The Countess of Wessex will visit Blackpool today (Tuesday) to celebrate two of the towns most famous landmarks. Sophie Wessex is marking the 125th anniversary of Blackpool Tower and the Grand Theatre. She will meet people who have helped save and restore the attractions.
Her Royal Highness will first visit the Blackpool Grand Theatre, where she will enjoy a short performance from two youth groups, Our Lady of the Assumption RC Primary School group who are part of the Grand Theatre’s Associate Schools Programme and the Scouts, Guides, Cubs and Brownies, who will perform an excerpt from Blackpool Scout Gang Show, which will take place at the theatre later in the month.
Following the performance Her Royal Highness will meet representatives from the three charities who saved the theatre from demolition in the early 1970s along with young people for whom the Grand Theatre is an important part of their lives, both as a venue to perform in and as an educational resource that works with schools across Blackpool to improve young people’s literacy, resilience and learning.
Following her meeting at the theatre, The Countess will then visit The Blackpool Tower where she will meet with Kate Shane, Head of Merlin Entertainments Blackpool Cluster, before being given a guided tour.
Her Royal Highness will visit the famous attractions found inside the Lancashire landmark including The Blackpool Tower Ballroom and The Blackpool Tower Circus followed by a visit to the building’s viewing platform, The Blackpool Tower Eye.
Before departing, Her Royal Highness will be invited to unveil a new blue plaque commemorating The Blackpool Tower’s 125th birthday.
“We are absolutely delighted to welcome HRH The Countess of Wessex GCVO to our beautiful building in this, our 125th anniversary year. All year the team has been working hard to both celebrate and fundraise for the preservation and development of this important Grade II* Listed heritage asset and this Royal visit is really the cherry on the cake of our very special year.”
– Chairman of the Grand Theatre Trust, Roger Lloyd Jones
“This has been an incredibly exciting year for the resort of Blackpool and it is a great privilege to welcome The Countess of Wessex to join in our celebrations. We are very much looking forward to showing her around The Blackpool Tower and telling her about our exciting plans for the remainder of our 125th birthday.”
– Kate Shane, Head of Cluster Attractions in Blackpool
Robert Holladay, Abilene’s film expert since the days he was “a little kid running around” the Paramount Theatre, has had leading roles before.
But Tuesday’s top billing will be remembered as his Oscar moment.
Holladay, now 79 and recently facing health challenges, arrived in a wheelchair at his beloved downtown theater, where a portrait of the longtime Cooper High School teacher was unveiled. It will be placed on the second floor with four other paintings.
He knew about painting and was dressed in a suit for his grand appearance, but he was taken aback by the crowd filling the theater lobby and seeing the work by Hardin-Simmons graduate Michael Patterson.
“This is the first time I’ve seen it” he said from his wheelchair. He clasped his hands and smiled. “It’s absolutely wonderful. Thank you.”
His portrait will be placed Wednesday on the east wall, with a placard so that 50 years from now, theater Executive Director George Levesque said, there will be an answer to the question, “Who’s that guy?”
On Tuesday, however, everyone knew. Former students, teachers and Paramount patrons gathered to celebrate the moment. A few came in from out of state. For their effort, the concession stand was open and they were invited to join Holladay for a box of popcorn and Diet Coke. Or whatever they wanted.
“It warms my heart to see so many people Robert has touched,” Jay Lester, the Paramount board president and a former student (AP Brit Lit, he said), said during his introduction.
Lester was a Cooper student when the Society of Film Appreciation was started. The acronym, SOFA, was appropriate because students regularly met at Holladay’s house to watch movies.
“Who has six sofas in their living room?” he asked.
Holladay said his students were the most important peoples in his life, along with nephew Theron Holladay. Former Paramount manager Frank Sheffield, too.
Lester noted it took maybe 10 days to raise the money to pay for the portrait commission. Holladay is pictured in a dark suit, with a red tie over a white shirt. His face is fuller and hair thicker, but otherwise a remarkable likeness to man honored Tuesday.
After the presentation, the Paramount showed “Raintree County,” Holladay’s favorite movie starring Elizabeth Taylor.
Holladay said he couldn’t stay for the entire movie, but he was going to watch the final 20 minutes before making his exit.
“Don’t peep in,” he joked.
He admitted the movie isn’t the greatest, even as the second most expensive made by MGM behind “Ben-Hur.” Read Ross Lockridge Jr.’s novel, he suggested.
Holladay recalled once showing the movie at his home and Tommy Hofheinz, a Cooper student, joining the Liz Taylor fan club that night.
Recalling her ballroom appearance in vivid, PG-13 detail (18-inch waist and “low-cut lace dress”), Holladay said Hofheinz gaped and remarked, “That’s the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen.”
The southern belle may have looked like a million in the 1957 movie but to those gathered Tuesday, the chance to honor that man known as “Mr. Holladay” was priceless.
“Hopefully, I’ll be back down here for ‘White Christmas,'” he said.
Jason Reitman is among a number of Hollywood notables assisting in the renovation of the historic cinema and is donating a 35mm projection system.
At a time when indie cinemas are under seige, Vidiots said Monday it will relaunch in the fall of 2020 at the restored Eagle Theatre in Los Angeles.
The iconic video store turned film nonprofit will return as a brick-and-mortar outlet, in addition to programming the 200-seat cinema in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles with repertory titles and new independent films. The location hasn’t been in operation as a movie theater since the 1990s, while Vidiots’ Santa Monica storefront shuttered in 2017.
“Vidiots relaunching on the cusp of our 35th birthday is a triumph for Los Angeles film history and cements the legacy of Vidiots founders Patty Polinger and Cathy Tauber as innovators in L.A. film culture. Bringing the Eagle Theatre back and providing L.A. with a long-needed new film space is thrilling,” said Maggie Mackay, executive director of the Vidiots Foundation, which houses a library of DVD, BluRay and rare VHS titles.
Jeffrey Birkmeyer’s Analog, a real estate and construction company, helped Vidiots arrange the lease of the theater and will assist in the renovation project.
Katie Aselton and Mark Duplass; Jess Wu Calder and Keith Calder; Emily Cook; Mackenzie Davis; Rian Johnson and Karina Longworth; Phil Lord; Nate Moore; and Morgan Neville are among those already making donations, while Jason Reitman is donating a 35mm projection system.
“Los Angeles should have more movie theaters, not fewer, and Vidiots has come to give all us punch drunk film lovers another place to call home where we can roam the racks. Thank you! So grateful to be a small part of this evolving institution,” Reitman said in a statement.
Vidiots’ future home opened as a vaudeville stage in May 1929 as The Yosemite Theatre. Within a a few days, however, it closed before reopening as an independent silent cinema. Renamed the Eagle Theatre in 1940, it operated for decades before becoming part of the Pussycat adult cinema chain from 1976-1979. It become an independent cinema again in 1983 on through the 1990s before becoming a series of churches.
With almost 10,000 square feet of entertainment and educational space, Vidiots will operate its storefront seven days a week, as well as offering daily screenings and special programs. A smaller, 50-seat theater will be used for screenings, workshops and receptions.
“Vidiots at the Eagle Theatre is a truly exciting and ambitious plan that revolves around our commitment to archival preservation, education, and accessibility, while maintaining and growing our passionate community of film lovers,” added Polinge and Tauber.
“We know that we can unlock a whole lot of other community funding when we get the PGF and that’s a pretty cool feeling.”
Hamilton Urban Design Panel members were convinced by plans in June 2018; members called it “the most significant civic and urban intervention in Hamilton CBD currently” and overwhelmingly supported it, a council report said.
Public submissions proved more mixed: 11 in support, three neutral, and 14 opposed.
Several talked about benefits and potential revitalisation of the CBD, others worried about a loss of heritage, stability of the riverside embankment area, wanting more detail, and the effects of construction on nearby areas.
Car parking – a common question – was also addressed in council’s report.
A key part of plans is refurbishing the former Hamilton Hotel, a heritage building, keeping facades on the Victoria St and Sapper Moore-Jones Place sides.
It’s currently in poor condition “with numerous cracks, damaged surface finishes, broken spouting and shoddy repair work in evidence,” a heritage assessment found.
Almost all other buildings on the site – including a 1929 addition to the hotel – would be demolished for the theatre project, but consent conditions may oblige re-use of the most significant historical features.
They include fixtures and fittings from the area known as Queen’s Suite, original leadlight windows, and the central oak panelled staircase.
Other plans for the site include an art gallery on the second level, overlooking Embassy Park and Victoria Street.
A glass-ceiling atrium would connect the refurbished hotel and the theatre and, on the auditorium’s eastern side, a cantilevered foyer area would provide views over Waikato River.
Above the foyer would be a roof terrace, and a public riverfront promenade would run in front of the theatre.
A translucent, back-lit, nine-metre-high screen would cover parts of the building’s northern and southern facades.
Overall, the project would help revitalise the central city and provide more arts opportunities, Boffa Miskell’s Andrew Cumberpatch wrote in his report for council.
“The proposed location, design and mix of activities, which will allow for increased connections to the Waikato River and existing public spaces, is also considered to be a positive social effect,” the associate principal planner wrote.
Car parking has been a concern for many and Momentum’s plan includes just six staff spaces in a basement area.
But shows wouldn’t be during commuter peak hours, a traffic assessment noted, congestion would be short-lived, and there are about 2250 public parking spaces within a five-minute walk of the site.
Those behind the theatre would like to turn the bottom of Sapper Moore-Jones Place into a shared area and remove some parking, and use some Victoria Street spots as temporary drop-off zones for large shows.
Other concerns raised about the plans centred around significant trees on the site, riverbank stability, and an urupā in the southeast corner of the site.
A decision on whether to give consent for the work on the 7300 sqm site will be made after a hearing at Hamilton City Council, starting at noon on October 16.
Council has recommended that certain conditions be imposed, including: engagement with mana whenua, monthly meetings with a Neighbour Liaison Group, the appointment of certain specialist staff, traffic management plans, and the submission of detailed plans -for example for Embassy Park – to be submitted to council staffers for approval.
It may not be as big as some other Berkshire towns – but it has to be Queen of the bunch.
It is after all, home to one of the monarch’s favourite residences where she chooses to spend most of her private weekends.
But there is more to Windsor than Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal Family – after all it is stepped in history and culture, and is also home to some fabulous attractions – including the ever popular Legoland.
Which is probably why there are so many people searching the internet to find out more about the town.
Today’s top stories on BerkshireLive
From ordinary questions about Windsor’s aristocratic history to queries about how to tie a specific kind of knot, people have been taking to search engine Google to find out more.
And thanks to the search engine’s suggested responses, we are able to see the most popular questions people have.
Here’s what people have been asking – and some of the answers.
A large majority of the questions people are asking involve one of the town’s most famous landmarks – Windsor Castle.
And that’s not really surprising considering it’s one of the favourite homes owned by one of the UK’s biggest tourist attractions – Queen Elizabeth II.
Here are the answers to the most common questions.
Is there a cafe at Windsor Castle?
There is currently no permanent cafe at the Castle for visitors to enjoy – however there are currently plans to install one.
But don’t worry – you’re not going to starve or be left gasping – there are plenty of cafes to get a drink or a bite to eat outside the castle walls.
What is Windsor Castle?
Windsor Castle is a historical Royal residence in Windsor. Originally built in the 11 Century following the Norman invasion, it’s been used by reigning monarchs since the time of Henry I, and is the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world.
It’s been the home to 39 monarchs, and is where the Queen spends most of her private weekends.
What is Windsor Castle used for?
The Castle is still a working palace and where the Queen spends most of her private weekends. It’s also an official Royal residence, with a number of formal duties held there.
You’ll know when the Queen is at home since the Royal Standard will be flown from the flag pole. If you can see the Union Jack flying, unfortunately that is a sign the monarch is elsewhere.
It was originally built as a fortress to protect the outskirts of London and oversee a strategically important part of the River Thames.
Is Windsor Castle open to the public?
Yes, parts of Windsor Castle are open to the public for visitors.
Is there a dress code for Windsor Castle?
No, there is no dress code for Windsor Castle – although it is recommended you wear comfortable shoes since it is at the top of a steep hill and the visitor route covers long distances.
But there will be no harm in dressing up – you never know who you might meet there!
When Windsor Castle is open?
The castle varies in opening times throughout the year.
As a standard, between November 1 and February 28, it opens from 10am to 4.15pm, with last admission being 3pm. Between March 1 and October 31, it is open from 10am to 5.1p5pm, with last admission at 4pm.
The State Apartments close around 30 minutes after the last admission time.
However, the Castle is a working Royal palace – which means it is closed to the public or occasionally closes early, and occasionally can be closed at short notice.
Many people asked whether it is open on Sundays – and according to the website, yes it is.
Is Windsor Castle free?
Unfortunately not – and the Royal Collection advises you book tickets and arrive at the Castle after midday for the best experience.
Tickets cost £22.50 for adults, £20.30 for students and people over 60, £13 for people under 17 or with disabilities, and under fives go free.
What are the best things about Windsor?
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There are also special rates for families and groups.
You can get in for free if you hold a Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Advantage Card.
Is Windsor Castle worth a visit?
What a ridiculous question! Of COURSE it is!
The Royal family
Many of the questions people asked concerned the Royal family, ancestry, and titles, as you’ll see in the questions below.
What is the House of Windsor?
The House of Windsor is the reigning royal household in the United Kingdom. That is, ‘Windsor’ is kind of like Queen Elizabeth’s surname.
She is the fourth monarch to come from the House of Windsor, which is originally a dynasty of German paternal descent and a branch of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
Because of anti-German feelings in the UK during the First World War, George V changed the name of the household to Windsor in 1917.
What is Mountbatten-Windsor?
This is a surname which can be used by male-line descendants of the Queen and her husband, Prince Philip, when a surname is required.
Mountbatten is a European dynasty and a branch of the German princely Battenberg family. It was a name adopted by members of the family living in the UK during the First World War. Prince Philip adopted the name from his mother’s family in 1947.
Windsor is the house from which the Queen descends.
Is there a Duke of Windsor?
There is no Duke of Windsor.
The Duke of Windsor was a peerage created in 1937 for the former King Edward VIII following his abdication in 1936 so he could marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson.
The dukedom became extinct on his death in May 1972.
In the UK, a Duke or Duchess is the highest-ranking hereditary title. They are all members of the Royal Family. The current dukedoms are:
Duke of Lancaster, held by Elizabeth II
Duke of Edinburgh, held by Prince Philip
Duke of Cornwall (England) and Duke of Rothesay (Scotland), held by Prince Charles, Prince of Wales
Duke of York, held by Prince Andrew
Duke of Cambridge, held by Prince William
Duke of Sussex, held by Prince Harry
Duke of Gloucester, held by Prince Richard
Duke of Kent, held by Prince Edward, the Queen’s cousin.
Some of the questions people asked were all about another famous Windsor attraction – Legoland.
The resort in Winkfield Road boasts a number of popular attractions from rollercoasters to building workshops and models to admire.
As well as asking what is at Legoland Windsor – and there is plenty – many people asked whether there is a swimming pool there.
And yes, there is a pool – as part of the hotel at the resort. There’s also a pirate-themes indoor water place area.
And outdoor splash pad for little ones in the park.
Is Windsor in London?
No it most assuredly is NOT in London and most definitely a Berkshire market town. It is situated nearly 22 miles west of Charing Cross in central London and is nearly 16 miles east of Reading, Berkshire.
It’s on the south bank of the River Thames.
Is Windsor in the Oyster zone?
Windsor is not part of the London Underground or in the Transport For London zone, so you cannot use your Oyster card to get there.
Is Windsor a city?
No, Windsor is a historic market town. It is not know quite when it was founded, but it certainly existed before William the Conqueror built the timber motte and bailey castle which became Windsor Castle in 1070 after the Norman invasion.
The village of nearby Old Windsor predates what we know as Windsor now by around 300 years.
Is Windsor worth visiting?
It’s a market town with huge historical significance and modern day importance. It is steeped in Royalty and heritage, and is also settled on one of the country’s most famous rivers.
There is something for everyone in Windsor – so the better question might be why isn’t it worth visiting Windsor.
What is on at Windsor Theatre?
The Theatre Royal in Thames Street is an impressive attraction in its own right, having first opened in August 1793.
The Edwardian theatre is Grade II listed. Originally it was only open for six weeks in the summer when Eton College was closed.
Should Windsor be a city?
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These days, it is still a roaring successes, with the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead claiming it is the “only unsubsidised producing theatre to operate all year round in Britain”.
You can see anything from music to theatre, and musical theatre, there’s plenty to see across all genres and performance types.
Also referred to as Full Windsor or Double Windsor to distinguish from half-Windsor, the Windsor Knot is a method of tying a tie.
It is thought to be named after the Duke of Windsor, the former King Edward VIII, but it is more likely to have been invented by his father, George V.
Shops in Windsor
It seems that people surfing the web are curious to find out what kind of shops Windsor has to offer. A simple “is there a … in Windsor” shows exactly what people are looking for.
Primark? No. The nearest branch is in Maidenhead.
John Lewis? No, there isn’t a John Lewis in Windsor – they do have legendary department store Daniel, however.
Next? Yes – it is located at King Edward Court.
What is the Merry Wives of Windsor about?
The Merry Wives of Windsor is a comedy by William Shakespeare believed to have been written before 1597.
Supposedly set in the reign of Henry IV, it is considered one of Shakespeare’s lesser works.
It is about a man named Sir John Falstaff, who is staying in Windsor and has run out of money. He decides to restore his fortunes be seducing the wives of two wealthy citizens.
However, they soon discover his double dealing and set about turning the tables.
Is there a direct train from London to Windsor?
There is a direct train to Windsor & Eton Riverside from London Waterloo which leaves every 30 minutes.
Is there a cinema in Windsor?
No, Windsor does not have its own cinema.
It does run cinema evenings at The Old Court.
The nearest cinemas are:
Is there a park and ride in Windsor?
Yes – there are in fact three.
Home Park, SL4 6HX
Home Park can be used on weekdays, and costs between £1 and £7 to use, although is free between 4pm and 9am. There are also season ticket options.
A free bus service runs every 15 to 20 minutes between 7am and 9pm.
It is not usually available at the weekend due to functions or events, but signs will indicate when it is not in use.
King Edward VII, SL4 6HX
The park and ride at King Edward VII Avenue runs a free bus service from 7am to 9pm Monday to Friday every 15 to 20 minutes.
Charges for the car park apply between 9am and midnight seven days a week, including bank holidays. Charges range from £1.60 to £9.30. Season tickets are available.
Legoland , SL4 4AY
Courtney Buses (now run by Reading Buses) operate this park and ride service at Winkfield Road. Return fares from Legoland Lower Car Park to Windsor town centre cost £6 for up to five people. There is no charge for parking on site.
The shuttle operates every weekend from Easter to November and in the summer holidays. Buses run every 30 minutes.
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Liz Mackley is a senior reporter working for Berkshire Live.
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