Take That star eleventh-hour Switch-On saviour

Gary Barlow has stepped in to headline the Switch-On concert.
Gary Barlow has stepped in to headline the Switch-On concert.
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Nice one Gary, thanks for saving the Lights!

Pop legend Gary Barlow has sensationally stepped in at the 11th hour to replace The Script as headline act at tonight’s Switch-On party.

The Take That star and X-Factor judge will perform a 45-minute concert on the Tower Festival Headland before chat show host Jonathan Ross flicks the famous switch.

Gary said: “I’m so excited to be performing in Blackpool.

“I’ve had some fantastic nights out in the town over the years so it will be amazing to play a special show there.”

It follows a whirlwind 24 hours after the songwriter tweeted from New York saying he would do the show, after The Script pulled out due to a family illness, in return for a donation to Children In Need.

Marketing Blackpool immediately got in touch to make the arrangements for tonight’s annual spectacular.

Gary tweeted at 1pm yesterday saying there would be an announcement within the hour but fans were left on tenterhooks until 8pm when he finally confirmed: “We’re all signed-up to play 2moro, Blackpool here we come!”

Tickets, priced £34, went on sale from the Tourist Information Centre last night.

Coun Graham Cain, cabinet member for tourism on Blackpool Council, said: “Gary has always been a fan of the town and has now stepped in in our hour of need.

“Gary is our Switch-On saviour.

“To get someone of Gary Barlow’s calibre to offer his services is remarkable and it’s down to everyone who was involved.

“Between the first contact being made we have been on tenterhooks.

“But Gary has a soft spot for Blackpool and was the Switch-On star in 1999.

“I am certain he will go down a storm tonight.”

Jonathan Ross tweeted Gary saying; “You are a hero for stepping up at the last minute!!”

Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said work to replace The Script after they pulled out due to family reasons had been “relentless.”

He said: “It has been utterly non-stop and to put together an event which would normally take six months to organise, in 26 hours is an amazing feat.

“We are more than happy to be making a donation to Children In Need to make it happen. We couldn’t wish to be supporting a better charity.

“We completely understand and respect the reasons why The Script were forced to pull out. Of course that was disappointing but in true Blackpool style we have made sure the show will still go on.”

It is believed the donation is in the region of £250,000.

Fans and tourism leaders today spoke of their delight.

Claire Smith, president of hoteliers group StayBlackpool, said: “For Gary Barlow to step in like this is absolutely brilliant and we shall love him forever.

“We have gone from the depths of despair to the heady heights.”

Shirley Hunt, of the Friends of the Illuminations, said: “I think everyone in Blackpool would want to say thanks to Gary for saving the day.

“Good on him - and I think he will enjoy it too.”

Dave McCrudden and his daughter Loryn, 19, from Marton, were among fans buying tickets.

Dave said: “The Switch-On is a big event for the town so it’s great he’s going to do the show, what a great offer from him.”

Heather Sullivan, 37, from Luton, won a competition on Gary Barlow’s Twitter page to meet the star at 6pm prior to his performance, which has been scheduled for around 8pm.

She said: “I love Gary Barlow and can’t believe I’m going to spend 10 minutes with him. When he picked me I was a bit screamy and felt a little bit sick. I’ve booked a half day off work and I can’t wait!”

Tickets for Madness are £20 but people who have already bought those tickets can upgrade for £14 for a full weekend ticket from the VisitBlackpool Box Office or the Tourist Information Centre

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