Would you dare to look down on Blackpool?

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Christopher Hirst marvels at the 'Skywalk' freshly installed at the top of the Tower

The queue for Blackpool Tower, which reopened yesterday after a 10-month refurbishment, stretched for a mile along the resort's raucous sea front. Among the attractions at the re-named Tower Eye is a "glass Skywalk" providing "a spectacular, never-seen-before bird's eye view of the promenade and coastline".

The Tower warns, however, that this experience is only "for those who are brave enough". I'm not sure that this doughty cadre of thrill-seekers would include me. When I ascended the tower as a small child half a century ago, I kept my eyes tight shut.

Now I am happy to enjoy the spectacle of the tower from below. Opened on 18 May 1894, it can be seen for many miles along Lancashire's pancake-flat coast. Like many other follies, it is startling and slightly scary even at ground level. Can that sky-scraping Victorian pinnacle of 2,600 tons of iron and steel really be safe? It is not terribly reassuring to learn from the Wikipedia entry that "the cast steel and iron are distributed in such a way that if [the tower] ever did collapse it would fall in the sea".

John Bickerstaffe, mayor of Blackpool, conceived a desire for a tower after visiting the Great Paris Exhibition of 1889, which boasted the new Eiffel Tower. Though Blackpool's version is less than half the height of Gustav Eiffel's edifice. When completed, Blackpool Tower was the tallest building in Britain. It remains a looming symbol for our most distinctive resort. Some may regard it as more bulky than elegant but it is appropriate for the no-holds-barred, too-much-is-not-enough appeal of Blackpool.

The Tower's steel arches, now exposed for the first time, contain an experience described as "Blackpool's first 4D cinema". This extra dimension turns out to be "sensory effects such as wind, rain and sunshine" that enhance a film about the making of the Tower. The cinema was traditionally a refuge from Blackpool's bracing climate, but it seems that rain will now pursue viewers indoors.

In case the refurbishment sounds too tasteful, another new attraction is the Blackpool Tower Dungeon, described as "a fun walk through some of the North-west's most horrible history". Fortunately, the Tower Ballroom, another Bickerstaffe commission, offers more pleasant memories. Stars ranging from Duke Ellington to Laurel and Hardy performed here. Its Mighty Wurlitzer, once played by the legendary Reginald Dixon, still provides daily entertainment. Lucinda Lampton describes the ballroom as "a giantess's gilded boudoir"; an appropriately seductive enclave to be found beneath the town's proudly thrusting symbol. No wonder that many northerners were once said to have birthdays nine months on from a parental break in Blackpool.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick