Lytham gets ready for Christmas
- Credit: Archant
We meet the people planning to give Lytham some extra Christmas sparkle. Emma Mayoh reports
Roger McCann is looking forward to Christmas. Not only will he be enjoying his first proper Christmas dinner in the Lytham home he moved into last December, he will be helping many people from the Fylde community enjoy this special time.
He has just taken on the mantle of general manager at Lowther Pavilion, a popular theatre in the coastal town. And the 62-year-old is keen to get started.
He said: ‘I couldn’t resist the chance to be a part of something that is so much about community. Lytham is a fantastic place and Lowther Pavilion is such a big part of that.
‘It is a brilliant facility with performances from a great range of amateur theatrical companies as well as top professionals.’
It is a change of pace for Roger who is more accustomed to travelling around the world working and advising others on everything from establishing new theatres to how to best market venues and shows. His journeys have taken him to a huge variety of countries from Kazakhstan and Kosovo to India and Iran. He has worked on productions that appeared at the Edinburgh Festival, including My Hamlet which has also been staged in several different countries, and he has advised venues around the country when he worked for the Arts Council. He was also responsible for the turnaround in fortunes of the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton where he spent ten years as general manager
It was landing a place in the National Youth Theatre that first piqued Roger’s interest in theatre. It was during his time there, when he was just a teenager, that he got his first experience of working front of house rather than treading the boards.
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‘I was hooked as soon as I got the experience. I did enjoy being on the stage but once I’d got a taste for front of house I didn’t look back.
‘To me, everyone behind the certain was running around stressed and unhappy but in front of the curtain everyone was delighted to be there and excited. It was so thrilling to me.’
At Lowther Pavilion, which dates back to the 1920s, Roger is following in the footsteps of friend Mark Alexander who stepped down as manager after 15 months to join his partner Sue McCormick in running her stage production company. During Mark’s time the venues saw an almost 30 per cent increase in ticket sales and more big names, including comedian John Bishop, Ruby Wax, Dave Spikey and Milton Jones, came to the venue.
When Roger heard Mark was due to leave he could not resist the opportunity. Not only was it a chance to do something closer to home – his partner Ruth Eastwood is the chief executive of The Grand Theatre in Blackpool – but he also saw it as a chance to be involved hands on working directly for a venue rather than as a consultant.
He said: ‘For so many years I have worked on the outside looking in. When I was manager at the Nuffield Theatre I enjoyed it immensely.
‘I really feel like the time is right to give something back and really capitalise on everything this lovely town has to offer.’
Roger now hopes to build on recent success and is gearing up for one of the busiest times of the year with the festive season approaching.
As well as overseeing a fun-packed programme of events including the pantomime, Aladdin, there are several seasonal productions from local amateur groups.
He will also be looking at new ways of marking the festive period for the local community as well as thinking of different things to introduce throughout the year.
‘It is very exciting for me and I’m really looking forward to properly getting started and realising the potential Lowther Pavilion has. I want to look at ways we can get more people coming in through our doors as well as making it more part of the community.
‘I want Lowther to be at the heart of everything in Lytham. It would be great to get schoolchildren in for a few days and let them control the programming. They would do everything themselves. Ideas like that really excite me.
‘I’m just thrilled to be here in Lytham. It has been such a welcoming place. I love Lytham Green, the shops and all of the restaurants. The people are fantastic and I want Lowther Pavilion to be the area’s shining star.’
Roger is not the only local gearing up for the festive period. You would struggle to find better cakes than those served up at the neighbouring Lowther Café. Robert Silverwood, who owns it with friend John Cliff, has been busy baking mince pies, Christmas puddings and Christmas cakes for weeks ready for his customers to enjoy. He’s also been creating a festive menu and adorning the popular café with decorations. This year is Robert’s 25th year at the café – quite a feat considering he only ever intended to stay for five. But it has been Lytham’s appeal that has kept him at the business.
He said: ‘Lytham is lovely at any time of year but at Christmas it becomes a very special place. I love being in the café because there is such a fantastic atmosphere. It’s one of those places that gives you everything you need and want and everyone is so friendly and welcoming.’
The 57-year-old’s involvement with the town does not end there. He is also vice chair of Lytham Business Partnership and he has been working with fellow members since the spring coming up with plans on how the town will celebrate Christmas. They organised a Christmas lights switch on event and are also responsible for organising the Christmas lights that twinkle around the town and the Christmas trees in the square and on the buildings. Every year the group, who are all volunteers, have to raise more than £10,000 to put on the festivities in the town. But the hard work is worth it.
He said: ‘We’re all looking forward to Christmas. We are very lucky that we are a town that has so many excellent independent shops. There are about 250, which is quite surprising.
‘What we all love is being able to share a special time with everyone that comes here. It’s really is a magical place to be.’
To suggest Lytham has carved itself a reputation as a place for retail therapy is absolutely true. With a hive of charming boutiques, restaurants and cafes it has become a delightful change to busy city high streets for discerning shoppers this Christmas. There are many boutiques offering high quality ladies and men’s clothing as well as fashions for the little ones in your life – perfect for any upcoming celebrations. There is also a good choice of gift shops as well as those selling homes and interiors items.
Your Christmas dinner table will also be well catered for with a handful of decent grocers as well as a fantastic fish shop and popular butchers. You can also browse an award-winning independent book shop or pick up a beautifully restored piece of furniture before relaxing in one of the many local cafes, restaurants or pubs.
Get festive: things to do
The Walking Nativity takes place on December 20th. This popular event, which attracts hundreds of people, starts at 4pm at Lytham Methodist Church stopping at The Ship, The Taps and The County pubs before finishing in the town square where a stable will be placed. It is organised by Park View 4U and the Lytham Ecumenical Partnership. For more information call 01253 741955.
Enjoy Christmas lunch in the spectacular surroundings of Lytham Hall. A three course meal will be served in the tea room from December 2nd until December 19th. For more information visit www.lythamhall.org.uk
The Guardian Band performs on December 6th as part of the Lytham Methodist Church Concert Series. The performance starts at 7.30pm. For more information contact 01253 725175.
Pick up some tasty treats at Lytham Farmers Market, held on the third Thursday of the month between 8am and 2pm. The small but popular market is worth a visit.
Park View 4U has a full programme of festive events. On Saturday, November 29th Father Christmas will be in his grotto in the kitchen garden. They will also be hosting cookery workshops giving tips on how to create the best Christmas dinner as well as a workshop on how to make your own wooden reindeer. Dates are yet to be confirmed. For more information call 01253 741955.