The Galleon Bar, situated on Abingdon Street, is one of Blackpool's quirkiest and well-loved bars.

Described by music legend Jools Holland as ‘the best decorated music venue he had seen in Europe’, the bar is no stranger to celebrity visitors with even James Nesbitt popping in for a pint last month.

The grassroots music venue has earned its good reputation through its 65+ year history of promoting live music and has served as a community hub for both local and visiting live entertainment fraternity since its opening.

Its commitment to nurturing young local talent, as well as bringing musicians and performers to Blackpool has allowed the venue to become a well respected community asset.

However, when the coronavirus pandemic hit bringing three national lockdown and a raft of local restrictions - The Galleon was hit hard.

Bosses at the venue took out their own loan to stay afloat, leaving them thousands in debt, and the matter has been made even worse after The Galleon failed to secure Government funding to help them stay afloat.

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The original Galleon bar dates back to the early 1950s and was situated a short walk away from the current site on Abingdon Street.

The bar has always prided itself of being an ‘attitude free-zone’ venue inviting those from all ethnicities and sexualities during decades when society could be deemed as being a lot less tolerant to those who are different.

The Galleon relocated in 2010 following a compulsory purchase and demolition of the original site in Adelaide Street.

It is now owned by the son of Darell Pierre, a well-liked and popular tram driver in Blackpool and one of the few black men to live in the town in the 1960s.

Hollywood Actor James Nesbitt OBE enjoyed a pint at the Galleon music venue this week
Hollywood Actor James Nesbitt OBE enjoyed a pint at the Galleon music venue this week

Current owner Stephen Pierre re-opened the Galleon in respectful memory of his late parents, Kathleen and Darrell Pierre, who were one of the few mixed marriages to settle in Blackpool in the 1960s.

Darrell was a keen supporter of live music, sport and education and many of the bus and tram passengers in Blackpool fondly remember him .

This legacy of equality and diversity is still reflected in the Galleon's customer base, as well staff and musicians, that represent all ages, ethnicities and sexualities.

Now living in London, Blackpool-born Stephen, a musician himself, has successfully run the bar for over a decade and he commutes from London every fortnight staying at his sister's house.

In 2015, with help form his duty manager Mark Turner, the first Blackpool Jazz and Blues Festival in 2015 was born.

Queen quote from Bohemian Rhapsody
Queen quote from Bohemian Rhapsody

At first Stephen wanted to organise this event in London however Mark, recognising the need to raise the cultural profile of the town, suggested that it should be done in Blackpool.

Stephen agreed and has put on the events ever since from his own pocket and using his own time with a small team of like-minded people, many of whom volunteered in an attempt to keep costs down.

He told Lancs Live: "Blackpool can be a difficult place and at the time selling Russian crosswords in the town would have been easier than setting up the first ever Jazz and Blues festival.

"To our surprise however it was a great success and the Winter Gardens got on board as well as so many local musicians and performers from other cities.

"I'm so glad, thanks to Mark, I decided to set this up in my hometown as it was very much a cultural injection that was needed."

The lively music schedule of the grass roots music venue was heavily impacted however with the onslaught of the Coronavirus pandemic.

A week at the Galleon would usually consist of seven nights a week of live performances ranging from solo acoustic acts to full jazz, blues and grooves bands, plus a Sunday afternoon ‘free and easy’ open mic vocal session, frequented by many now retired performers.

Beatles "Abbey Road" on the way to the toilets
Beatles "Abbey Road" on the way to the toilets

Its twice weekly open mic events were a hotspot for young local talent, and were hosted and attended by many music tutors, and professionals who acted as mentors to the amateur performers, in some cases leading to paid professional gigs at the venue.

A number of local student photographers have also used the well decorated venue as a site to expand their portfolio.

In addition to many music videos, documentary pieces, including Talking Head interviews being filmed in the venue, it has also held a number of preliminary audition stages for professional television productions.

During the first lockdown Stephen took out a Bounce Back Loan which kept the Galleon afloat however, at the time, a further autumn lockdown had not been anticipated.

The Galleon didn't apply for Arts Council England's first Cultural Recovery Fund however in September 2020, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that all venues had to close by 10pm, the late night venue lost 75% of its turnover instantly.

Adapted Bobby McFerrin quote on the walls of the Galleon
Adapted Bobby McFerrin quote on the walls of the Galleon

Given the fact that the premises has no outdoor facilities and no kitchen Stephen was forced to put his staff on furlough and close.

In January 2021 came the second round of the Cultural Recovery Fund to which Stephen and Mark filled out a lengthy application form.

They outlined in detail how, despite Stephen taking out his own loan to get through the first lockdown, the government requirement to serve food and close by 10pm had severely impacted the venue's income.

The Galleon Bar on Abingdon Street
The Galleon Bar on Abingdon Street

They also stressed that the grant would help them pay towards suppliers, staff, maintenance and a plethora of annual live music events which in turn support Trinity Hospice and the Streetlife Trust.

The venue was also prepared to adapt to restricted capacity and reduced hours if restrictions were not eased and would endeavour to support musicians with digital outcomes if and when necessary, which included recorded music sessions.

Given how much the Galleon has nurtured local talent it stated that it would also support occupational therapy to musicians and would still be a platform for them promoting "digital togetherness".

It also stressed that keeping costs to a minimum and joined up collaborations with Blackpool and Fylde College Uni students and various Blackpool & Fylde community groups will encourage a regular customer base to remain sustainable in the future.

Cinema seating brought in via train from Preston
Cinema seating brought in via train from Preston

Despite the fact that the Galleon has already survived stormy waters up until this point, its application was rejected on three sets of criteria.

The first being that ACE felt that they did not outline how the grant would be used to support is cultural operation, that it did not clearly demonstrate how the venue will adapt plans if restrictions do not ease and that they did not show how they plan to ensure it viability and sustainability for the period of July 2021 – 31 March 2022.

The decision has left Stephen and Mark reeling and the musical community, both locally and nationally, have come out in support including Blackpool MPs Scott Benton and Paul Maynard.

Arts Council England do not reconsider decisions made in regards to unsuccessful applicants which has left Stephen wanting answers.

Stephen added: "Even if we could have been awarded a smaller discretionary fund, we would have accepted that, but to not have received a single penny is two fingers to us as far as I'm concerned and it really doesn't add up.

"There are far bigger venues than us, who have a lot more money who have been awarded funding, and I think they need to be reminded that it's not the Cultural Refurbishment Fund but the Cultural Recovery Fund.

"No other venue has done quite what we've done to raise the cultural profile in Blackpool and there's nowhere quite like us."

Both Blackpool Constituency MP’s are making representations to The Arts Council England on behalf of The Galleon Bar regarding missing out on the much needed Cultural Recovery Fund (CRF) grant.
Both Blackpool Constituency MP’s are making representations to The Arts Council England on behalf of The Galleon Bar regarding missing out on the much needed Cultural Recovery Fund (CRF) grant.

He added: "The amount of instruments, memorabilia we have, we've got a tardis, a phone box, cinema seating -we're so unique and an absolute gem in Blackpool.

"I've asked numerous times for an indepth explanation of how we failed the criteria and each time we just get back what we failed on but they can't really tell us why.

"The form was very complicated with a lot of things that weren't relevant and whether you're the Dog and Gun Pub or the Royal Albert Hall you should have a form that is relevant to you.

"If we've done something wrong on the application form I'd like to know however they won't tell us how we've gone wrong and won't entertain the idea of looking at their decision again.

"We're now £38,000 in debt, Mark and I have both suffered health problems because of this and now the future of the venue is uncertain.

"The till tells the tale of this and we need answers as to why we have been discriminated against in this way."

Despite the Galleon giving an injection of alternative cultural events that is desperately needed in Blackpool, neither the venue, nor Stephen himself, have never been given any awards or recognition on a local or regional level.

A spokesperson for Arts Council England said: "While the Culture Recovery Fund is the biggest one-off investment in culture in the nation’s history, the crisis is unprecedented and we regret that not every organisation can be helped at this time.

"Rightly, the criteria to be awarded a grant are rigorous, but we have been able to support every applicant that met all the criteria.

"We understand that organisations that were unsuccessful will be disappointed and we have published resources both for organisations and individuals, which include alternative sources of support.

"The Government have announced an additional £300m to extend the Culture Recovery Fund and continue supporting cultural organisations as the sector recovers from the impact of Covid-19. We welcome this further investment and will continue to work with DCMS on the distribution of this funding."


We remain committed to doing all we can to care for the people and organisations that make up this country’s amazing cultural ecology, who do so much to serve communities in towns, villages, and cities across the country.”

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