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It is a good job Philip Welsh isn’t the type to feel the pressure.

His job is, to put it in a nutshell, make sure people who live in Blackpool feel proud of it, and for visitors to flock back to the resort for their holidays.

The finishing touches are made to a replica of Blackpool Tower at the Illuminasia indoor illuminations.  Electrician Luo Ping at work at the top of the tower.

The finishing touches are made to a replica of Blackpool Tower at the Illuminasia indoor illuminations. Electrician Luo Ping at work at the top of the tower.

Best of luck with that, some might say.

Welsh’s official job title is Head of Marketing Services at Blackpool Council.

That sounds deathly dull, which is odd because in reality this man has one of the most interesting and important jobs in town.

Blackpool gets a kicking from most, be it Channel 4 documentaries shining a spotlight on some of the less desirable parts of the resort to the statistics that tell us the town is at the bottom of every list from life expectancy to alcoholism.

Perhaps it’s not surprising then that at the top of Welsh’s agenda is changing perceptions about Blackpool.

And the simplest way of doing that, he says, is to get people to come and have a look.

“Blackpool has been transformed over the last few years - the seafront is testament to that - and some of the visitor attractions have been transformed by investment,” he said.

“it is just about getting people to come and take a fresh look, and I think that’s how we start to change perceptions.

“It’s not going to happen overnight. For starters, there are still issues to resolve - the amount of accommodation we’ve got and how we manage that.

“Then there are documentaries (like Channel 4’s 999: What’s Your Emergency?) and because Blackpool is a big brand, maybe we get an unfair share of people wanting to make that sort of negative programme.

“But they only show an element of what Blackpool is about.

“I genuinely believe that if we bring people here who haven’t been for years, then they will be blown away, or at least pleasantly surprised, by how the resort has progressed and developed.”

I spoke to Welsh at the launch of VisitBlackpool’s 2014 programme of events.

These include the Pride Festival (coinciding with the Pet Shop Boys gig at the Opera House on June 16), the Blackpool Airshow (again being held over two days in August after the success of last year), and Switch-On weekend.

Referring to the latter, Welsh told an audience of local hoteliers: “We are reverting to a free event.”

I ask if that is that an acknowledgement last year was a disaster, when, for the first-time ever, it was made a paid-for event and only a handful of people turned up.

“It is an acknowledgement that we’ve listened to what people said,” replied Welsh.

“And it’s an acknowledgement that Switch-On has always had an appeal to visitors and residents alike, and we just want as many people as possible to enjoy what is a very long-standing tradition in Blackpool.

“As a kid I went to them all. It is one of those things that we need to make as accessible to as many people as we possibly can.”

When Jonathan Ross turned on the lights last year the arena was barely a quarter-full.

“Yes. And it’s easy to have hindsight,” Welsh said. “But what we want to do this year is open it up, a full arena, have good quality entertainment and make the whole weekend something that people talk about positively.”

Welsh, who had worked in journalism for 30 years before joining Blackpool Council’s tourism and regeneration team seven years ago, believes 2014 is going to be crucial.

It’s easy to see what he means.

It is a decade and more since the town had a West End box office hit for a full summer season. But they do this year, with Mamma MIa! playing for 12 weeks at the Opera House from June.

More than £1m worth of tickets have already been sold.

It’s reminiscent of the glory days, when these kind of productions came to Blackpool all the time.

Now it’s a rarity, which is why Welsh is excited and why he says the town must make it a success - to prove it is a major player.

“It is absolutely pivotal,” he said. “It is the return of the big summer show to the Opera House.

“The only other place in the UK that could possibly sustain a 12-week run of such an internationally acclaimed production is probably London and for that reason it is vital we make Mamma Mia! a success.

“If we do, then the opportunities to stage other top class West End shows in future years will be so much greater.

“So this is a vital 12 months and I do think it could be a springboard for us.

“The people who are making an investment in the town, like the producers of Mamma Mia! and like the people behind Illuminasia (the resort’s £3m indoor Illuminations, which open on Good Friday), if they get a good return then they will come back again and it brings further investment.

“Successful attractions breed more investment and it gives you momentum and pace.

“And I do believe that if we can make 2014 work, then it really does put Blackpool in a good position going forward.”

It is now a case of watching what happens.

But Welsh is right. If the resort can’t make a success of a show like Mamma Mia!, which has played to packed houses all over the planet, and in a year when the only place in the UK it is coming to other than London is Blackpool, then one has to wonder whether the town can ever truly move forward again.

That’s for another day though. In the meantime this is about 2014, a year when everyone from Welsh downwards hopes Blackpool can flourish and start to get back to those days when it really was the place to be.

All-new £3million Illuminasia will ake its bow live on the Beeb

The big switch-on of Blackpool’s first new attraction in 25 years will be televised live on primetime BBC One.

Illuminasia, the £3m indoor lights show which opens later this month on Good Friday, will feature on The One Show.

The cameras will be live at Olympia at the Winter Gardens, to capture the moment the lights are switched on.

“We are delighted to have agreed a deal for that,” said John Conway, the man behind Illuminasia.

“It is a tremendous coup for us and the whole of the resort because it is not just Illuminasia they are going to be talking about - it’s our town, they will be talking about Blackpool.”

Conway, speaking at VisitBlackpool’s 2014 launch, described how much effort had gone into making sure Illuminasia lives up to the hype.

“It has created 20 full time jobs, we’ve pumped about £250,000 into the local economy while we’ve been building it, and we’ve even bought 54 Chinese people over for eight weeks to make sure it is really fantastic,” he said.

“These Chinese people are using a skill that has been passed down through the generations, the skill of making these indoor illuminations.

“There is still a lot of work to do before we open in 15 days but it looks great and I think Blackpool will be proud of it.”

Conway says he has had a love affair with the resort since coming to see the Illuminations as a schoolboy in the 1960s.

As a young magician he performed many seasons at South Pier, then became a producer and put on 25-30 summer shows at The Grand and Opera House theatres, featuring comedians like Billy Pearce and Joe Pasquale.

It was while working on a pantomime in China that he visted a city called Zigong and saw a giant lantern show, featuring 42 miles of illumninations.

“It was incredible and straightaway I thought I want to go back to Blackpool and do something like this,” he said.

Helped by Winter Gardens boss Michael Williams and Blackpool Council, he is launching Illuminasia, Blackpool’s very own version of the Chinese indoor lights show.

It will feature six rooms: Chinese Room, Mini-Blackpool (featuring a Google Earth map style model of the resort from 1914), Planetarium, Land of the Giants, The Deep, and World of Wonders.

It has cost £3m to build. All privately funded, hence there will be a charge for visitors to see it.

“It will all be in the Olympia at the Winter Gardens and it is the ideal venue,” said Conway.

“It is a venue that is the size of a football pitch and 58 feet high, so it has enabled us to do so much - including building a 48-foot tall Blackpool Tower.

“There will also be live entertainment and a man walking in every half hour with a laser show attached to his body, the first of its kind.

“I think this is the kind of attraction that is perfect for Blackpool.

“It’s not just a kiss-me-quick attraction - there is a little bit of education and cultural value to it as well. But it is fun, and that’s what Blackpool should be - fun.”

Conway estimates visitors will spend between 45 minutes and an hour-and-a-half at Illuminasia.

It is open every day and the hope is that will remain in the town, says Conway, “for many, many years”.

Tickets priced £10.95 adults (£7.95 children aged 3 to 14, children under 2 get in free) are available from www.illuminasia.co.uk