The Blackpool Illuminations have created magical memories for generations. Taking a trip under the Lights on foot, by car or tram and being dazzled by the amazing display brings joy to children and adults alike.
These bright lights that fill tourists with awe and amazement have been doing so for over 140 years; lighting up Blackpool since 1879. So how did the Illuminations begin?
The first set of Illuminations were introduced when Blackpool Council devoted the sum of £5000 to experiment with the concept of electric street lighting, starting off with eight arc lamps on 60ft poles along the seafront.
In a time when residents were lighting their homes with candles, this installation left the public in wonderment, calling them ‘artificial sunshine’. This installation brought visitors to the seaside resort to see this new electricity at work; the start of the annual influx of tourists that we see today. However, unlike today’s modern day technology with the Illuminations, the lamps used to go out as the tide came in due to water leaking into the cast iron wiring pipes!
The closest to our modern day Illumination displays first appeared in May 1912 to commemorate Blackpool’s very first royal visit as Princess Louise opened the new section of promenade named after her – Princess Parade. The Illuminations became immensely popular, with thousands of people visiting the resort to see the promenade decorated with around 10,000 lights. It was such a success that the Council decided to display the lights again that following September. However, hopes of the Illuminations being a regular occurrence was short-lived. The outbreak of the First World War in 1914 meant the light display was put on hold for a total of 11 years!
The Illuminations returned in 1925 bigger and better than ever before, with lights stretching several miles along the Promenade from Manchester Square to Cocker Square. By 1929 all three of the piers were also illuminated, creating a dazzling show. Another new feature was a huge animated tableau added to the display along the cliffs. However, the Illuminations were halted once again by the outbreak of the Second World War. The austere climate of post-war Britain meant the lights did not come on again until 1949 after the council received permission from the government. Actress Anna Neagle pulled the switch and the Illuminations shone once more!
Since the 1950s there have been no further interruptions in the Illuminations, meaning they have continued to light up the town, never waning in popularity. Each year of the light display is different, with new and favourite lights being maintained and developed. Many famous names have travelled to Blackpool over the years to commemorate the beginning of the annual Illuminations. Celebrities who have pulled the Switch-On lever include comedian Ken Dodd, actor David Tennant, Hollywood film director Tim Burton, actress Lucy Fallon, and even some unlikely names such as Red Rum the race horse and even Kermit the Frog!
The Blackpool Illuminations now attract more than three million visitors to the resort each year, with many travelling across the UK to see the lights running between the end of August to the beginning of November. The 2020 display will be the first time the Blackpool Illuminations will shine through the festive season – starting on 4 September 2020 all the way through to 3 January 2021. The display never fails to amaze all who visit and will be a much loved tourist attraction for many years to come!