Lights donations fall after Switch-On furore

Pictures Martin Bostock'Blackpool Illuminations Switch-On 2013'Gary Barlow
Pictures Martin Bostock'Blackpool Illuminations Switch-On 2013'Gary Barlow
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Businesses are not supporting the Illuminations, believing their money will instead go towards next year’s Switch-On event.

That’s according to Illuminations boss Richard Ryan, who says donations towards the lights from businesses and members of the public are down this year.

He says fund collectors for the Friends of the Illuminations are being told by business owners they won’t be supporting the Lights because of the negativity surrounding this year’s Switch-On, which made a loss of £372,000.

Mr Ryan said: “We are getting a lot of people misunderstanding the scenario of the Switch-On.

“We are collecting money for the Illuminations, and that money is not going towards any council activity.

“When the Friends of the Illuminations are going out to collect from businesses, a lot of the comments are that the money will be spent on the switch-on.

“I am absolutely gobsmacked. People have got this message all wrong.”

Mr Ryan said early indications showed donations from both businesses and the Promenade collection points were down on last year, though official figures won’t be available until next month.

He added: “Over the last two or three years there has been a steady increase on donations, despite the recession.

“I cannot stress enough that the switch-on is a completely separate venture; it’s an event that is not part of the illuminations.

“The money literally goes into the service to improve the lights for next year. We have been delivering these lights for the last 100 years, and we’d like to do it for another 100 years but we need support to be able to do that.

“We know there’s a recession, and we know it’s hard out there, but everyone needs to do their bit.”

Shirley Hunt is an ambassador for the Friends of the Illuminations.

She said: “We have worked tirelessly for the last 12 to 18 months trying to build up relationships with the people in this town, and I just feel that this year it’s become harder to get people to back us due to what happened at the Switch-On.

“I am really passionate about the fact that we need the lights, and so do other businesses in the town.

“We need to fund the display so we can put up new lights every year.

“I feel a little bit lost to be honest, I feel like we’ve gone 10 steps forward and 25 steps back.”

Hotelier Mark Smith, who owns Number One on St Luke’s Road, South Shore, said: “If the Illuminations are not there, then we’re all in a mess, not just the hotels but the cafe owners, the joiners, the electricians, everyone.

“We take guests because of the Illuminations, without them, there’s no money.

“If the Illuminations are not there because people aren’t supporting them, Blackpool will be like Scarborough and will be shut. It’s absolutely ridiculous that people think this way.”