Plea for Blackpool residents to see their own Illuminations

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Blackpool residents are being called on to not take the Illuminations for granted.

As the new season of the Lights was launched, civic leaders have urged people to get out and enjoy the world-famous attraction on their doorstep.

Laurence Llewelyn Bowen at the Lights season launch yesterday

Laurence Llewelyn Bowen at the Lights season launch yesterday

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At the Lightworks’ depot, in South Shore, Illuminations’ creative curator and TV personality Laurence Llewelyn Bowen spoke of the ‘iconic experience’ of visiting the Lights, and how the resort’s expertise in staging a light festival can be exported around the world.

Deputy leader of Blackpool Council, Coun Gillian Campbell said large numbers of children in her Grange Park ward had never even visited the beach in their home town.

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Coun Gillian Campbell

Coun Gillian Campbell

In a project last summer, she found that among more than 60 children from the ward who were taken on a trip to the beach, more than two thirds of them had never been before – and that similar figures applied to the Illuminations.

“Children in my ward haven’t been to the Illuminations, which is hard to believe,” she told The Gazette.

“I say to local residents, why not take a walk through on a Saturday night with a bag of chips and have some fun with your family.

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“The Lights bring in tourists, but they belong to the people of Blackpool and they need to be proud of them.”

She said that despite the constant budget pressures across the board, the council had worked hard to maintain funding for the 106-year-old Illuminations.

Among the schemes aiming to draw more Blackpool children to the Illuminations is glow football as part of the Lightpool Festival – which runs during the October half term holiday.

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The festival, which launched in 2016, has brought world-leading fire and light performers and artists to the town, but it also gets residents involved in the creation of one-off special nights.

This year, creative director Alex Rinsler hopes to get primary school children involved through the glow football tournament, which will run in schools across the area in partnership with Blackpool Football Club and culminating in a final at the Winter Gardens.

“As part of that we plan to bring them to the Illuminations, and to Lightworks to see how they work,” he said.

“We want young people feel connected to the Prom and I see that as being critical to the Illuminations.”

Laurence reminded residents there are regular changes to the images on display for the Illuminations, and t there was more to them than the initial spectacle.

“Glitz and glamour is there for the holidaymaker, for the visitor, but for the people living here, it’s crucial to reflect the things they think are important,” he said.

Among the feature to reflect that are new highlights for 2018 - a tribute to the women of the First World War, and in partnership with Blackpool Victoria Hospital a nod to the 70th anniversary of the NHS.

The flamboyant TV presenter, in a relatively muted monochrome ensemble, also hailed the Illuminations’ potential to light up the world by using Blackpool’s homegrown expertise to support similar displays around the world.

“I want the Illuminations recognised for the phenomenal legacy that they have created,” he said.

“I flew in from Australia yesterday, and film in Asia, America, around the world, and people look to Blackpool and the Illuminations as the inspiration for their own light festivals.

“I want to bring that recognition back to Blackpool in the future, to get to the stage where Blackpool Illuminations lives up to its own global reputation.

“There’s a risk we take it all for granted, hiding its light under a bushell but I want to sweep that bushell away.”

He said Lightworks could become a design and construction workshop for light festivals around the world.

Speaking to The Gazette, Laurence said: “We’ve got 120 years of history here; why not help Sydney, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, all of whom had light festivals and look to Blackpool?

“They have a lot of light and sound, but they don’t have the heart and soul so much that Blackpool does have.”

While this could also draw in international sponsorship for the Illuminations, Laurence said the focus of funding should remain local - with businesses paying in as thanks for the added income that the Lights season creates for the resort.