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Industry Influencer


There’s a little bit of Blackpool in everybody


Amanda Thompson OBE speaks to Park World editor, Becci Knowles about life at the helm of Blackpool Pleasure Beach


T


he fourth generation of her family to run Blackpool Pleasure Beach – her great-grandfather bought the land on the seafront and opened the park in 1896 –


Amanda took over in 2004. Her father, the hugely respected Geoffrey Thompson, died on her wedding day. “It was a complete shock. He died on the Saturday, I was in the office on the Sunday and the bank were in on the Monday.” With barely time to grieve, Amanda threw herself into the


role, determined to improve the park and Blackpool’s fortunes.“ I had one choice – I sunk or I swam and I wasn’t going to sink, I’m a fighter.” Looking back on this painful, life defining moment she says:


“I have made the best of a horrendous thing that happened in my life. If my grandmother or father was still alive they’d be doing this job. I don’t feel fortunate to be in this position because I’d prefer to have my father alive any day.”


Setting the stage Amanda began her career in the fashion industry alongside influential London based retailer and founder of the eponymous womenswear label, Joseph Ettedgui. It was during this time, and with Ettedgui’s blessing, that she started splitting her time between the UK and the US where she landed the ‘job of a lifetime’ working on live shows at Myrtle Beach in Carolina. “ I learned the hard way in America” she tells me, but, it was a move that paid off as soon she was producing all of the live shows at Myrtle Beach and had even formed her own company, Stageworks Worldwide Productions.


Blackpool is of course a renowned theatre town, huge names like Julie Andrews, Tommy Steel and David Thewlis all cut their teeth there. Amanda’s father was also patron of the Blackpool Grand Theatre, so its perhaps no surprise that from a young age she harboured dreams of creating the kind of stand-out shows she had enjoyed throughout her childhood. Creativity and the drive for absolute perfection, is in her blood. Amanda’s heart always lay in Blackpool and when her


father asked her to return and work for the family business, she didn’t hesitate, returning home to produce shows at the Pleasure Beach and all over Europe. This saw her producing the now famous Hot Ice shows, several IAAPA Kick Off events and enjoying a ten-year tenure at Europa Park, where Roland Mack became a friend and mentor. Having changed the face of theatre within amusement parks, Amanda soon caught the eye of TV execs, which led to work at the BBC on the Royal Variety Show, as well as productions for ITV. Amanda has, by her own admission, experienced “roller coaster twists and turns of life in the entertainment industry,” having worked in just about every department at the park. And, despite her role as managing director, the quality of Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s performances remain as important as ever. “I like to think everything I do is of a high standard; I would never jeopardise quality for budget,” she says. I ask Amanda what her advice to young people who want


to work behind the scenes in live entertainment would be. “Producing high calibre shows is hard work,” she says. “You have to work long hours and be determined to deliver what you believe in. It’s about having the right cast and making


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