The Emperor’s new Lights?

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ARE you going to “do” the Illuminations this year? I don’t mean did you go to the mini pop festival switch on jamboree with all those thousands of other people last night. I don’t mean did you dust down your bike and ride along the front with all those other cyclists who thought they looked like Olympians. I don’t even mean driving along the promenade on your way back from work when the nights draw in – and then telling everyone else that, of course, you take a great interest in them.

I mean do you “do” them in the grand old style of either walking up and down a bit (with or without your youngsters or visiting relatives) until it gets nippy and you go home or sitting in a traffic jammed queue of other lights visitors cursing the fact that this happens to you every year (helped these days by the council actually narrowing the traffic lanes to give the impression it’s all a lot busier than it actually is).

The honest answer is probably, no. They come on with a bit of a fanfare and a smattering of celebs and they go off with a whimper.

In between it’s the same old, same old. Sorry if I sound a bit negative but isn’t there just a little bit of the Emperor’s New Clothes about the whole Illuminations thing?

Yes, they’re bright and they’re pretty and they’re 100 years old this season. But – and here’s the bit that will get me removed from the few remaining council guest lists I’ve still been accidentally left on – aren’t they just a little bit Oh So Yesterday?

A century ago they excited people in the same way that the first recorded sounds and televised images did. For years they were as novel as the first mobile phone (the one the size of a suitcase) and the early computers (the ones the size of a front room).

But everything else has changed and continues to do so. It’s all micro this and i-pads that, it’s all social networking and instant communication. Not so with the Illuminations. Yes, there’s a new bit here and there and some energy saving bulbs but compared with the way everything else has developed, especially over the past 10 or 15 years, surely there’s a lot can be done to make the Lights, shall we say, more exciting.

The prom’s looking better, the Tower refurb will eventually be completed, but the Illuminations are still basically just lightbulbs on string. Yes, they appeal to tiny tots whose parents remember exactly the same thing from their youth but they aren’t exactly taking the resort anywhere other than down memory lane.

I’d argue that they don’t even bring as much money into the town as is claimed. The majority of Lights trippers drive in and drive out, munching on their pre-packed sandwiches and drinking their supermarket mineral water.

Companies which do benefit – such as breweries, pub operators and amusement arcade owners - give very little back with the result that there’s nothing left in the pot for investment. Try telling that to the bright lights of the real Las Vegas, where the illuminated strip gets brighter and longer and more exciting every year. It can be done.