There isn’t much in Blackpool more famous than the Illuminations. Think of our little Lancashire town and Blackpool Tower and the Illuminations are probably the first two things you think of, that’s how important they are to us.
The Blackpool Illuminations forms part of our Lights Festival that started back in 1879. The advent of the electric light made it possible to create not only lights that didn’t flicker, but also coloured lights that could be arranged in patterns. This gave rise to the Blackpool Illuminations.
The first festival used Siemens generators powered by Robey steam engines to provide just 8 lamps spaced along the Promenade. Between 80,000 and 100,000 people turned up to watch the event.
It wasn’t until September 1912 that a display was designed to impress visitors though. That year, Princess Louise was to open a new section of the Promenade, Princess Parade and a light display was designed to celebrate the occasion. Over 10,000 lights were used to decorate the area for the event.
The opening was such a success that the Blackpool Chamber of Trade requested the same again the following year. There was a break in the display between 1913 and 1925 while we fought and recovered from the First World War. However, once things has returned to normality, the Blackpool Illuminations returned.
The Illuminations were eventually extended to run from Manchester Square to Cocker Square. Then, in 1925 they were extended further to run 6 miles from Starr Gate to Red Bank Road at Bispham, which is where they still run today.
The modern Blackpool Illuminations has become something of a national highlight that begins each year with The Big Switch On. This is usually a big event with famous people in attendance and a celebrity turning on the lights. The first Big Switch On began in 1934 and has run ever since.
The lights themselves shine for 66 nights and uses over £10 million worth of equipment. The display needs 45 people to set up and manage, with over 35,000 man hours each year being spent on design, build and maintenance. Over the 6 mile stretch there is over 200 miles of cable, 100 miles of festoon strips, over a million lights and 500 designs.
Most famously, designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen helped designed some of the displays between 2007 and 2012. Some of his designs include: Decodance, Venus Reborn, Fear The Glampire and Fountainsy Island.