Visit Blackpool

25 Blackpool Illuminations Facts

Blackpool Illuminations, dubbed the greatest free light show on earth, has been delighting visitors for over 140 years and has become one of the UK’s most enduring tourist attractions. But exactly how much do you know about the world-famous Blackpool Illuminations?

Here are 25 facts for you to share with your friends and family – you never know when they will come in handy!

  1. Blackpool was the first town to have electric street lighting and visitors first came to marvel at Blackpool’s Lights in 1879 when just eight arc lamps bathed the Promenade. This sparked Blackpool’s long association with light and electricity.

  2. The original arc lamps stopped working as the tide came in due to the water leaking into the cast iron wiring pipes on the seafront! Thankfully more advanced technology was later introduced.

  3. The closest thing to modern-day displays were first staged in May 1912 to mark the first royal visit made by Princess Louise to Blackpool. The results were so impressive the Council bowed to pressure to stage the Lights again in September of the same year, and the rest, as they say, is history!

  4. By 1932, animated tableaux had been added and these were installed on the cliffs linking North Shore and Bispham.

  5. The length of Blackpool Illuminations was eventually extended to its present length - just under six miles - starting at Squires Gate and finishing at Red Bank Road.

  6. The Lights were ready to be switched on in 1939 but were prevented by the outbreak of the Second World War.  The austere post-war climate meant the Blackpool Illuminations did not shine from 1939 until 1949.

  7. The Blackpool Illuminations shine for 66 nights a year. For the first time in history, the 2020 display was extended by two months.

  8. The scale, density and content of the Lights have improved year on year. In particular the use of micro controllers, LEDs, lasers and video has added a new dimension to the fabulous autumn display!

  9. Most of the Illuminations are made from wood, fibreglass, steel and aluminium.

  10. The Illuminations equipment actually weighs more than 711,000 kilograms – that’s the equivalent to 350 Blackpool trams!

  11. There are an amazing one million lamps of various types and styles, and more than 100 miles of festoon strung between the promenade poles and across the carriageway.

  12. The cable and wiring for the Lights is even longer - stretching more than 200 miles! Electricity consumed totals 960,000 units, at an approximate cost of £50,000 . . . anyone got 10p for the meter?!

  13. Over one million LED lamps are used across the display. In fact, the electricity that is now used has been slashed by two thirds in ten years thanks to the use of LED technology.

  14. In total, Blackpool Illuminations cost over £2 million a year to stage.

  15. Blackpool Illuminations attract in excess of 3.5 million visitors a year!

  16. Visitors will spend more than £250 million when visiting Blackpool during the Illuminations.

  17. There are more than 500 designs and features in the eclectic display.

  18. Blackpool Illuminations is a free show. However, donation boxes are placed at the southern and northern gateways to the Illuminations. These donations are used to create new features and help with the maintenance of the Lights throughout the year.

  19. Lightworks, the Blackpool Illuminations Depot, is where all the magic happens and is the home of the design, construction, maintenance and storage of all displays.

  20. Twenty staff, including talented artists, electricians, joiners, mechanics, painters, engineers and technicians work all year round to ensure the displays are ready.

  21. Altogether 65,000 staff hours are spent on maintenance, preparation, installation, operation and dismantling the features.

  22. Ex-Illuminations displays have been sold to countries around the world. They’ve dazzled in Barcelona, and sparkled amidst the sun and sand of Saudi capital Jeddah.

  23. Let’s not forget the annual Switch-On celebration which marks the start of the Illuminations display. The Switch-On is held at the Festival Headland directly in front of the iconic Blackpool Tower.

  24. The 2020 Blackpool Illuminations Switch-On will take on a virtual format due to the COVID-19 pandemic, making it the first time a Switch-On event has been accessible to both a national and international audience from home.

  25. There’s nothing quite like an Illuminations Switch-On ceremony to ensure a starry night. Past guests who have flicked the switch have included the Top Gear cast, Robbie Williams, comedian Alan Carr, Shirley Bassey, director Tim Burton and millennial pop groups Westlife and Steps. Animals also have got in on the act - a rather impatient Red Rum did the honours in 1977 . . . and Kermit the Frog leapt at the chance two years later!