The next important date
in the history of the illuminations was May 1912 and was held to commemorate the first Royal visit to Blackpool - by Princess Louise who opened a new section of the Promenade, the modern day Princess Parade. Approximately ten thousand electric light bulbs were used to decorate the Promenade to celebrate this occasion.
The display was repeated
in September of that year and the following year, and they proved to be hugely popular. Any plans to make the illuminations an annual event had to be shelved due to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, and the lights were not turned on again until 1925. These illuminations were far more impressive than previously, and they extended along the stretch of the Promenade from Cocker Square to Manchester Square, and again they were immensely popular with holiday visitors.
The Illuminations became
an annual attraction, and were continually enhanced with imaginative and exciting additions - animated tableaux were built on the cliffs between Bispham and Blackpool North Shore; the lights were increased in scale to the present length of nearly six miles, so that they now extend all along the Promenade from Bispham to Squires Gate.
were scheduled to take place in 1939 including the opening appearance of the famous Tower top searchlight which has become such an established part of the tradition. They were never switched on however due to the nationwide blackout introduced during the Second World War. The illuminations were not revived until 1949 when they were officially switched on by the actress Anna Neagle. The lights have continued ever since with a different celebrity performing the ceremony each year, and they have continually improved in step with technological innovations: in 1953 three dimensional illuminations were built on the cliffs; in 1882 lasers illuminated Blackpool Tower, and by 2005 it became possible for people to have their text messages written by lasers on a large screen on the Promenade. The inventive employment of lasers, non-neon fibre optics, electronic controllers and the like have brought the lights into the modern age.
These days the illuminations
comprise every conceivable form of lighting - flood lights, search lights, laser beams, fibre optics and neon. There are hundreds of scenic designs and features, and many brilliantly lit three-dimensional displays. There are set piece scenes where the illusion of movement is conveyed by light bulbs going on and off. Along the promenade lamp posts are connected with strings of lights and have luminous effects attached to them. Hotels and some of the trams are decorated with lights. Famous Blackpool landmarks have their contours outlined with illuminations. It seems as if everything on the sea front has some form of lighting fixed to it.
An extremely popular feature
of the illuminations has been the wide variety of thematic displays. For example literary scenes, illustrations of English History, pantomime characters, animated nursery rhymes, depictions of Ancient Egypt and early American pioneering, television and film stars, and sporting achievements. In total 45 employees work on a full time basis to create and maintain the lights. Each year a different public figure is selected to perform the act of officially switching on the illuminations. The list of celebrities who have conducted the ceremony includes: the Russian Ambassador, Jakob Malik (1955); the US Ambassador, John H Witney (1957); Sir Matt Busby, manager of Manchester United the first English team to win the European Cup (1968); as well as numerous stars from the world of entertainment. In 1977 the illuminations were switched on by the racehorse Red Rum! Since 1995 the event has been broadcast live on BBC radio with accompanying Radio 1 or Radio 2 Roadshows and concerts by bands such as the Bee Gees and Westlife.
On 31st August 2007
the Blackpool Illuminations will be switched on by Doctor Who actor David Tennant and there will be a free concert and live broadcast on BBC Radio 2. Tennant who also starred in the well received BBC Drama "Blackpool" will be the second Doctor Who to have switched on the lights after Tom Baker who did the honours in 1975. There are also plans for a new illuminations feature which will include creatures and characters from future episodes of the programme. The switch on will take place near the promenade at the back of Coral Island.
There will be a major
new addition to the 2007 display when Laurence Lewellyn-Bowen the renowned designer will create a new section of the illuminations alongside Blackpool Tower. This will be the first time Blackpool has asked a world famous designer to contribute to the Illuminations, but in the future there will be a nationwide competition to design a section of the lights with laurence judging the work.
The annual Festival of Light
compliments the illuminations with a contemporary perspective on the concept of light and art working in harmony to make entertainment. The festival includes several interactive installations intended to amuse and stimulate thought in the viewer and to produce a calendar of illuminating events.
World Fireworks Championships
firework displays presented by major international experts during the early weeks of the illuminations. These wiil take place on Sundays or Fridays in September with the build up from 7.30 pm and fireworks commencing at approximately 8.30 pm (weather permitting) on Central Promenade.
The Tower Laserbeam
was a new illuminations feature from 17th October 2007 and provided a welcome addition to the Blackpool skyline, shining bright beams and patterns to a radius of almost thirty miles.
See also Blackpool illuminations
for more information about the famous lights.
The first electric street lights appeared in Blackpool in 1879 and they consisted of a mere eight electric arc lamps, described as "artificial sunshine". This was a novel form of lighting because it wasn't until that year that light bulbs were initially patented in England, and Blackpool was in fact the first town to have such street lighting. The light produced was equal to the power of nearly 50,000 candles, and the display attracted over 70,00 visitors to the resort. It was accompanied by a simulated naval attack on Blackpool which was watched by the crowd from the piers, Promenade and from offshore sailing craft. As part of the festivities commemorating Queen Victoria's Jubilee, illuminated trams ran in 1897.
It is perhaps easy to lose sight of the fact that in the late victorian era Blackpool was at the cutting edge of state of the art technology. This was age when people's homes were lit by candles and gas and the streets of their home towns depended on gas lights. They travelled by foot or horse, and came to Blackpool by steam train. Blackpool with its electric trams and street lights, its tower and piers would have seemed futuristic by comparison.