QUESTION marks have been raised over whether this year’s Switch-On star Keith Lemon is a big enough name for the “greatest free show on earth”.
Businesses have claimed they’ve been left “disappointed” after Lemon – the alter ego of comedian Leigh Francis – was unveiled as the man flicking the switch on the world-famous Illuminations.
But fans of the Celebrity Juice presenter are delighted he is heading for the resort – and visitBlackpool said demand for tickets already exceeds supply.
Dave Daly, landlord of The Castle, is one of those unimpressed by the news.
He said: “He is not a big enough name to follow Robbie Williams (last year’s Switch-On star).
“It’s the first time I’ve ever been disappointed.
“Blackpool expects and the Illuminations is the greatest free show on earth.”
Francis is a cult comic and responsible for hit shows including Bo Selecta! and A Bear’s Tail.
And Lemon’s profile is rising after he appeared on ITV’s Sing If You Can and secured himself a regular agony uncle slot on This Morning.
Hotel owner Claire Smith, president of Stay Blackpool, is looking forward to the Switch-On night but said: “I’m a little disappointed, but how were they ever going to follow Robbie Williams?
“The obvious thing to do was to do something completely different and I think that’s what they’ve done.
“Hopefully there will be enough for everybody and switch-on itself is a big enough night.”
Chart-topper Scouting For Girls, pop sensation Pixie Lott and soul diva Beverley Knight will also take to the stage for the free event on Friday, September 2.
Eileen Ormand, town centre BID (business improvement district) manager, is one of those who’s praised this year’s line-up.
She said: “To me Keith Lemon is the number one comedian at the moment and it’s a bit of a nice alternative for us.
“I think we’ve got a good cross-section across the night with Pixie Lott and Beverley Knight and it’s going to be quite a party.”
A total of 20,000 tickets are available for the event - organised by visitBlackpool, Real Radio and Smooth Radio – with 50 per cent allocated to resort residents.
Yesterday morning more than 9,000 people had already registered for 43,000 tickets – a figure visitBlackpool’s chief Natalie Wyatt said proves the line-up’s just right.
She said: “Keith Lemon is extremely current and highly newsworthy for people who are of a certain age.
“He might not be as well known to some people now but in the next 12 months he will be a big star.
“I think Real Radio have done a fantastic job, it’s a brilliant line-up.”
Out on the streets of Blackpool, reaction to Keith Lemon’s announcement was mixed.
Rachel Curtis, 43, from South Shore was delighted and said: “I love him but people don’t understand he is a character.
“I think he’s fab.”
And Sue Smith, 46, from Fleetwood added: “My mother’s 74 and she loves him. She watches him all the time.
“I think it’s great, he will pull people in.”
But 40-year-old Michael Snell, from St Annes, said: “Is that all we can afford? It would be better for a Blackpool FC player or Ian Holloway to come and do it.”