The Blackpool illuminations are world renowned and have been an integral part of what Blackpool is about for decades. Many visitors flock to Blackpool every autumn in order to see the lights that stretch for miles along the coast, while for many of us they hold a great fascination. Here we take a look at the history of the illuminations, when they are switched on plus lots of interesting facts that surround them.
The Early Days
Blackpool is often referred to as the Las Vegas of the North of England due to the fact that the town is filled with fabulous amusements and of course the amazing illuminations display that is switched on every year. The illuminations began on September 18th 1879 and run every year for sixty six days from early September through to November. The lights stretch for six miles but back in 1879 they had very humble beginnings as they consisted of a mere eight arc lamps.
It was 1912 before the lights were extended into a form similar to today when the English Royal Family visited Blackpool in order to open the new promenade that was to be known as Princess Parade. There were ten thousand lights on show that day resulting in huge crowds. The council was then asked to stage the event every September as it drew visitors to Blackpool in droves.
The lights naturally were interrupted by World War I and were not switched on again until 1925 when they were also extended. By 1932 animated tableaux were introduced and the illuminations were once more extended to their six mile length we see today. Every year from 1934 a celebrity, famous person or dignitary has switched on the lights at a special ceremony.
One of the most spectacular sights we see when taking in the Blackpool illuminations are the amazing trams that are lit with hundreds of colourful bulbs. Visitors love to take a ride on the trams with the famous illuminated rocket tram being a firm favourite. Another favourite is the Western train that first took to the rails in 1962. These amazing trams are mainly kept in shape by volunteers from Friends of the Illuminations group.
The Illuminations Today
In 2014 the Blackpool Illuminations will run from 29th August to 9th November. This display of “Artificial Sunshine” as they have often been called is a major attraction for Blackpool visitors and brings visitors into the resort in autumn when it would otherwise be quietening down as other seaside resorts do at the end of the summer season.
It takes twenty two weeks every year for the lights to be erected and a further nine weeks to take them down again after the illuminations season concludes. Much of the display uses low voltage lights, while some parts also use LED lights. This helps to cut the electricity usage so save money in the long term. From 2004 energy saving methods have been adopted such as wind turbines and hydro power, with green electricity from renewable resources being the main source of power for the lights. The illuminations are now mostly carbon neutral.
How to View the Lights
Many visitors choose to drive through the lights down the Golden Mile by car, while others either take a tram or bus. There are other ways to see the illuminations that are an alternative to driving such as taking a ride on an open top tram where the glittering spectacle can be seen in all its glory from both sides of the vehicle.
Another unique way to view the lights is to take a ride in one of the many horse drawn carriages that clip clop up and down the promenades mile after mile. On a mild September evening this is a real treat and if you’re feeling romantic it’s perfect. Those who are feeling fit may of course choose to walk through the illuminations. This way you won’t miss a thing, while you can also view some of the more interactive tableaux at close quarters.
Events Surrounding the Illuminations
Over the years many events have accompanied the lights with visitors joining in the anticipation and excitement of what is to come. This year is no exception.
Ride the Lights
On the 26th August 2014 between 7pm and 10pm bike riders have the opportunity to preview the lights while riding their bikes. Riders can take in the whole of the display or any section they choose, while joining in is completely free of charge! Certain specifications must be met by riders including wearing a helmet, having lights on your bike as it will be dark when you cycle the route and children taking part must do so with an adult.
The Grand Switch On
Naturally this is the big night when a huge party surrounds the switching on of the illuminations with The Grand Switch On taking place on 29th August 2014. In order to book your place you will need to apply for a free wristband, the sooner the better. This year the fabulous comedian Peter Kay will do the switching on with a star studded concert following with many artists appearing during the evening.
What Can We Expect to See?
The Blackpool Illuminations cost around 2 million pounds to put on every year with different designers adding various touches to the displays year on year. From the North Shore through to Bispham there are forty large tableaux with a pedestrian walkway running alongside so that visitors may get a first-hand view of the spectacle, while the lights contain over one million lamps.
Famous tableaux that have become popular over the years include the Egyptian Mummy that opens to reveal a well-kept secret, a Doctor Who display containing monsters, while on Gynn Island there is an enormous spaceship hovering some forty feet in the air surrounded by eight smaller ships who are attacking the Mother ship.
Blackpool Tower has been a main feature of the illuminations as it is lit from top to bottom at the edges with glittering lights. In 2007 a laser beam was added to the tower and was only to be lit for the duration of the illuminations season. There have been objections to the installation of the laser from astronomers who consider the laser a step too far as in their view it increases light pollution.
All the way along the six miles of the illuminations there are glittering lights on either side of the road. Some are strung from lamp post to lamp post, while some involve characters such as Tom and Jerry or Donald Duck. Famous faces can also be seen brightly lit across the streets including fairy tale characters such as Snow White. The Blackpool Illuminations are simply awesome and are a sight to behold for adults and children alike, while a trip to experience this amazing event is simply not to be missed!
The Future of the Illuminations
Following a deep recession over the last five years we wonder what the future holds for the Blackpool Illuminations. They are a costly event to put on although we are sure that much of the cost is clawed back into the economy of Blackpool due to the many visitors who come to see the lights.
Many choose to take a holiday and stay in Blackpool for a week or two during the illuminations season further adding to the economy of the town. The establishment of the Friends of the Illuminations group will definitely help secure the future of the lights in Blackpool as they are business people who intend to make money and sponsor the lights. For more information regarding the Blackpool Illuminations 2014 visit the visit Blackpool website.