N-icely does it as skate show marks 80 years

08 Jul 2016

It could be described as the coolest show in Blackpool. And this year Hot Ice – currently running at the Pleasure Beach Arena until September 10 – is celebrating its 80th year.


It has starred famous names over the years, such as Steven Pickavance, Dan Whiston and Katie Stainsby, as well as featuring colourful costumes and gravity-defying stunts. The show started out life in the 1930s and even the war years couldn’t stop it – with the ice drome putting on putting on entertainment for the troops and evacuees. The Pleasure Beach Arena was built in 1936 and the first show took place this year.The arena was designed by famous architect Joseph Emberton and was the world’s first purpose built ice theatre. The first show was called Marina.


In 1938, Roy and Betty Callaway starred in the show. Betty went on to achieve public recognition when she coached Torvill and Dean in the Olympic and World championships.Back in those days, the show was – according to the Pleasure Beach’s entertainment manager Jon Butcher, who was interviewed in The Gazette in 1986 – “a very upmarket occasion.” “Audiences dressed up in their finery and even the ice skaters themselves were from the top drawer.“We had a Baron in the first show – it was quite an aristocratic occasion.”


Between 1939 and 1944, even though the Second World War had broken out, the show went on – as the government decided there was a need for entertainment. Throughout the war, there was a cast of up to 50 skaters. Frank Wright and Pleasure Beach staff designed and built a great illuminated staircase, which was suspended from the roof, in 1959.


The magnificent staircase is still used in the show to this day.


In 1980, figure skating champion Robin Cousins performed a gala performance at the arena, following his gold medal winning performance at the Olympics earlier that year. He went on to perform again the following two years.When the show celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 1986, it was calculated the first 50 years had seen 5,747 skaters and musicians performing for them and 10 million people watched their talented performances. Amanda Thompson produced and directed the show for the first time in 1994.


Original article courtesy of Blackpool Gazette