Memory Lane: The honour of switching on Blackpool Illuminations

Who will perform the enviable task of switching on the lights for the first night of the Blackpool Illumination season, is a highly anticipated announcement. And it’s one which has seen a string of famous faces excited to perform the honours in the resort.

Friday, 30th August 2019, 1:30 pm
The crowds gather to watch Gracie Fields switch on the lights in 1964

The very first recorded switch on was in 1934 when Lord Derby officially turned on the lights. And since then there has been many household names in Blackpool to switch on the illuminations. From Gracie Fields and Jayne Mansfield to George Formby and Reginald Dixon, and then Lisa Stansfield, Geri Halliwell, Robbie Williams and Westlife in more recent years, the big names have always pulled in the crowds.

As the crowds pour in to see tonight’s switch on ceremony, Memory Lane looks at some of the faces who have helped to light up the promenade over the years.

Coronation Street's Doris Speed, who played landlady Annie Walker, pulled the lever for the 1983 switch on

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It was the turn of the Doctor in 1975 as Tom Baker performed the switch-on ceremony
Puppet Master Jim Henson had the crowds and Kermit the Frog in his hands when the famous TV characters switched on the illuminatiions in 1979. Unseen by all but the platform party, Henson masterminded and played out a loosely-scripted scenario with colleague Frank Oz from the rear of a mini stage.
The Duke of Kent's last ceremony on his Blackpool visit in 1937 was to switch on the lights
Joanna Lumley insisted that instead of a traditional gift by way of thank you for switching on Blackpool Illumuinations, the money earmarked went to Children in Need in 1985
The dazzling Jayne Mansfield almost outshone the lights for the 1959 switch-on
'Would Blackpool be Blackpool without Ken Dodd and switched on tickling stick?' said the caption under this photo from 1982
Wendy Craig switches on the lights in 1974 under rainy skies