Racist 'Red Indian' lights will not return to Blackpool Illuminations

A 'Red Indian' lights display which drew criticism from Native Americans for its use of racist imagery will not return to the Promenade for this year’s famous Illuminations.

By Wes Holmes
Thursday, 16th June 2022, 3:45 pm

The sixty-year-old tableau, which was located north of Blackpool Promenade near the junction of Cavendish Road, Bispham, depicted six axe-wielding Native Americans in war bonnets dancing around a totem pole.

In September 2021, Blackpool Council received a complaint from a member of the Chickasaw Nation, who said: “Caricatures such as these reinforce racial stereotypes of Native Americans as being primitive people who have no place in modern society.”

He added: “Showing - let alone promoting - such illuminations also does little to promote Blackpool as a welcoming community. Instead, it paints Blackpool as a community that supports racism and discrimination.

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Picture by Dan Martino

"Worse still, these illuminations are seen by hundreds of thousands of people each year, which means that they spread stereotypes to other communities in the UK and beyond.

“I would not expect such an exhibit to stand if it contained caricatures of Black, Asian or other peoples of colour; nor should it stand if it contains caricatures of the first peoples of the United States and Canada.”

At the time, a council spokesman said the lights were ‘were designed and created many years ago and intended to be a celebration of different cultures’.

Picture by Dan Martino

In February, a VisitBlackpool spokesman told The Gazette that a decision would be made as to the future of the offending tableau following talks with representatives from the native American network.

Now, they have announced that the ‘Red Indians’ will not return to this year’s Illuminations, which will be switched on on September 2, bathing the seafront in rainbow-coloured lights until January 2.

Instead, a replacement display will be made for the 2023 season.

They said: “We are re-imagining the tableau for the 2023 Illuminations season with input from representatives of the native American network. We are looking to produce a new design that will celebrate indigenous culture. The current tableau will be rested for this season to enable that work to be undertaken.”