Blackpool illuminations started in 1879 when Blackpool had its first electric street lighting , and few people would have predicted at the time that this mere handful of simple lights represented the onset of a phenomenon that would eventually become the dazzling spectacular of modern times. There were just eight electric arc lamps, which were advertised then as artificial sunshine. By today's standards this might seem a rather inauspicious beginning. But in the context of those times it was revolutionary. Light bulbs had only just been patented in England and they hadn't even been invented until 1878 when Charles F Brush, an Ohio engineer, used arc light as an illuminating device. Blackpool is widely regarded as the first town to provide electric street lights.

The light provided on this occasion was equal to nearly fifty thousand candles and the event was widely publicized, with more than seventy thousand visitors going to Blackpool to witness the experiment. The sheer excitement among the watching crowd was immense. In the late Victoria era, houses were still lit by oil and candles and the streets of the towns the people came from relied on gaslight. These electric Blackpool street lights would have seemed an awesome futuristic vision. The use of cutting edge pioneering lighting methods would characterize Blackpool illuminations throughout their history. Everything about Blackpool then would have seemed amazingly modern to these first visitors to the lights - the tower, the three piers, the electric trams and lighting, all would have been a far cry from the dim cobbled streets and horse drawn transport of their home towns. To enhance the entertainment, a nautical display was performed and viewed by the crowd who thronged the promenade and piers, with some even watching from boats on the Irish Sea. These first Blackpool Illuminations suffered the inevitable problems of new forms of technology - for example the electric cables passed through iron pipes which were not waterproof, and so when when the tide came in it was necessary to switch the lights off.

The potential of using light as a form of holiday attraction was not fully realized and although illuminated trams were operated in 1897 among the celebrations of Queen Victoria's Jubilee year, few developments were to take place until over thirty years later. The occasion was the first Royal visit to Blackpool in May 1912 by Queen Victoria's fourth Daughter Princess Louise, then the Duchess of Argylle who arrived to open a new section of the Promenade, which would be named Princess Parade in her honour. Lavish preparations were made for the opening, including the use of around 10,000 light bulbs decorating the promenade to commemorate the occasion. Large numbers of visitors were drawn to the resort to watch the display and they brought welcome additional trade to local Blackpool businesses. The lights were repeated in September of that year and they brought in thousands of people to the resort at a time when the holiday season was traditionally finished in Blackpool.

The Illuminations were staged again in September of the following year and were hugely successful. Until then the holiday season had been largely confined to the summer months when the workers from industrial Lancashire arrived to enjoy their annual wakes weeks, and for this comparatively brief period the town would be packed to the rafters, but would effectively close at the end August. It seemed that with the illuminations, Blackpool had found a way of extending the holiday season and it was planned to make the lights an annual event. However the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 meant that these plans had to be shelved and it would be 1925 before Blackpool Illuminations shone again. These illuminations were on a much grander scale before, stretching the length of the promenade from Manchester Square to Cocker square, and people came in their thousands to see them.

In the history of Blackpool Illuminations
the year 1912 was a significant watershed and a pivotal moment in Blackpool Holidays and tourism. Had the event not been staged, it is reasonable to assume that the Blackpool lights as we know them today wouldn't exist. The illuminations were continually improved and enhanced throughout the twentieth century with new features being added each year. The modern lights would be unrecognizable to those early pioneers. Nowadays every imaginable kind of lighting is used. There are searchlights, spotlights, lasers, fibre optics, neon, floodlights, illuminated tableaux, scenic designs and illuminated trams. The equipment is valued at around ten million pounds and the total cost of mounting the lights is some two and a half million pounds. An estimated three and a half million people visit blackpool to enjoy the illuminations and they spend nearly three hundred million pounds in the town.

The Blackpool Illuminations Switch on ceremony takes place annually and is arguably the biggest night in the Uk tourism calendar. The lights 'turn on' is an event that people look forward to and every year it is a fabulous occasion. Famous celebrities are invited to perform the switch on and it is regarded as a great honour. The roll call of public figures who have carried out the ceremony is like a who's who of British society.

The year 2007 switch on was possibly the best yet. The illuminations weekend opened with a live BBC 2 event which was broadcast nationally. The star of the current Dr Who series David Tennant was accompanied by a fine cast of highly talented performing artistes, including Natasha Bedingfield, Gareth Gates, Natalie Imbruglia, McFly and Ghosts who all appeared at the concert and entertained the crowd with their performances. The host for the evening was radio DJ and television presenter, Dale winton and the Time Lord David tennant flicked the famous switch at the end of the show. there was a crescendo of applause as Blackpool came alive with colour and light. Other great acts scheduled to perform included the showgirls Whoopee Beaux Belles who danced under the largest mirrorball in the world, and the Bareback Burlesque troop of equestrian gymnasts. The concert which is free to enter opens the Big Blackpool switch-on weekend with a sequence of free events throughout the weekend and the entire Illuminations season. On Sunday September 2nd the world fireworks championship started. It can't be very often that Both the United States and Soviet Union ambassadors to Britain are mentioned in the same context as Terry Wogan, Gary Barlow, Red Rum, Dale Winton and Kermit the Frog, but this is one of them - they have all turned on Blackpool Illuminations. The Switch on is the brightest and biggest night of the year in Blackpool, when the town comes alive with colour as the world famous illuminations are launched. The crowds gather in their tens of thousands at the free event to enjoy the start of the dazzling sixty-six night spectacle. Blackpool Illuminations 2007 : 31 August - 4 November.

Internationally renowned designer
Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen was involved in the 2007 lights contributing his Decodance feature incorporating a new Dr Who display which contained characters from the latest episodes of the ever popular television series.

The Festival of Light presents entertaining and thought provoking works created by world famous lighting artists during the illuminations period.

Friends of the Illuminations provides an opportunity to donate to the Blackpool illuminations fund and everyone doing so will be given a friends collectable pin badge and invited to register as an official friend of the Lights which will entitle them to attend special friends events and receive newsletters and various other material, information and activities surrounding Blackpool lights. The Illuminations cost nearly two and a half million pounds to stage annually with each new feature requiring up to £250,000. By 2008 the Friends of Blackpool Illuminations already had 400 members enrolled, with their donations helping to finance the Blackpool Lights.

The World Fireworks Championships major international experts present stunning fireworks displays during the opening weeks of Blackpool Illuminations. The fireworks are staged on Central Promenade on Sundays or Fridays in September, with the build up commencing at 7.30 pm, and the firework displays at approx 8.30 pm (subject to suitable weather conditions.) "The skys above Blackpool's famous skyline provide the ideal canvas for spectacular firework displays. Each year the resort invites the worlds best pyrotechnic experts to thrill and amaze the thousands of people who descend onto the promenade and piers to witness the night time extravaganzas."

Autumn is always a busy time of year. There are Blackpool Illuminations short weekend and midweek breaks with visitors staying Mondays to Fridays or Fridays to Mondays, in self catering holiday flats and apartments, B&B's, guest houses and hotels. It is also possible to have one night stays in Blackpool. Some visitors stay in the resort to enjoy the many attractions - the pleasure beach, the tower, the shows, and amusements. Other people take a one day special illuminations trip to see the lights - coach companies often organize these - and long lines of coaches and cars are common sights on the promenade. Those who want to stay in the resort might consider whether they need car parking for Blackpool illuminations holidays or garages, facilities for car and limo hire. The holidays accommodation might be for pensioners, senior citizens, families and couples only, or might accept groups of single persons such as stag and hen parties. Those wanting to take pets( e.g. dogs and cats) with them might consider if they require a guest house or hotel that is pet friendly.

The Blackpool Tower Laser Beam is the newest feature of the illuminations and represents the latest addition to the the skyline. It will shine from the top of Blackpool tower displaying vivid beams and patterns capable of being seen from thirty miles away. The laser beam commenced on October 17th 2007. The Festival of Light organizers say that the tower laser is the largest in the UK. The festival will also incorporate art installations and some permanent seaside displays. The laser projects solid green light in a 360 rotation and will appear for ten minutes each evening during the illuminations. It is a beacon of welcome to residents and visitors, and is remotely controlled by radio using high speed ethernet wireless links from a studio at Blackpool Illuminations headquarters.

Blackpool has a sequence of new activities projected to take place over the following three years commencing in 2007. In the middle of September that year Blackpool became the first place in the UK to host the finals of a Beach Volleyball tournament under floodlights. The international competition was televised and took place on ST Chad's Headland on the newly developed promenade, with leading European teams taking part. Admission was free and coinciding with the illuminations this was a spectacular contest. It was staged at a purpose built one thousand seat stadium, and more than two hundred tons of sand was moved from the beach to the headland to make the court.

Blackpool Air Display air planes have been an important aspect of Blackpool since the early years of the nineteenth century when the town staged one of the first air shows in the country. The tradition continues until the present day with top pilots including the internationally acclaimed Red Arrows regular thrilling the packed promenade with their skillful aerobatics.

See your name in lights. In 2005 Blackpool Illuminations for the first time provided people with the opportunity of seeing their own names in lights. This used an interactive text system which enabled messages to be written by laser on a twenty foot by one hundred foot screen on the promenade. Messages cost £1.50 each with the proceeds going towards the illumination fund which contributes to the £2.4 million annual cost of staging them. Visitors were also able to enter a special competition giving them the chance to switch the lights off by texting in the answer to a question. The service operated at weekends and at half term until the end of the lights.

A little known fact is that according to the late Beatle George Harrison the film "Magical Mystery Tour" is about people going to see Blackpool Illuminations. A pop band in Kansas City in America hearing about Harrison's reference to "Blackpool Lights" took it as the name of their group with none of them even knowing what it meant. "We had no idea what is was when we chose the name....but we thought it sounded cool. I know, a Beatles reference for the name of a pop band - we're so clever."


Blackpool Illuminations 2008 - Friday, August 29th to Sunday, November 2nd
The award winning Blackpool Illuminations - 'The Most Electrifying Show on Earth' - Lighting Design winner 2006

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Blackpool Illuminations extend throughout the months of September and October into the beginning of November. They are held annually as an Autumn lights spectacle. Light festivals are presented in other places in the Uk, but the Blackpool illuminations are on a much larger and more ambitious scale than any of the others. They run continuously for sixty-six nights starting with a switch on ceremony performed by famous artistes, and this is always a well attended and much publicized occasion. The lights adorn the promenade for almost six miles from Bispham in the North to Squires Gate in the South with over a million bulbs being used. The Blackpool Illuminations are widely known as the 'Greatest Free Show on Earth.'

The Illuminations provide a welcome extension to the holiday season beyond the summer months into Autumn, and the illuminations become an important Blackpool attraction for visitors who want to see the lights. When other resorts pull down the shutters for the year, Blackpool continues to pulsate with activity. Blackpool September illuminations weekends are always extremely busy and at the October half term school holidays there is scarcely an empty bed in town. Millions of visitors flock to the resort every year to see Blackpool illuminations and and they are an important aspect of cultural life in Britain. They are now regarded as an essential component of entertainment in Blackpool, and a trip to 'the lights' is a longstanding and well established tradition in the UK.