Blackpool’s adopted son and beloved entertainer Joe Longthorne is to have his name immortalised in lights in the resort.
The North Pier theatre is to be renamed in his memory – with the venue promising to welcome some of the biggest names in entertainment to celebrate the life of the musical icon who died on August 3 at his home in Blackpool.
An all-star variety opening night has been scheduled for the rebranded Joe Longthorne Theatre on May 31, what would have been the star’s 65th birthday.
A full line-up for the dazzling gala evening is expected to be announced soon, with tickets on sale next week.
Joe and husband Jamie Moran were long-time friends of the Sedgwick family who own and run Blackpool’s world-famous piers.
Jamie said he was “deeply honoured” for the tribute, adding : “It’s just such a fantastic way to celebrate his memory.”
He said the Grade II-listed pier and it’s 1,400 capacity theatre was Joe’s all-time favourite venue to have performed in, having appeared there for more than 20 seasons.
He added: “He first starred in a summer season there in 1987, followed by many record breaking seasons over the years and even took up residence once in his dressing room for a few months.
“He simply loved the feel of the theatre right at the end of the pier looking out on the Irish Sea.
“His huge army of fans would make regular trips to see Joe on the North Pier and it was widely known that this was Joe’s all time favourite venue to perform.”
Jamie said discussions with the Sedgwick family had been some months in the planning and they are all excited for the project, which will also see part of the tea-rooms re-designed to house a new museum full of Joe’s memorabilia covering more than 50 years of his illustrious career in the industry.
Peter Sedgwick Snr said the family were honoured to dedicate a lasting tribute and to be able to offer many of Joe’s personal achievements for display.
He said: “We are also pleased to announce that the Joe Longthorne MBE Museum, adjacent to the theatre, is to open.
“This will house Joe’s beloved grand piano, his MBE award from the Queen and honorary degree from the Open University, his gold and silver discs, Variety Club awards together with many other awards and accolades.
“On display will be Joe’s full stage attire and a collection of many other personal effects highlighting his 52-year career as an entertainer, including an extensive display of posters and programmes and other memorabilia.
“It will be open with free admission throughout the summer months and, with a tea room added for light refreshments, it will be the perfect place for fans to spend an hour or two on their visit to Blackpool.
“Joe Longthorne MBE really was a true legend and it will be a pleasure to bring Joe back to his favourite theatre for his loyal fans and of course for wonderful Blackpool.”
Joe’s catalogue of music and filmed concerts will be played for visiting audiences during the opening hours.
Joe’s grand piano took pride of place in his home for 30 years and had been played by another music legend, Stevie Wonder.
Jamie added there had been a fantastic response to the project, which he said would have “delighted” the entertainer, who was known for his loyalty to fans.
“He would have been over the moon with this and it’s such a lovely thing for his family too,” he added.
Jamie and the Longthorne family, together with the Sedgwicks, will officially open the theatre and museum at a VIP event on Saturday, May 30.
For details, visit www.blackpoolpiers.co.uk