Illuminations Switch On 2021: Thousands pack the promenade as Illuminations season shines bright again

If there was ever a perfect example of what the 142 year old Blackpool Illuminations means to the people then last night was it.

Saturday, 4th September 2021, 3:19 pm
Updated Saturday, 4th September 2021, 3:20 pm

Whilst dance royalty Shirley Ballas and a host of pop stars marvelled in the glamour of one of the resort's other great jewels - the Tower Ballroom; thousands upon thousands packed out the promenade to watch the return of the world's 'greatest' Lights spectacle.

The return of live music and the Switch On concert with a real life audience was a welcome one - it is part of the showcase that the opening proceedings have become and for the second year running has opened up the event to a world-wide viewing via the MTV and Visit Blackpool digital streams.

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And, watching the smiles and gasps of excitement among the crowd, one Lights worker felt it was mission accomplished for 2021.

“That is what it’s all about,” they said. “It’s out there. That’s the real spectacle.”

The exquisite Shirley Ballas - who celebrates her 61st birthday on Monday - was the ideal choice as Switch On star. She did not just play lip-service to the honour bestowed upon her, she truly got it.

Having been part of the town's fabric since the age of seven and multiple dance title wins under her belt as a world-leading dancer - she paid homage to the hoteliers, the boarding houses, the restaurants to the taxi drivers.

The Wombats pictures Darren Nelson

The Strictly Come Dancing head judge said she was truly 'humbled' at her starring role.

She said: "Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd one day be switching on these iconic lights.

"Strictly got cancelled, my pantomime in Blackpool got cancelled but then this - it's another string to my bow. It's been quite emotional- honestly a dream come true."

There were huge cheers in the Ballroom and a cha cha cha on stage as the lever was pulled for the first time ever in the recently restored ballroom.

Wes Nelson at Blackpool Tower Ballroom for the Illuminations Switch On pictures Darren Nelson

The Wombats frontman Matthew Murphy who put on an energetic display with members Tord Øverland Knudsen and Dan Haggis fresh on the back of headlining Reading Festival said it was great to have that adrenalin rush from live gigs again, he added: "Just to be able to play in this venue is so cool - it's so beautiful."

Their set ended on 'Lets Dance to Joy Division' with a large grey Wombat bouncing around on stage.

He said: "It's all so positive here in Blackpool - I have a lot of good memories.

Shirley Ballas at Blackpool Tower Ballroom Pictures Darren Nelson

"This is a historic event, a national event, everyone knows it - it's huge and I'm honoured to be here."

His performance was a real winner of the night ahead of Ella Henderson, who performed an acoustic set in the round.

The excited 25-year-old said it was 'just the best to see people in real life, in the same room again", before announcing "I love Blackpool."

She played new song 'Take Care of You' before launching into her UK number one hit song 'Ghost' which revellers were only too happy to sing back. The catchy melody echoing across the floor and the balconies.

Head of Blackpool Cluster Merlin Entertainments Group Kate McShane said the event in one of the greatest summer seasons was a 'real icing on the cake.'

"It shows just what Blackpool is all about - no where else has anything like it."

Becca Dudley hosts the MTV led Illuminations show at Blackpool Tower Ballroom Pictures Darren Nelson
Ella Henderson performs an acoustic set at Blackpool Illuminations pictures Darren Nelson