Merriment of the Masses: Telling the Tales of Fairs, Seasides and Pleasure Palaces in the North West

Wednesday 18 October 2023, 6:00pm to 8:00pm


Lancaster University Management School Lecture Theatre 17, Lancaster, LA1 4YW

Open to

All Lancaster University (non-partner) students, Alumni, Public, Staff


Cost to attend - booking required

Registration Info

For more information and to book tickets, please see our Events listings.

Ticket Price

Standard ticket £5 Current Friends & Patrons of the RHC £4.50

Event Details

An evening public lecture by Professor Vanessa Toulmin (Sheffield University), an expert in travelling fairs, circuses, illegitimate entertainment and seaside pleasure palaces. This lecture draws together aspects of her work covering many elements of popular entertainment in North West England.

Professor Vanessa Toulmin is Chair of Early Film and Popular Entertainment at the University of Sheffield and an expert in travelling fairs, circuses, illegitimate entertainment and seaside pleasure palaces. Vanessa Toulmin's early life was spent on the Winter Gardens Fairground in Morecambe: she comes from a fifth generation of showpeople associated largely with Lancashire and the North West. After studying Archaeology at the University of Sheffield she undertook a doctoral thesis on Travelling Showpeople titled Fun without Vulgarity; she set up the National Fairground and Circus Archive and was awarded the Chancellor's Medal in 1997. Her work on 19th and 20th century entertainment history encompasses early film, circus, sideshows, travelling fairs and exhibitions covering performance genres across the spectrum. Large research projects include the award-winning Mitchell & Kenyon project with the BFI, Admission All Classes and Showzam with Blackpool Council and Circus 250 celebrating 250 years of circus in 2018. The author of many books, including four on Blackpool's cultural assets, and thirty articles, her research covers early cinema, circus, black British circus performers, women and performance and variety theatres. Professor Toulmin has contributed to numerous television programmes and radio series including The Lost World of Mitchell and Kenyon for BBC2, When the Circus Comes to the Town and All the Fun of the Fair for BBC 4, and Victorians in Colour for Channel 5. From 2007 she has combined her research practice with co-production, event management and cultural regeneration working largely in Blackpool where she acted as historical advisor to Blackpool Council and Director of Showzam from 2009 to 2013. In 2015 she was appointed Director of City and Culture at the University of Sheffield and works closely with Sheffield City Council on city regeneration. In 2019 she returned to her home town of Morecambe to become Chair of the Morecambe Winter Gardens in a voluntary capacity. This magnificent Grade II* listed concert hall and variety theatre is currently undergoing major renovation and restoration work under her leadership. She describes herself as a Lancastrian, sandgrownun (ie a native of Morecambe), a producer but first and foremost a showwoman and is dedicating her time to work with the volunteers and Trustees at Morecambe Winter Gardens to restore the building which was aptly named the People's Palace.

This specially-priced event is part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Regional Heritage Centre and its forerunner the Centre for North West Regional Studies; a wine reception will be held after the lecture.

From 6.00 p.m. Assemble in LUMS Lecture Theatre 17

6.30 pm Start of Lecture

7.30pm Wine reception (soft drinks will also be served)

8.00pm End of event

Contact Details

Name Ann-Marie Michel