A new museum devoted entirely to the seaside resort town of Blackpool is due to open in 2021 but the creative team behind the project have already offered a preview of what it will be like thanks to a brand launch that took place in January. Showtown will feature artefacts and film from the town’s past but it will also include music and other performance styles. According to Live Blackpool, which promotes the resort online, the idea is to create a new participatory museum which will be inclusive and performance-based. Rather fittingly, therefore, the museum’s brand launch announced the chosen name for the centre will be ‘Showtime’ meaning it is intended to be both a museum and a visitor attraction in one.
Above: Brand Identity for Showtown
The Creative Team
True North, a Manchester-based creative consultancy said that the museum’s offering needed to be joyful and in keeping with the sort of associations many people have with holidaying there. However, it also needed to be flexible, according to the studio’s managing director, Ady Bibby. He said that his firm had originally got involved with the museum branding project following a competitive pitch for the museum. “A number of [the team]… actually did our formal professional training in the town so we have personal interests in Blackpool,” he said.
The public identity for the new museum will centre on what True North refers to as a series of brand blocks. These have been put together to each represent the sorts experiences visitors can expect when they are able to enter the museum. According to Steve Royle, a creative director at the design studio, these blocks have been assigned a modular system that deliberately features bright and contrasting colours to emulate the vibrancy of the resort itself. “We knew whatever we created needed to reflect Blackpool as an assault on the senses,” he said. Royle went on to say that his experience of the resort was a place where everything is competing for your attention all the time. “Showtown needs a brand that can compete with that,” he added.
Within this block-structured brand identity, the new Showtown logo reigns supreme. However, it is used within the different blocks in subtly different ways to tell the story of the town in original and engaging ways. In some cases, the blocks depict seaside entertainment staples such as circus characters and ice creams but others could be nothing like that. The idea is that not only will the blocks be able to highlight Blackpool’s culture and history in different contexts but that these will also be able to change. According to Royle, the approach is not cast in stone. “The system should remain fluid and playful,” he said at the launch. Nevertheless, six initial block themes have already been chosen – seaside, magic, dance, shows, circus and, of course, Blackpool’s famous illuminations.
A Team Effort
True North did not work in isolation on the museum branding project. In addition, exhibition designers Casson Mann as well as a design team from Why Not Associates took part. Another creative firm, Studio Treble, was engaged to incorporate the block-based branding in the museum’s proposed way-finding signs as well as its digital displays and interior design. According to one senior designer, Victoria Pinnington, the teamwork had to function well because the museum will essentially need to function as a hybrid. “There will be some objects and artefacts that visitors won’t ordinarily expect to find in a museum,” she said. “However, there will be plenty of hands-on experiences to be enjoyed.”
The new museum project is the culmination of a reported £13 million investment programme. This extensive budget has come from external sources as well as government funding. However, Showtime is not the only museum in the town. Brooks Collectables Toy Museum and the Grundy Art Gallery are already established in the resort. Nevertheless, Showtime will be the only such institution that is dedicated to the town itself.
About the author – Manuel Charr
Manuel Charr is a journalist working in the arts and cultural sectors. With a background in marketing, Manuel is drawn to arts organizations which are prepared to try inventive ways to reach new audiences.