We decided to take our little ones to Blackpool again as living in Liverpool it is only an hours drive away and somewhere we have been to so many times. We had booked a hotel as a surprise for the girls but our main reason to go was so our three year old could see the lights as she loves anything that sparkles.
As we got there early we decided to take the girls for something to eat as the lights didn't go on until 7pm so we walked up the prom and looked around until it went dark.
I have seen the illuminations over the years but this year they seemed to look even more magical, there have been times I have thought they looked a little tatty, tacky even but you go for the fun of it anyway but this year I'm not sure why but they really did look amazing. There was a lot of familiar designs up there but I think since the nickelodeon land upgrade, a lot of the lights have also been upgraded because there was quite a few I had not seen before.
There was a huge crown light at the south end and there is a large glitter ball which reflects the lights onto the buildings and it really does look amazing, my three year old was delighted because she said it was a princess crown.
As it was raining pretty bad we decided to get a taxi to take us back down the prom from central pier to south pier and the traffic was terrible, queues all the way but this is to be expected and it didn't detract at all from looking at the lights - other than an expensive fare, but as I say it was worth it as we got a lovely view all the way, the only downside we had was my eight year old left her mobile phone in the taxi and we tried ringing all the taxi company's but no one had handed it in (it was a Friday night and there were a lot of drunken stag and hens walking around) so I was told I practically had no chance of getting it back :( so I spent the time in our hotel consoling a sobbing child but she did say at least she had enjoyed the illuminations just a shame all the pics she had taken of them were now gone.
The lights are on until I believe the first weekend in November and they go on at different times, they were switched on at 7pm when we visited however some weekends they go on as early as 6.15pm and they normally stay on until midnight at weekends.
As I live in the North West I have always since I was young visited Blackpool Illuminations. This goes back to the 1970's when I would be taken there,by my Mum and Dad, in the back of our old Transit van. I still carry on the tradition today with my children, and it is our recent visit I will give you a resume of.
A couple of nights back we travelled to Blackpool. Our idea was to arrive at about 6pm and this is what we did. As we normally do, we bought some tokens for the rides, and this cost us £20 for 25 of them. As we were only visiting the rides on the piers the attractions were limited. However the children were really pleased and it all went off well.
We then went back to our car. We'd parked in a retail park, with a McDonalds in, and as we were now getting hungry, took the opportunity to have a nice warm drink and a bite to eat, before we went back to travel through the lights.
Okay so what about the lights. Well it took us about an hour to travel through the 4 miles of lights along the sea front. Apparently over the course of the season it will cost Blackpool 2.4 million to stage the lights with the lights alone being worth in excess of 10 million but when you take into account that it will attract 3.5 million visitors over 66 nights, I guess they will get their money back ten fold.
The lights themselves I think are a bit drab. It is more the occasion we go for. I would say that all were from previous years except the new Dr Who ones. None others stood out except maybe Robbie Williams. The kids also liked the mermaids. There were also all the normal cartoon characters etc. But like I say nothing that made you go 'wow'. Saying that it got the kids imagination enough, to want them to travel back through the 4 miles of lights again - so they can't have been that bad.
Along the sea front you will find hundreds of fast food outlets, as well as all the hotels, souvenir shops etc. I always buy rock from the shops to the disgust of my wife, who hates the stuff, and the effect it could have on our kids teeth, although it's never done mine any harm. I also treat us all to donuts as we sit and watch the horse and carts go by. If you arrive after 8pm parking is free.
So would I recommend. Well providing your expectations aren't too high,yes I would. It costs nothing to drive through. You could even take a picnic, if you are strapped for cash. It passes an evening and it is a nice safe evening out for all the family.
I'll be going back next year, and if you want to pass a few hours, then I'd recommend you do too.
Copyright stebiz 2010 - also on ciao.co.uk
Blackpool Illuminations is a yearly lights festival in Blackpool, the seaside town in the North West of England. The lights are on from late August/early September till early November (this year it is the 4th September - 8th November). On the opening night of each year, an event called 'The Big Switch On' is held, where a celebrity presses the switch in order to turn on the illuminations.
Two years ago, in August 2007, our family visited Blackpool for a short break specifically for 'The Big Switch On' ceremony. This was because David Tennant was switching on the lights, and my family and I are big Doctor Who fans. There was also going to be Doctor Who illuminations.
So on a dark Friday night, we headed out of the hotel and began to walk down. From what I can remember, the BBC Radio 2 arena where the event is held is nearish to Blackpool Tower. We had passed the arena earlier on in the day, and it was already heaving with people. Before the actual switch-on, I believe there was also a small concert, but we didn't attend this so I can't comment. It is free to attend the concert and the switch-on.
Blackpool was crawling with girls in bunny ears and 'L' plates that evening, as I guess it was an exciting night to have your Hen party. I think there was also a motor bike show, as a load (when I say a load, I mean around 100) of them zoomed passed us, which gave us a bit of an ear-ache.
Anyway, the actual ceremony was absolutely packed, as you can imagine. We couldn't see the stage where the main action was happening, but there was a large screen which captured what was happening. However, even that was hard to see, due to kids on parents shoulders, people waving fluorescent lights, ect. Despite this, the atmosphere was electric and very exciting. Everyone began a count down from ten, and the whole town lit up.
The lights run for 6 miles, and on the night many people drive through the main illumination-lined street to see them. We saw some special decorated trams on the tram line, such as a boat themed cart, covered in lights. By the way, I wouldn't advise getting a tram to or from the ceremony - they are crammed and you have to wait for ages (we learned this from our holiday a few years earlier).
Apart from the Doctor Who lights (which were very good), I also noticed some Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen ones, along with various other themes. The lights run along the promenade, and are great to look at even during the day.
We visited Blackpool again just last week, for the 2009 turn on evening. We didn't go to the ceremony this time; just we walked along the road. They had some new Doctor Who lights this year, but they were further along, towards the Pleasure Beach.
I would really recommend that anyone planning to visit Blackpool does so when the lights are on. We have had four family holidays in Blackpool now, and the illuminations never get old.
We decided to go and see the illuminations this year in Blackpool.
We went this year on what was the last night (2nd Nov). We started off from teh far end of South Shore and were most impressed by Beaverbrooks lights towards the Pleasure Beach.
The lights were fantastic and the kids loved them. There was plenty of people milling about and lots of people selling flashing wands etc along the side of the road which you could stop and buy ( as the traffic was moving so slowly).
Towards the North Pier though - the momentum seemd to go off a little and you could tell that some of the lights had been around for years.
As we approached the far end of North Shore - we got to the best bit. A run of illuminated tableaus on the shore side of the prom. They were fantastic. Lots of them had moving objects. There was a haunted house, Alice in Wonderland Tea Party, Postman Pat. MOst of them had music coming from them as well.
This was probably the best bit and although it took us teh best part of an hour to drive along the prom in the slow moving traffic - this was well worth waiting for.
Another British tradition not to be missed.
Me and my family always try and go see the Illuminations every year, this year we visited last Thursday night, the 2nd October.
I have 2 nephews, Ethan is 6 and Rowan is nearly 4. Neither of them were due to be in school the day after as it was closed because the heating had broken! So me and my big brother took this opportunity to take them to Blackpool for the evening.
I don't really like the rest of Blackpool (sorry if that offends anyone) it's a bit overhyped! The Pleasure Beach is ok and not bad value but its definitely worth going to Blackpool simply for the Illuminations.
The Illuminations run late in the year, every year for a couple of months. This year they are lit from the 29th August until the 2nd November.
"Blackpool Illuminations see this seaside city of fun still buzzing with excitement and laughter long after other resorts have gone into winter hibernation" I loved this quote taken from the official Illuminations website as it just embodies what they are about!
For anyone who doesn't know the Illuminations are lots and lots of lights along the seafront road in Blackpool.
Every year they have slightly different themes and change some of the lights to fit in with this. At the minute there are 'Showgirls' 'McDonalds' 'Under the Sea' and many more themes!
Along the seafront there are around 500 light displays attached to the lampposts at the side of the road as well as strings of lights linking all the lampposts together.
As well as these lights, Blackpool tower is also lit up at this time of year and the lights flicker from the top to the bottom and look gorgeous!
The trams which you can catch along the seafront are also lit up at Illumination time, we saw a Fisherman's Friend Tram lit up like a boat which Ethan loved!
The illuminations run along the golden mile so there are lots of little shops along the way. These range from selling sex toys to souvenirs so pick carefully if you're with children (and your big brother as in my case...)
There are lots of Fish n Chip restaurants open late along the way and amusement arcades to break up the journey if it's cold; most of the amusements serve tea and coffee too for around 15p, so great for warming up!
There are also annoying people selling flashing toys/wands/bunny ears all the way along the sea-front, they try and get your kids attention so then you can't say no! We ended up with a flashing Light saber for Ethan and a Fairy magic wand for Rowan (he's a bit confused I guess...)
My one gripe from this visit is the shops selling Rock are now calling it a 'bar of rock' what happened to a 'stick of rock??' This really outraged me; madness!
~~How to view the Illuminations~~
You can walk drive or tram it through the Illuminations. I've never been on the tram but have walked and driven through.
If I wasn't with little kids I'd have walked further but this time we parked in the central car park (there are loads of car-parks) and only walked for about half an hour. It was really cold and rainy and little legs tire easily, me and my brother then gave the boys a piggyback ride back to the car and drove through the Illuminations from start to finish.
If you visit at Half-term or the weekend the traffic is terrible along the seafront and almost at a stand still; it can take up to an hour to drive the couple of miles at these busy times!
The day we chose was quite quiet so we drove through easily, slow enough to get some photos and for everyone to see what they wanted to though.
If you decided to walk start to finish I think it would take around an hour and a half if you're enjoying the stroll.
* There are 10km of lights along the seafront at Blackpool.
* Over one million bulbs are used to create this spectacle.
* The Blackpool Illuminations consist of almost every kind of light display you can imagine: lasers, neon, light bulbs, fibre optics, searchlights and floodlights.
* In 2005 there were more than 500 scenic designs and features.
So a good evening out for the whole family, I don't always go with kids but still have a great time.
Think "Blackpool" and if you are anything like me, the first images that will come into your mind are of the Illuminations, A.K.A "the Lights". Yes, this very well known Lancashire sea side holiday town evokes other images too; kiss-me-quick hats, candyfloss, the chilling "Big One" at the Pleasure Beach and probably even the famous Tower. The Golden Mile of sandy beach is a big draw for summer holiday makers and trippers from the north-west too.
For my wife and I though, apart from holding our wedding at the Blackpool Registry Office (long story!), the main draw of this particular destination each year is the Illuminations.
My association with the Blackpool Illuminations goes back well over ten years. As a single traveller, born and bread in Blackpool's biggest commercial rival (Brighton), Victorian seaside towns always held a real fascination for me. I am not sure if my friends thought me too much of a snob, or perhaps that the attractions of Blackpool would prove too childish for me to enjoy, but I well remember conversations along the lines of "oh no, not your kind of place at all, Blackpool". In a sense they were partly correct, those candy floss stalls, rock shops and kiss-me-quick hats were of no interest to me even as a child. What had always fascinated me however was the spectacle of the seafront Illuminations, first seen as a 35 year old and only missed one year since, last year, when we arrived in Blackpool three weeks after they had been turned off!
AN ILLUMINATING LITTLE HISTORY LESSON!
Due to its geographical position, Blackpool is less of an all year round resort than Brighton. Traditionally it was the seaside town to which the cotton mill and engineering workers of the north-west flocked for their "wakes weeks" holidays. For a very narrow slot of the summer period, Blackpool burst at the seams with holiday makers, come September the place closed for the winter. The hotel and bed and breakfast trade, which has always formed a major part of the economy there, really needed to extend the season in order to survive.
The origin of the Blackpool Lights goes back to May 1879, advertised by the authorities of the day as "Artificial Sunshine" - eight electric arc lights shone over the Promenade. Indeed as a town, Blackpool was the first in Britain to have streets actually lit by electricity anyway.
Like any other pioneering scheme, those early electric light experiments had their problems. The lights had to be turned off when the tide came in as the iron pipes through which the electric cables ran were not water-proof! In May 1912 Princess Louise, on the first royal visit to Blackpool, opened a new section of Promenade - aptly named as Princess Parade, this marked an expansion and turning point in the history of the Illuminations.
Whilst the new lighting fixtures for this event were fairly normal for sea side towns of the day - festoons of lights hanging over the Promende, they were starting to take on a far grander scale and, partly due to the royal patronage, attracting visitors in big numbers. In all at this stage (1912) there were a total of 10,000 light bulbs lit, that compares with this years display of 1 million!
The display of lights in May had been so successful that traders and hoteliers all over the town had felt a considerable benefit in trade. The council agreed to stage another light show through September of 1912, a month when traditionally the holiday period was finished. Thousands of extra visitors came to Blackpool to view the spectacle, it was judged by all concerned to be a total success. Thus was born the Blackpool Illuminations as we now know them.
Each September from 1913 until the outbreak of the First World War the Illuminations were staged. Rather like a family's Christmas decorations which are added to, and made a little more comprehensive each year, so the Blackpool lights spread and grew. After the War, it was 1925 before Blackpool was again illuminated, again they proved a great tourist draw to a town that lived and breathed tourism.
These lights must have done a lot to brighten the depressed era that was the late twenties and early thirties. By 1932 they had reached their current length, i.e. six miles, stretching continuously from Squires Gate in the east, to Red Bank Road in the west. The final section of lighting displays were, as now, a series of animated tableaux on the cliffs between North Shore and Bispham.
Other Blackpool "features" such as the Tower and trams were already being decorated with lights, pulling them into the overall spectacle. On 31st August, 1939 the lights were switched on in their full glory, a magnificent new search light swept the horizon from the top of the Tower. The following night Blackpool was in total darkness, World War II had begun, the lights were not to be staged again until ten years later. That year (1949) the council had to gain special permission from the government in order to use the considerable amount of power required to illuminate six miles of the Lancashire coast.
During the following half century the lights have become ever more comprehensive in terms of number, colour, design and of late sheer hi-tech appeal. The period over which Blackpool is illuminated has also spread somewhat, this year for instance they were switched on 1st September and will be finally extinguished for the winter this Sunday - 5th November.
ALLOW ME TO SHINE SOME LIGHT ON THE TECHNICALITIES
1) Costs & Benefits
This is no cheapjack venture, no sir! This year the cost of laying on the lights was £2.4 million. The equipment built up over the years is estimated to be worth £10 million.
It is estimated that the lights will consume £50,000 worth of electricity - when you stand on Blackpool Promenade you would be surprised that the figure is not MUCH higher!
Obviously it is not possible to exactly quantify this, however, the council estimate that the Illuminations attract an EXTRA 3.5 million visitors to Blackpool, these visitors are reckoned to spend £275 million in the town.
To put up the six miles of lighting it takes the council lights team 22 weeks.
The Illuminations are lit for 66 consecutive nights.
They are switched on after sunset, and are switched off (in stages starting at the Bispham end) during the week and on Sundays at 11.30pm, Friday nights at midnight and on Saturdays at 1.00am.
After 5th November 9 weeks be taken to carefully take them all down again.
There is a full time council staff of 45 employed to build, look after, design, rig and then dismantle the lights. These are skilled craftsmen too - artists, painters, joiners, mechanics and, naturally, a team of electricians.
In total, 65,000 man work hours are taken up throughout the year, planning, building and maintaining the lights.
The council lighting department is run by a gentleman by the name of Richard Ryan - known as Mr Lights due to his sheer enthusiasm and dedication to the Blackpool Illuminations. His predecessor described the work as being "so specialised it is probable that this department is the only place in the country where illuminations techniques can be learned".
4) Weights and Measures
This is a weighty matter! In total the equipment strung out along Blackpool front weighs 711,000 kilograms. Included in this weight are the one million bulbs and 200 miles of electrical cable to make it all work.
Yes, 200 miles of cable to light up six miles of Promenade!
THE STARS COME OUT TO SHINE IN BLACKPOOL
Whilst here in the south of England we do not get to hear much about the grand "Switch On Ceremony", in the north-west it makes big local news each year. I well remember my friends up there proudly telling me that "one of Take That" was to throw the switch - ah yes, that would have been Garry Barlow, 1999 I think!
This year, presumably following a local Supermarket Sweep, Dale Winton performed the honours! Big names too have accepted this honour though, Shirley Bassey, Chris De Burgh, Les Dawson (a local), Terry Wogan, Lisa Stansfield (one of my favourites!) and even in 1977 Red Rum. Quite how the famous race horse managed to flick the switch I cannot imagine!
An illuminating list of names from the past switch-ons include George Formby, Stanley Matthews, Jane Mansfield, Gracie Fields, and Kermit the Frog.
IF THE FACTS AND FIGURES HAVE NOT YET TURNED YOU ON, THEN MAYBE RICHADA'S PERSONAL GUIDE TO THE LIGHTS WILL!
As a fully grown man, I well remember my first sighting of the Blackpool lights after dark, it took me back to a childhood that I had never known. These are not Christmas lights as we will all have experienced in Regent or Oxford Street, or indeed in our own home towns. No, these are altogether more colourful - tacky even to some!
For those of you who have not visited Blackpool, it is blessed with a very long, sea front, stretching from Squires Gate out to Fleetwood in the far west. Blackpool is pretty much centred on the Tower, which provides a focal point for the whole town. Almost as impressive in proportions is the "Big One" - a huge roller-coaster situated in the Pleasure Beach complex to the eastern end of the front. Both of these steel constructions extend the illuminations high into the sky, regrettably, this year, when we visited Blackpool to see the lights, the Big One was not illuminated with its beautiful blue lighting.
For the purpose of this review, that actually may be seen as an advantage - as it did nothing to detract - or enhance, the illuminations of the Blackpool Lighting Department. Each year there is something new to see, each year the lights look different as they are re-positioned so that you view them in a different order.
There are several options when it comes to getting the best out of a visit to Blackpool after dark. The most popular one seems to be to "cruise" the six miles of sea front in the car. In the early autumn, slightly warmer, months you see people hanging out of their car windows or standing up through open sun roofs waving cameras about. Many coach operators offer tours of the lights - often including local accommodation, there are hundreds of hotels and bed and breakfast establishments situated on the front here, in many you do not even need to step out of your room in order to see the lights.
Locals tend to recommend a trip on one of the famous Blackpool trams, yes, probably a good way of seeing them, although for a photographer like me, their salt caked windows are a little off putting. Special "Illumination Tours by Tram" are available at the very reasonable cost of £4 for adults, £3 for children. These leave from the North Pier tram stop shortly after the Illuminations are switched on. At busy times, weekends, bank holidays and the October half term, there are several tours laid on, often using some of the corporations vintage tram stock.
My method of choice - given sufficient time, a fine evening and a pair of comfortable shoes would be to walk from Squires gate to the western end and catch a bus or tram back. At the busy times mentioned above, yes we have made the mistake of doing this on the half term week(!), the traffic is absolutely chock a block - it once took us two and a half hours to view the Illuminations, thirty minutes queuing to join the sea front at Squires gate, the other two hours to creep along the six miles of sea front! Away from these peak times, Blackpool sea front is quite comfortable, so it proved to be this year, although it still took us an hour and a half to view and photograph the lights.
During the peak periods there are collection points both for donations for the lights and some local charities. During the week you are free to view the lights without being requested to make any donations whatsoever. This is quite some free show.
For the purposes of this review, and because I wanted to "experiment" with my digital camera, we combined driving and walking in order to see the lights. It was quite cold and windy when we went on Wednesday 11th October. There was very little traffic on the sea front, and plenty of parking places to pull into, allowing us to get out of the car and walk to a suitable vantage point to take the photographs. If you want to photograph the lights, you will need to take a good tripod, in order to get the best pictures.
MR AND MRS RICHADA TRIP THE LIGHT FANTASTIC!
Entering the sea front at Squires Gate, you are greeted by some old favourites, Party Poppers and wine glasses before entering the new tunnel of very bright "white" light, sponsored by Beaverbrooks the Jewellers. Stopping us in our tracks was the sight of the worlds largest mirror ball - positioned on the New South Promenade. Mounted on top of a pole, the revolving ball has 45,000 small mirrored squares, towards which, three light balls project coloured lights and patterns onto the mirror ball. We watched for many minutes mesmerised by this scene, the same colours and patterns never appearing to repeat.
Back into the car and further along the front we are stopping to take pictures of cameras and fancy tiffany lamps in the form of mermaids holding colourful parasols. Almost as colourful as the lights themselves, are some of the buildings lining the seafront here, the casino, Sand Castle and amusements arcades - all lit in gaudy colours.
Further along the front, cartoon characters vie for place with sponsored messages - "I'm lovin' it" prominently amongst them. Blackpool is very much a McDonalds kind of town, the Big M have spent £3 million refurbishing their six restaurants here over the last year, and are happily blazing their corporate message in lights.
Now approaching the centre of town and the Blackpool Tower, you will be looking at a touch of the Caribbean, here in Lancashire with brightly coloured surfing characters making up an "Aloha" theme. This is where the Golden Mile actually starts, Blackpool's central and prime beach area close to the Tower and Talbot Square.
My favourite display of the whole lot is mounted each year on the Glynn roundabout. One year they had a fabulous display of dancing horses - all done in lights, imitating a carousel. This years' offering here was the most tasteful of all the light displays, a large growing tree, with leaves and flowers opening progressively towards the top.
After driving for another mile or so, you will come to the remarkable tableaux displays. So far, the lights have mostly been overhead, now these disappear to be replaced by large vertical displays on the sea side of the road. Over the years, these displays have become increasingly animated, firstly with the use of sequenced lights, latterly even with pyrotechnic and sound displays incorporated too.
As with the overhead lights, there are far too many here to describe individually. However, one of the very last, at the Bispham end of the front, caught my attention - partly because of its animations and partly due to its theme. Entitled "The Green Machine", a completely new display this year, it makes history as being the very first of the Illuminations to be powered by solar and wind generated energy. Its' message is one of healthy living and promoting renewable energy, enabling both us and the planet to live a longer and more healthy existence. With lights, sound and animation, this 110ft (33.5 metre) long tableaux was undoubtedly a huge success.
Finally, just to prove that all of this really is for the kids - rather than the likes of middle aged RICHADA - here at the end of this spectacular display is good old Postman Pat, incredibly celebrating his 25th appearance in lights this year.
It had taken us longer than anticipated to drive the six miles of Blackpool Illuminations. Almost as soon as we turned around for a second look on the way back, at 11.30, the phased switch-off began. We concluded, as the lights literally went off in front of us, that we enjoyed this spectacular free display as much this year as we ever have.
This year the Blackpool illuminations ended in a blaze of glory with fireworks displays on both the final Saturday and Sunday nights.
We went to Blackpool in August and were there for the switch on of this year's illuminations.
The illuminations are always along Blackpool's "Golden Mile", basically the main promenade road through main Blackpool.
This year's main theme was under the sea and McDonalds. The big switch on was on Friday 2nd September with Chris Evans doing the deed which was live on Radio 2 and the main t.v. station in Blackpool.
We decided not to go into main Blackpool until after the switch on because of the traffic. We could have used the tram network, but it seemed that everyone had the same idea.
We made our way down to the illuminations just after 9.30 when they'd been switched on, and got stuck in heavy traffic with thousands of people walking through the traffic. The trams were also illuminated and it was amazing. Its the only time of the year when Blackpool Tower's lights had been switched off at night until they were switched back on again for the new illuminations.
The illuminations are great for the kids to look at as well as the adults and there is so much to see. I'd definately go again it was well worth it.
I totally agree with Bumb1e - Blackpool is a nightmare. The only good thing about the place is walking on the sands at the far end of the beach towards Lytham. The lights do draw loads of visitors to the town, but what type of visitors? They always seem to be drunk, loud-mouthed and usually f.....ing and blinding in front of children. In fact they generally are completely oblivious to others, they barge into you, and make the place unbearable. As for the lights, well they are tacky and plastic - very old-fashioned, and not worth visiting. The money spent on them could much more usefully be spent on healthcare. That might actually benefit the local people rather than making their home town a NIGHTMARE BY THE SEA.
When I first moved to Blackpool, as I lived there for three years, I thought it might be a nice idea to go and see the famous illuminations. When I got to the promenade I expected to see a fairly attractive sea front, maybe a bit like Brighton, or Portsmouth. But what I found was a rather ugly looking, very run down row of cheap shops, mostly boarded up and out of business. All the building work has long since fallen into a rather unfortunate and poor state of appearance. And well, when it came to the lights, I was not impressed, I was bored, severely, by over a mile of gordishly lit and badly designed, poorly made plastic cut-outs of TV personalities and cartoon stars! (So no fancy laser light shows [however the big wheel at the end of the pier looked good], no impressive k-joultronic light displays, just a cold and wet promenade that has fallen into a poor state of disrepair), I'll give it to Blackpool that when it comes to the sheer amount of light bulbs and rigs that they certainly are not out-done in this country, the only place that does things on a similar scale to Blackpool (apart from Christmas time) is the USA, at places such as Disneyland or Madison square in New York. But when it comes down to it, why spend so much of the councils money (£10m per annum) WHICH HAS COME OUT OF OUR POCKETS (council tax\poll tax), to keep up this tradition, which doesn't even bring in the amount of people every year to cover the costs that are created by the illuminations (referred from Blackpool tourist centre). This money could be spent on improving Blackpool’s main hospital-Victoria hospital-which has one of the worst track records in Great Britain! (Referred to the governmental review of the NHS 2000). If you want to spend your time socialising with the over 60's eating candyfloss in kiss me quick hats in the freezing wet, then this might just be your thing. But to any fun luvin, visually appreciative person; it is probably a good idea to sit at home with a ni
ce cup of tea, put your feet up, and watch the television.
I wrote about Blackpool Illuminations in one of my Business Studies A Level exams – it was the “ultimate example” of extending the market (or, in this case, season) by getting tourists to come not only in summer but up until November too, and is supposedly one of only a few tourist resorts worldwide that manage it. Growing up, oh, 5 minutes away from Blackpool meant I’ve seen the illuminations at least once a year (usually more – driving back from Blackpool based dancing festivals in autumn meant we almost always got a glimpse of the things) for the past 14 or 15 years. Usually we go on the press preview night (as a lot of locals do) to avoid the crowds. This year though, I was away when the newspaper people were crawling through so we went yesterday. In 1993, the last year for which I have stats to hand, 8 million visitors were expected – this year it will no doubt be nearer to 20 than 10 million. That was the year that Princes William and Harry also made the local paper when it was learned that they’d been on a trip through the lights – and stopped off for an ice cream on the prom too…. Speaking of food, Blackpool businesses boom during the lights period as visiting children cannot resist the lure of the seafront stands – everything from pizza and kebabs through to Mr Whippys and of course Blackpool Rock is available, and the places stay open well into the evening. The lights stretch for over 6 miles (Golden or not) from Starr Gate to Bispham, and in peak season it can take a while to get through. We left about 8pm (I think – whatever time it was after they appallingly bad episode of Buffy had finished and I’d checked my emails) and were passing Squires Gate about 10 mins later. We did the lights both ways and were back about 9.30pm – of course you can cut time if you only go one way along the prom and then return on the back streets. So what s
ort of things are on show? “And I said, “What about breakfast at Tiffany’s?” ” For years I though this line was due to the hotel, “Tiffany’s” on Blackpool promenade where I always imagined they would serve breakfast, and not the Hepburn film…. To tie in, I guess, with the hotel’s name, outside it we find a display of what I imagine are supposed to be huge, illuminated Tiffany lamps. Along with these we have fireworks, flowers that are at least as old as me and, erm, aliens from outer space. Oh and some light bulbs who look more evil than Word’s automated smiley face. The Germans love us Surprised? Ok, technically it may not be true, but they certainly love “Fishermen’s Friend” which come from Fleetwood, just up the coast a bit from Blackpool. Maybe it’s in honour of this, or maybe it’s because the firm are paying for the privilege, but whatever reason, there are some gigantic lit up bags of the stuff as you head up to North Shore. This isn’t the only firm making an appearance – outside one of the (many) McDonalds’ branches we have Ronald himself kicking a ball from one side of the road to the other, and a bit further up Embassy cigarettes are selling themselves (they probably need all the publicity they can get – at least in St Annes, smokers always seemed more partial to B&H or Silk Cut than Number Ones). Cute Classics and some Familiar Faces Alice in Wonderland watching the Cheshire cat grin and the mice running up the clock are joined by the Dam Trolls (they’re the ugly flat faced ones – not like the nice Russ variety), Thomas the Tank Engine and our Thunderbirds friends. The My Little Ponies and Mr Men and Little Misses get in on the act down at the far end too. Oh and although the Bicci bears sometimes show up, my old favourites the no-branded Teddies swinging away a
re sill there too. “People In The 3rd World Don’t Want To Live On Handouts” And a big thank you to the people at Oxfam for making sure that phrase is permanently engraved in my mind…. Anyway, they might not want handouts, but the illuminations people certainly do – at both ends and on both sides of the road there are Collection Points where you can donate your hard-earned cash for the privilege of driving along the prom… Not that I’m against donating, but this year they seem to have gone a little OTT with it. Still, you aren’t forced and whether you donate or not, it’s still a cheap night out. Getting There Trains stop at Blackpool’s 3 stations and busses pull into the back street bus station on a regular basis. If you are car-less and don’t fancy walking all the way through, illuminated trams can transport you some or all of the way along. If you’re driving, head up the M6 to the M55 and then follow the special Illuminations signs. The Illuminations will be shining bright until the start of November and if you’ve never been, or have young children, I would recommend a trip, but if you’re a veteran I have to admit that this year’s display is not as good as in recent years.
I didn’t get to see Blackpool Illuminations until I was in my twenties. It was something that my parents had never been particularly bothered about, so I never got to go either, although I spent many happy summer holidays at Blackpool during my childhood. I have been every year since I Dave and I got together, in fact a day trip to Blackpool Illuminations was the first real date we had even though we’d been friends for years. He hired a car and took me to Blackpool so that I could ride on one of the special illuminated trams, which was something on my list of things that I had always wanted to do. We now go for a couple of days and stay in The Imperial Hotel which is wonderful. It’s great to come ‘home’ to luxury after walking along looking at the illuminations in the cold wind! The illuminations are switched on at the end of August each year and last until the end of October. They stretch from Little Bispham in the north all the way along the promenade to Starr Gate in the south. You can catch a tram at any stop and travel as far along the route of the illuminations as you want to. As I previously mentioned they also have specially illuminated trams so that you are in fact travelling in part of the illuminations! There are about 5 or 6 of these, which have been made into various shapes. There is a steam train, a rocket, a paddle steamer, and I’m sure that there’s couple of others but for the life of me I can’t think what they are! You catch the illuminated trams at the North Pier and they do a complete tour of the whole lot and return you back to where you started. Sometimes they’ll let you jump off at a different place such as the Pleasure Beach if you don’t want to go all the way back to the North Pier. As I said earlier the illuminations begin at Little Bispham in the North. This is where the real show is, as the opening displays are all in the form
of tableaux, which stretch almost as far as Gynn Square. In the past the larger ones have covered subjects such as Postman Pat, Fireman Sam, My Little Pony, The Circus, Egypt and a lovely one of teddies playing on swings and roundabouts! The smaller ones are advertisements for local businesses, charities and some smaller displays, for instance last year there was one on proverbs. These tableaux have moving parts and sometimes you don’t see the whole thing when travelling past on the tram. I have been known to walk the full length of the illuminations but it is about six miles from Little Bispham to Starr Gate! The best idea is to catch a tram to Bispham and walk back as far as Gynn Square, which is about two miles at most and then catch a tram along the rest of the length. That way you can stand and watch the tableaux and really appreciate them. I am sure that some people who visit Blackpool to see the illuminations just don’t even realise that these tableaux exist. In Gynn Square for the last few years there has been an amazing display, which looks like a carousel. The coloured horses light up one after the other in order to give the illusion that the carousel is turning. It is really very impressive. The remainder of the lights along the promenade are attached to the lamp posts and consist of groups of lights covering various themes. In the past these have been circus animals (advertising Blackpool Zoo), Coronation Street characters, Eddie Stobart Lorries, and spaceships which ‘fire’ at one another across the road. This effect is achieved by a string of lights that come on one after another. There are also a few more small tableaux along the promenade, mainly advertising local businesses. Blackpool Tower and the three piers are also all illuminated with the huge Ferris wheel sponsored by Wagon Wheels, on the Central Pier. The amusement arcades, which are always a mass of lights, add to the general atmosph
ere. The Pleasure Beach is always illuminated at night until it closes and the lights on the rides make a fantastic show. The thing that always amuses me is that the Pepsi Max Big One (the huge roller coaster) has carriages with lights, which look like headlights on the front of them! I always wonder whom they are expecting to meet on the track! The traffic at Blackpool during illumination time is always slow moving, as people tend to drive to one end of the lights and drive all the way along often with children standing so that their head and shoulders are out of the sunroof! The coach tours also make a point of driving the full length of the illuminations before setting off on their way home. So, if you can walk, or take the tram, you may well be better off. Blackpool Illuminations are free but there is a collection point near to Little Bispham and all donations however small are very gratefully received. There may be a further collection point at the other end but I can’t be sure about that. I hope that this opinion has given you an idea of what to expect of the Blackpool Illuminations, they really are outstanding!
Blackpool, what a place. we went to see the lights. Now I was going to tell you how rubbish they were but since i've talked to other people i've found out that i missed half of them. You'd think that the signs would be a lot better than they were, we followed then and found ourselves about 200 yards from the tower, so we followed the rest of the traffic very slowly down the road. The lights that we got to see were'nt worth sitting in traffic for 2 hours.I know that i've only seen half of the lights so I'm not going to say that all of the lights were rubbish. But I find it very disapointing that after driving 70 miles to see them Blackpool council can't put up some decent signs so you get to see all of the illuminations. Now that I know that I've missed half I suppose that it's a good excuse to go back for a second look. But this time I think I'll park my car and get a tram.
I live about 5 minuites from the promanade in Blackpool and we see the illuminations quite regulary. I have to say that this year they are of exceptional standard as usual. The council are now proposing to move the illuminations to Stanley Park and make people pay to see them,but personally I think this will be a really bad move. People come to Blackpool for the fantastic illumination display and I think if it was made as a paying attraction it would send Blackpool downhill.There is a voluntry collection point at each end of the prom but apparently the money collected there is approximatly less than 2p per car. Anyway in my oppinion Blackpool Illuminations are a must for anyone to see.