large, historically valuable art collection that is in desperate need of appropriate storage and exhibition space that would be a huge visitor attraction and a worthy local resource.

‘I am committed to improving community facilities and an arts centre would not only provide entertainment and a visitor attraction, it would provide a heritage resource developing a sense of pride in the local community. The idea is not a new one, but with new funding streams and an interest by museums and galleries to move out of London to the north, I believe the time is ripe for a renewed bid.’

Richard has previously worked on a four year project to improve emotional health in Blackpool primary schools and has researched ways of reducing stress and the links between improving emotional health and learning ability.

He added: ‘It is not surprising to find that improving levels of emotional health leads to improved educational capabilities and that a big factor in this is that people not only feel better but are better when they have the resources they need, feel safe and have opportunities to perform or learn. These factors underpin my quest to establish a heritage museum and art gallery in Lytham St Annes.

‘There are certain things that need to be in place to support such a bid for funding. The public need to be aware of the art collection and be supportive of its conservation and understand its heritage value and the local council and town planners need to see the benefits of cultural tourism and how this can be developed.’

Father-of-two Richard is the coordinator of the Fylde Gallery at the Booths store down the road in Lytham and has secured funding for an arts festival in Lytham which will showcase the work of local artists, musicians, poets and drama groups.

He is also working with the Fylde Decorative and Fine Arts Society and a team of about 50 volunteers to record all the artworks in the Lytham St Annes Art Collection which is stored at the town hall in St Annes.

Margaret Race, the chair of the collection’s friends group, said: ‘The researchers are looking in depth into the items in the collection and the artists who created them as well as the donors who gave them to the collection. It can be very exciting when they make a breakthrough and find a new piece of information.’

History in brief

St Annes was a 19th century planned town which was founded on March 31, 1875. The origins of the Viking village which stood on the land previously are much less specific; Kilgrimol was thought to have been established in about 900BC. The modern town was mostly laid out to a plan drawn by businessman Elijah Hargreaves, who saw there was money to be made from bringing workers from the mill towns to the coast. Much of his plan is still evident although the town has been revamped in recent years.

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