The Blackpool Illuminations
have come a long way since eight arc lamps created ‘artificial
sunshine’ along the promenade in 1879. Today, although the
basic idea is still the same, it now takes more than a million
bulbs to create the lights extravaganza.
Also, gone are the days when the lights went out as the tide came
in, the illuminations now shine all night long using 960,000
electricity units at a cost of £50,000.
The nearest thing to the modern-day displays was staged in Princess
Parade in May 1912 to mark the first royal visit to Blackpool
by Princess Louise. As part of the regal celebrations, the
Blackpool electrical engineer was asked to decorate the promenade
with festoons of garland lamps. Some 10,000 bulbs were used and
the display was such a hit with locals, visitors and businesspeople
alike, the local chamber of trade persuaded the council to stage
the lights again later that year.
Thousands of people visited the resort to see the Illuminations
and plans were set in motion to make it an annual event. However,
the success was short-lived as the outbreak of the First World War
in 1914 forced the lights out until 1925.
They returned on a much more ambitious scale with lights
all along the Promenade from Manchester Square to Cocker Square.
It soon become clear that the Illuminations were a great crowd-puller
and they continued to be staged annually. By 1932 the lights had
been extended to its present length – just under six miles
– from Squires Gate to Red Bank Road.
However Blackpool’s gleaming spectacle was brought to an abrupt
halt in 1939 with the outbreak of the Second World War.
On the night the Illuminations were set to be unveiled there was
a blackout and the only lights to be seen were behind blacked out
Even after the war there remained restrictions on the use of fuel
and decorative lighting, which meant the Illuminations were not
staged again until 1949.
Since then the lights have been switched on every autumn,
and each year they have got better and better, with the introduction
of new themes and technology.
These days, the Illuminations cost £2.4 m to stage,
while the mountain of equipment is worth £10m. It’s
all worthwhile though as the lights attract more than 3.5m tourists
to Blackpool each year, who spend more than £275m while visiting
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