Showbiz royalty Dame Barbara Windsor will be the guest of honour at this year’s Illuminations Switch-On ceremony.
The queen of British soaps and star of dozens of films and on-stage shows will pull the famous switch in front of 20,000 people as part of a spectacular finale to the Switch-On party on Friday September 2.
The Carry On and Eastenders star, 79, said: “Some people say ‘we want this, we want that’ and I say ‘oh, I’d love to switch on the Lights in Blackpool’.
“I just feel a great love for it and I’m so, so thrilled to be doing it, I cannot tell you, I’m just over the moon”.
For Dame Barbara the event marks an emotional return to the town to which she was evacuated from Shoreditch, London, during the Second World War and where she subsequently returned to star in two summer season shows at the North Pier Theatre and the Grand Theatre.
Dame Barbara said: “It was such a time in my life, when I was evacuated there.
“When we got bombed out, I went from the East End to Blackpool and the family I stayed with were the people who sent me to dancing school, to keep me off the streets.
“The two seasons I went there I was thrilled to go back.
“We had a wonderful time and we did very well. I loved the one with Bernard Bresslaw and with Jack Smethurst and it hadn’t changed.
“So that’s always been part of me – part of my heart.”
Barbara performed in The Mating Game at the Grand Theatre in 1981 and Wot a Carry On in Blackpool! in 1992.
Coincidentally, she follows in the footsteps of last year’s Switch-On celebrity, Hollywood film director Tim Burton, who cast her in the role as voice of The Dormouse in his 3D feature film and box office hit of “Alice in Wonderland” and more recently the sequel “Through the Looking Glass reprising her role.
Dame Barbara, who played out her dramatic final scenes in Eastenders just a few weeks ago, will be joined on stage at the Switch-On finale by Ashley Banjo, members of Diversity and stars of the Nickelodeon SLIMEFEST event which takes place over weekend and features the likes of Alesha Dixon, Conor Maynard and Aston Merrygold of chart-topping band JLS.
All wristbands for the Friday night extravaganza have now been sent out to the lucky thousands.
Coun Gillian Campbell, Deputy Leader of Blackpool Council said: “Dame Barbara is one of the biggest and most enduring personalities in show business and we are delighted she is coming back to the home of entertainment to switch on the Illuminations.
“Like so many British people she has an emotional connection with Blackpool as a place that creates memories that last a lifetime.
“We now have a Switch-On party like never before - with a showbiz legend, the creative genius of Ashley Banjo, guest appearances by stars of SLIMEFEST and a fantastic programme of musical entertainment for all ages.”
The Friday night Switch-On line-up will feature The Vamps, Diversity, Fleur East, Fatman Scoop Club MTV and recently announced DJ Fresh and Imani.
It will start with a “Blackpool Introduces” showcase featuring the best of talent from local venues including Verity Kinnon, James Edgar and Axi Wild, prior to the start of the main show.
The line-up will also include Blackpool’s own Stacey McClean, formerly of spin-off band S Club 8 and special sets by Club MTV.
The SLIMEFEST concerts at the Empress Ballroom are part of the Blackpool Illuminations Switch-On weekend.
In addition to the two ticketed identical live shows, SLIMEFEST also features a free outdoor experience including character appearances and family activities on the Tower Festival Headland on both Saturday and Sunday September 3 and 4.
Ticket prices for the live Nickelodeon SLIMEFEST shows begin at £18.75.
Additional ticket packages include a guaranteed space at the Switch-On celebration night, admittance to Blackpool Pleasure Beach and to Nickelodeon Land.
Full ticket details are available on Ticketmaster http://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/ More information on SLIMEFEST is available at http://www.nick.co.uk/festival/slimefest/urviwz