Letter: Heseltine on Blackpool

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The Independent Online
NEITHER Paul Routledge nor David Walker, debating the pros and cons of Blackpool as the place to hold a party conference ("Is Labour right to end its affair with Blackpool?", 26 March), got to the heart of the matter. Michael Heseltine did.

When asked by Melvyn Bragg on the BBC in 1988 to compare the late 19th- century Winter Gardens, Blackpool, with the faceless modern conference centres of Brighton and Bournemouth, Heseltine opined:

I would say at once that if I have a choice of venue it is the Winter Gardens, Blackpool. There is nothing like it: the feeling of the audience in that building, tiered up there, towering over you. Whereas in these new buildings, the hall, the carpeting and the chairs, it's all been toned down to remove any excesses of language or of tone. You have to fight, really fight to try and get through to the audience. The Winter Gardens, it's there with you.

A seasoned actor might say the same, comparing a fine old Matcham auditorium and many a rational new theatre with perfect sightlines and empty air. Heseltine, a fine performer himself, might have concluded that, at the Winter Gardens, any good orator can address the conference, while at Brighton or Bournemouth, the halls are more suited to orchestrated rallies of the faithful. Or is that what New Labour wants?

IAIN MacKINTOSH

Theatre Projects Consultants

London NW5

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