Visit Blackpool

Illuminating History

Visitors first marvelled at the Blackpool Illuminations in 1879 when just eight arc lamps graced the Promenade. These lamps were referred to as “artificial sunshine”.

We have grown quite a lot since then – with an estimated one million lamps festooning the entire promenade. But the purpose remains the same – to “wow” you and your family with an event that is internationally renowned.

The sheer scale, style and professionalism of today’s free family event demonstrate how far Blackpool’s Illuminations have developed. The lights no longer go out as the tide comes in – they used to! This was as a result of water leaking into the cast iron wiring pipes on the seafront. Oops!

Here are just some of the milestones in the remarkable history of the Illuminations:

May 1912
Princess Louise officially opened a new section of Promenade when lights were erected on Princess Parade. This was done to mark Blackpool’s first Royal visit. The lights were so impressive that the council lit them again in September. Thousands of people visited the resort and the commercial potential became clear.

1914 – 1925
The war called a temporary halt to the display in 1914. The Illuminations were back by 1925 with giant animated tableaux being added to the display. The Blackpool Illuminations were then extended to almost six miles – from Squires Gate to Red Bank Road.

1939 – 1949
When the Second World War broke out, the Illuminations were halted again. These dark times meant that the lights did not return until 1949 when actress Anna Neagle flicked the switch.

1953 - Today
With no further service interruptions, subsequent years witnessed some shining stars pressing the switch to light up our town. Which ones can you recognise?

  • 1953 – George Formby
  • 1964 – Gracie Fields
  • 1966 – Ken Dodd
  • 1972 – Danny La Rue
  • 1975 – Tom Baker
  • 1977 – Red Rum (yes, the racing horse!)
  • 1979 – Kermit The Frog
  • 1999 – Gary Barlow
  • 2007 – David Tennant