Laurence shines bright light on Alice in Wonderland

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How about a selfie with Alice In Wonderland, or a drive through the lights accompanied by cult comedy family The Bradshaws?

That’s what visitors to this year’s Illuminations can look forward to as bosses unveiled a sneak preview of the 2014 display.

Preview of Blackpool Illuminations 2014.  Pictured is Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen.

Preview of Blackpool Illuminations 2014. Pictured is Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen.

With new sponsors on board - including Fleetwood Town boss Andy Pilley’s BES Utilities and the Houndshill shopping centre - hopes are high the 102nd year of the Promenade show will be among the best.

Certainly the enthusiasm of one of its most ardent supporters Laurence Llewelyn Bowen remains undimmed even after eight years at the helm of the design team.

This year he has rejuvenated an old favourite with his trademark flamboyance.

The original Alice in Wonderland tableau at Bispham was badly damaged in gales in 2010, but the storybook star is returning in Alice’s Garden which will be situated at the Pleasure Beach.

Preview of Blackpool Illuminations 2014.  Pictured is Buzz Hawkins with Billy.

Preview of Blackpool Illuminations 2014. Pictured is Buzz Hawkins with Billy.

A water garden is central to the feature - stretching for 100 feet and boasting an eight foot bridge, it is hoped it will encourage people out of their cars to walk round it.

Laurence said: “My big vision is to get people out of their cars more, and what better than to go into Alice’s Garden.

“What a selfie opportunity, the idea of being able to stand in front of an Illumination and you can use it as part of social media. It’s brilliant that people can share their experience in Blackpool.

“Alice has been slightly ‘Alice Coopered’ but it is all about preserving a heritage and updating a heritage.

Preview of Blackpool Illuminations 2014.  Pictured is Buzz Hawkins.

Preview of Blackpool Illuminations 2014. Pictured is Buzz Hawkins.

“The feature has been brought back to life, and we have the innovation of the Alice Garden and the surreal experience of being among the Illuminations.

“I think it will be very popular.”

Houndshill has sponsored the feature and centre manager Debbs Lancelot said: “The Illuminations are essential for the success of Blackpool’s thriving tourism and retail industry and we are proud to be part of this fantastic event.”

Hotel bookings agent Eviivo has also come on board this year, sponsoring Dynamo - another new feature, but with roots in the past.

It will be a road section near South Pier of 20 displays of multiple and ever-changing spinning colours.

With BES Utilities already announced as supplying the electricity for the lights in a £100,000 deal and attractions operator Merlin funding an extra week of the Illuminations for the second year running, more businesses are acknowledging the marketing opportunities of the Illuminations which play a key role in the town’s tourist economy.

Last year from September to December, which includes the Illuminations, visitor numbers rose to four million, compared to 3.7 million the previous year.

Coun Graham Cain, cabinet member for tourism on Blackpool Council, said: “We are investing around £2m in the Illuminations and I have to fight for every penny of that because other people want it for their departments.

“But I maintain the Illuminations are our flagship. However we can’t continue this level of investment and we are looking for businesses small and large to come on board.

“We don’t want six miles of advertisement but we can deliver some great creations using sponsorship.”

Another innovation for 2014 is a link up with The Bradshaws, a radio show which is the brainchild of Manchester-based comic Buzz Hawkins.

He is working on an audio CD featuring a guide to the Illuminations which families can listen to in their cars as they drive through the lights.

Buzz said: “I am flattered beyond belief to be asked to get involved.

“The idea is to help people find their way through the Illuminations. The Bradshaws is quite a cult show but fans of it are already talking about this and booking coach trips to Blackpool.”

On top of this is Brain Box, a concept piece designed by artist Jo Berry which will be sited at the Cliffs in Bispham.

People will be able to step inside to view laser-cut discs representative of neural brain patterns.

Community-inspired features this year include a tableau designed by schoolchildren, and one with a message about beach cleanliness.

Laurence has also designed a tribute to the heroes of the First World War, including a video, to be based at the Cliffs, to mark 100 years since the start of the conflict.

Claire Smith, president of hoteliers group StayBlackpool, said she hoped 2014 would be a successful year for the lights.

She said: “I think businesses are finally grasping that we are going to have to do more to sustain the Illuminations because eventually the council funding is going to get cut.

“So we all have to play our part.”