Showtown—Blackpool’s first-ever museum, set to open next year—had a suitably-showbusiness launch in the circus ring beneath the resort’s world-famous Tower.

The £13m development, within a new five-star hotel currently being built on the promenade, virtually next door to the Tower, aims to reflect Blackpool’s internationally significant story as the UK’s most popular seaside destination and its role in the development of British popular culture.

Open year-round, Showtown is planned to be “fun, accessible and fully-immersive”, filled with objects, film, music and performance—mixing the best of museum and visitor attractions and giving visitors an opportunity to look behind the scenes at what it took to make the resort special.

It will be divided into six themes—seaside, magic, shows, circus, illuminations and dance—filled with more than 800 objects from Blackpool’s extensive collections and those on loan from national partners, including London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

A rare signed black bowler hat, owned by film and comedy star Stan Laurel and acquired by Blackpool Council, will be on view.

Items will also be showcased from the council’s Blackpool Tower and Winter Gardens Archive—the largest collection of entertainment history in the town exploring its 125-year circus history with posters and photographs.

TV comedy magician Paul Zenon hosted the Blackpool Tower event, along with design guru Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, chair of Blackpool Museum Trust. Local celebrities attending included Linda Nolan from the Nolan Sisters, Bobby Ball from comedy duo Cannon & Ball, circus ringmaster Norman Barrett, and the son, Charlie Cairoli Jnr, of the attraction’s most famous clown.

Blackpool Council leader Councillor Simon Blackburn reckons Showtown will join other iconic attractions in the town to celebrate the resort’s heritage and unique place in the nation’s heart.

“The name itself and the strapline ‘the museum of fun and entertainment’ reflects the spirit of the museum which is to engage local residents and visitors through fun, laughter and stories, sharing what makes Blackpool special.”

Funding for the project, which replaces an earlier £26m scheme for a museum inside the town’s Winter Gardens, comes from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund, Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, the Coastal Communities Fund and Blackpool Council.

It squares with the government’s aim to reinvigorate regional communities and, minister for the Northern Powerhouse Jake Berry MP said, “ensuring our coastal towns have the support they need to thrive is at the heart of this Government’s plan to level up every part of the country. It will help unlock Blackpool’s economic potential by increasing tourism, encouraging investment and creating a world-class attraction.”

Showtown is projected to attract around 300,000 visits a year as well as 7,500 local schoolchildren, and create around 40 jobs and 20 training placements.