Our purpose is to ensure that arts and creativity is accessible for all Blackpool communities.
A stronger, more resilient resident community are empowered to create a new narrative about the town.
New work that provokes, surprises and entertains audiences is regularly made and performed in Blackpool and shared across the UK and around the world.
Our mission is to
Provide transformative creative experiences that improve lives of local residents.
Be valuable contributors to the town’s economy through a new hub of creative opportunities.
Our objectives are to
Inspire individuals to connect with their own creativity through a menu of high-quality socially-engaged arts activities in Blackpool.
Collaborate with others to reduce barriers to communities connecting with high quality arts programmes. Support emerging creatives in their professional aspirations via regular development and employment opportunities.
Develop a new hub of social connectivity and creative practice in the town.
Generate income to support our aims to develop financial and organisational resilience.
We strive for these through
Innovation; actively different from much of the commercial-entertainment offer currently available in the area but inspired by the local people, places and things we will engage in dialogue with other companies and venues regionally, nationally and internationally.
Illumination; responding to the needs of the local community, offering new light by which we see ourselves, the society we live in and the world at large; learning, self-expression and self-reflection and the connection between healthy mind, body and spirit are at the core of everything we do.
Opportunity; supporting the development of emerging artists as well as linking with established industry experts, all activities are offered at reasonable rates to locals and regularity of service ensures the growth of long-term relationships and a stronger creative community.
The Old Electric is part of The Electric Sunshine Project* CIC (TESP) which was formed in July 2016 by Melanie Whitehead. Alongside Melanie, there are four directors; Rachael Slater, Stephen Dunstan, Laura White and Stephanie Cottle who meet quarterly. We seek to be informed by the needs of the local community and have an Advisory Group who provide advice and guidance, plus a pool of Associate Artists who bring with them a broad range of skills.
You can read more about our board below.
Board Director (Artistic Director)
Since graduating from Goldsmith’s College, University of London, with a BA (Hons) in English and Theatre Studies, Melanie has worked with young people in a diverse range of fields including for 8.5 years at the Royal Shakespeare Company and 4-years at the National Theatre for whom she oversaw regional learning partnerships for both War Horse and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. She has been an Educational Consultant for Touring Consortium Theatre Company, produced and directed Blackpool Grand Theatre’s first NT Connections Young Company projects and managed participation projects for NW organisations such as The Lowry, LeftCoast, Tameside Borough Council and Fleetwood Festival of Transport.
She has a Masters in Applied Theatre and Post Graduate Certificate in the Teaching of Shakespeare as well as a Chartered Institute of Marketing Post Graduate Diploma in Marketing. She has also been on the Board of Directors previously for Geese Theatre and the dukes, Lancaster.
In April 2013, she bought a derelict warehouse in Blackpool to turn into a family home and it was here that she used on street and desk based research to found The Electric Sunshine Project cic, a company inspired by the town’s historical connections to enterprising showcasing of creativity via the illuminations. In 2019/20 she led the organisation to taking it’s first home in The Old Electric through an ambitious Lottery Communities funding bid.
After achieving a 2:1 in Drama and Education from the University of Chester, Rachael started her career as a Community Arts Practitioner with notable early commissions from Barnardo’s and Styal Women’s Prison. Subsequently, she went on to complete her PGCE specialising in Post Compulsory and Adult Education. With twenty years experience of multi-disciplinary working within communities in Blackpool and the Fylde Coast. Rachael is now Area Operations Manager across Cumbria and Lancashire for Inspira, a multi-award-winning personal and career development organisation.
Operations + Development Director
After years working in the service industry, and a ten-year stint in admin in HE, Shirley took a Masters in Creative Writing at Lancaster University (2005) and went on to work for North West Playwrights, an Arts Council funded organisation that championed new writing and developing and nurturing NW-based writers. She spent two years as General Manager at They Eat Culture, a small arts organisation based in a real ale pub with a black box theatre space and seven years with Curious Minds, an Arts Council Bridge Organisation, took park in the British Council’s Active Citizen/Social leadership Programme (2019) and the Creative Community Fellowship UK (2020-21) and, most recently, worked for 18 months as Head of People at The Old Courts, Wigan. As a freelancer she has co-written funding bids and evaluation reports, produced/toured new writing theatre and, with other independent creative and cultural practitioners, as part of a Collective championing collaboration and personal development, is leading on a 4-day festival in Preston: The Collective Weekender. Trained as a Reader Leader for The Reader Organisation, Liverpool, she is currently working on a play about a one-woman town in Nebraska, USA.
Paula has over 20 years experience in spiritual leadership, mentoring and pastoral guidance in High School settings (11-16) I enjoy cooking, DIY and decorating, Pilates and informal dance classes and, last year, became a member of one of TESC playwriting groups, I love live music and nights out. I am the proud mother of a 20 year old daughter who is currently in her 3rd year of an MA (Hons) Joint Degree at the University of Glasgow and admit to getting just a little twitchy over the 3rd Year results now. I love working with young people and am responsible for running lots of extra curricular groups to enrich the curriculum; such as Social Justice, Fairtrade, Gardening and Climate Change balancing practical activity with social activism. I have a busy time balancing my school, Council and Ward work along with a newly independent social life, so it’s just as well I have bags of energy.
Board Director (Treasurer)
I have worked in a number of finance roles, as well as administration and management. I have been delighted to find myself connected to some elements of the Blackpool Arts scene. I dabble with photography, but my passion is reading. I run a book blog and am an active reviewer on Blog Tours for several organisers.
I’m excited about the role that the arts play in mental health and speak from the heart when I say that reading and reviewing got me through lockdown.
My role in Blackpool is to drive forward the Town Centre and Tourism Business Improvement Districts, representing over 700 businesses. BIDs are defined by their geography and in Blackpool, the Town Centre BID is focussed on safety, security and environment and the Tourism BID is focussed on driving visitors to Blackpool to retain Blackpool as the UKs no 1 seaside destination.
My previous role at Tate Liverpool and Trustee of two arts organisations means I am keen to support locally based arts organisations. I am delighted to join the board at The Electric Sunshine Project and look forward to supporting Melanie and her team to deliver their ambitions for Blackpool communities.
Chair of the Board
As part of a hotel management course in his home town of Birmingham, Martin went to The Imperial Hotel, Blackpool, for industry experience. Seduced by the resort’s entertainment culture and foregoing a hotel career, he worked for First Leisure, managing Blackpool’s seaside piers. He also managed Llandudno Pier and Eastbourne Pier before being offered a dream job as the General Manager of Blackpool Tower and Circus. He conceived the idea and launched the glass-floored Walk of Faith at the Tower top, he orchestrated the revival of the Big Bands in the Tower Ballroom and oversaw the development of the Tower Circus. He also created the inaugural World Firework Championships.
With a passion for entertainment and marketing, Martin and his wife launched Fit The Bill, an independent entertainment company, in 2014, taking ideas from a blank sheet of paper to sold-out Edinburgh Fringe shows, and on to West End theatre residencies. They have co-produced with Underbelly, Sadler’s Wells and English National Ballet. Locally, FTB presents the annual British Country Music Festival and is actively developing the ambitious Capital of Dance pilot event, set to take place in the resort in June and July 2024.
Martin says: “I believe that The Electric Sunshine Project harnesses the transformative power of art and culture to fulfil essential needs in our resort. It exerts a positive influence in unexpected areas, including economic development, civic pride and the promotion of healthy living. It’s an honour to support the artistic team and the communities that it nurtures and I look forward to helping guide its future development.”
We have Worldwide Full Civil Professional Indemnity Insurance up to £50,000 plus Public Liability Insurance for European Union up to £1,000,000 underwritten by Hiscox Insurance Company Ltd.
All members of TESP with regular/direct contact with young people hold a DBS certificate with online updates. Most practitioners have some form of First-Aid training and all are contracted to adhere to our Child Protection and Health & Safety Policies. Practitioner information is available on request at point of contract.
Generic risk assessments have been carried out for the main body of our activity and these are available to view.
We aim to work within organisations and venues’ own policies and procedures.
The Old Electric is developing as a collective of like-minded organisations all with their own specialist skills and a shared ambition to support Blackpool’s residents to come together as the diverse community it is.
You can find out more about them below.
House of Wingz offer Classes, Training, representation and career opportunities. Their programme includes Hip-Hop and Street Dance, Breakdance, Beatboxin’, Graffiti, Physical Theatre, Spoken word, Music production, Emcee and DJ-ing.
Think Forward C.I.C. was established with the aim to support and realise personal and professional development for those working with young people and communities and leadership development for young adults. They do this through providing; workforce development, training, educational and creative learning programmes, specific projects and initiatives, resource development and promoting international opportunities. Think Forward are leading on Blackpool City of Learning an online learning and recognition platform for the Fylde Coast.
*In 1879, Blackpool became the first municipality in the world to have electric street lighting – they called it ‘Electric Sunshine’. We are inspired by this ambition and seek to influence a new narrative about Britain’s best loved seaside town through innovative attitudes to arts.
Header image courtesy of CJGriffiths Photography.
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