Blackpool’s Grand Theatre got an extra special present as it celebrated 125 years of entertaining the people of Blackpool as it was named the recipient of the 2019 Hirst Prize for Social Enterprise Excellence.

High Sheriff of Lancashire the Hon Ralph Assheton TD DL says a few words while presenting the Hirst Prize to Roger Lloyd Jones, Grand Trust Chair.

The stunning Frank Matcham-designed, 1052 seat theatre on Church Street is celebrating the milestone anniversary in 2019, however its conversion to charitable status took place after the Friends of The Grand worked tirelessly to save the building when it was threatened with demolition.

Today, the Grand Theatre is a thriving venue staging standout, innovative work and this continued success is the reason it was chosen to be honoured with the Hirst Prize.

The prize celebrates the work of Clive Hirst who helped establish a community interest company called Social Enterprise Solutions in 2006, which is now based at the Enterprise Centre on Lytham Road in Blackpool, and each year he presents a glass trophy and a share of the company’s profits to another of the town’s social enterprises. 

Speaking at the presentation, Clive said: “The Grand Theatre is a great example of social enterprise in  action. Social enterprises are businesses which incorporate social objectives into their governance and with 93% of its income coming from trading, the Grand Theatre has a strong business model. But it also has essential social objectives including the preservation of this historic building and the provision of education in theatre and the performing arts. The Grand Theatre Trust has delivered this vision since the theatre was saved in 1981 and it’s great that we can celebrate its achievements today.”

Grand Theatre chief executive, Ruth Eastwood, said: “We are very proud of the history and heritage of the theatre and delighted that the hard work of the team has been recognised in this way.

“The donation will go towards our campaign to raise £125,000 to repair the storm damage to the dome at the front of the building.”

© Grand Theatre | Photographer Martin Bostock

Each year, the board of Social Enterprise Solutions presents one social enterprise with the Hirst Prize.

The award celebrates the work of Clive Hirst who helped establish Social Enterprise Solutions in 2006 as a community interest company when the direction of travel was towards charity, he championed social enterprise where community companies trade for the social good.Alan Hulme (wearing a hat) receives the prize from Clive Hirst

Previous winners include Blackpool-based Urban Organic CIC, headed by expert gardener Alan Hulme, His Provision CIC which works in the community in Blackpool to help those in desperate need of vital supplies and Spiral Health CIC.

Clive is a key figure on the national stage, encouraging and promoting the Social Enterprise Places initiative which is spearheaded by Social Enterprise UK. You can find more information about it here: www.socialenterprise.org.uk/social-enterprise-places/about-places