LIGHTS OUT: Faulty bulbs leave Blackpool's Illuminations display 70k lights short
A faulty batch of bulbs left Blackpool's usually dazzling display of Illuminations up to 70,000 lights short.
The duds, estimated to have affected between five and seven per cent of the million plus bulbs used on the Prom each year, were being sent back to China to be replaced.
The swap is being done for free, Lights bosses said, with workers now out fixing the problem as fast as possible.
And despite the problems, there has been a surge in donations at the collection booths at North and South Shore, which Richard Ryan said is the ‘ultimate vote of confidence’.
Mr Ryan, who heads up the world-famous Illuminations, visited by millions of holidaymakers every autumn, said: “If people go through and think it’s rubbish, they won’t put their hands in their pockets.
“We are aware of a small number of areas on the Prom that we are currently unhappy with.
“What I can promise you is that we are devoting all of our available resources to repair them.”
The Gazette visited the Lights after a number of comments from readers and calls from hoteliers in the resort.
Many of the specialist bulbs affected, which are specially designed and unavailable to buy in the UK, were close to the Metropole hotel and North Pier.
Festoon lighting stretched from lamppost to lamppost route had numerous dead bulbs, while Little Miss Muffet’s head – which features in one of the tableux displays at Bispham – also didn’t work.
Rotating displays weren’t turning or lit up outside Tiffany’s hotel, a large ‘dancers’ display was broken outside the Kensington Hotel on South Promenade, while half a mermaid was out opposite the Cliffs hotel.
Mr Ryan said a defect had been discovered in one batch of lights, installed in North Shore, and were blowing after less than a year, when they were meant to have a lifespan of around four years.
The supplier can’t be named for commercial reasons, he added, but had apologised for the problem and offered to replace the bulbs at no cost to the taxpayer.
It is the first issue in eight years the firm and council have been working together on the Lights, which are sold to other councils around the country, he also said.
Leader of the opposition at the town hall, Coun Tony Williams, said: “It’s just disappointing the bulbs we got from China turned out to be a duff batch and it had an impact on the Illuminations.
“I’m sure the guys down at the Illuminations depot are in touch with China and hopefully we get the replacements as quickly as possible.”
Coun Williams said the Lights remain a ‘massive operation and cost a great deal’ of money, and said commercial partners and sponsors should be sought to bring in more cash.
He added: “There are some big companies that could advertise on there, and it could enhance the Illuminations.”
Claire Smith, president of hoteliers association Stay Blackpool, said nobody at her hotel, The Number One South Beach, has mentioned the problem.
“We have been down five or six times and, yes, there is a number out, but there’s also some fabulous displays,” she said.
“We, the people of Blackpool, are very discerning. We see them year in, year out, and we need to recognise that, for a lot of people, it’s their first time. We are extremely critical because we live here and go up and down an awful lot.”
Claire, who said German tourists staying at her hotel last week were ‘blown away’ by the Golden Mile, said she thought some of the newer displays are ‘outstanding’, and added: “It has to be said with the money they have got, and the number of people working with them, they do a fabulous job.”
Coun Gillian Campbell, Deputy Leader of Blackpool Council, said: “The Illuminations team are working day and night to make sure that this year’s Illuminations continue to stay special. Keeping all one million lights switched on in the wind and rain for 66 consecutive nights is far from an easy task, but our workers are as committed as ever to making sure that people can enjoy this year’s display.”