LLB’s lighting up the town

Interior designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen at the Lights depot.
Interior designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen at the Lights depot.
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Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen talks about his role in the Lights and hopes for Blackpool’s bright future.

Apart from his familiar smile and trademark lounge lizard look, the main thing that strikes you about Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen is just how much he loves Blackpool.

I mean, really loves it. A genuine love, which has seen him involved with the Illuminations for the last five years.

And as this year is the centenary of the Blackpool Lights - and he is about to unveil his next masterpiece, no doubt with his usual flourish - the flamboyant dad-of-two can’t hide his excitement.

He chats away enthusiastically about how much he is enjoying working on the project, although remains tight-lipped over what the final product will look like.

“We’ve been working on the 2012 Illuminations for about two years really, because it’s such an important year for us.

“There has been an enormous refurbishment of the Illuminations over that time. One of the problems was the fact a lot of the Illuminations were built 20 or 30 years ago, before the kind of materials we have available now existed.

“Some were very high maintenance installations and not designed to last longer than about three or four years.

“The Illuminations is an extra-ordinary institution. Some are real icons of Blackpool. To me, the Illuminations is something very emotive.

“We will be unveiling something for the centenary which I think will be amazing.”

Laurence - or The Turn as he is dubbed by Lightworks director Richard Ryan - started his love affair with the resort back in the mid-80s when designing the floor in the Winter Gardens.

It continued during the 90s while filming the show which thrust him into the limelight, Changing Rooms.

And has been somewhat re-ignited since he became involved with working on the Illuminations.

The work - he is now Blackpool Lights creative director for a pittance from public sector funds - sees him spending a lot of time in the town, which he proclaims “the capital of fun.”

He loves it so much, he has even made sure his fondness for all things Blackpool has been passed on to his children.

“I am fascinated by Blackpool - I always have been.

“When you look at the archives, the legacy of Blackpool is amazing. All the influence it has had over places like the Disney. Seaside resorts would be very dull without Blackpool.

“I think the last two decades of the 20th century were extremely hard on Blackpool. It lost self-esteem and surrendered itself to stag and hen parties.

“But 21st-century Blackpool is very much fighting back.

“There is nothing else in the world which compares to standing on Blackpool Promenade, eating fish and chips with the Illuminations in the background.

“Part of the thing is so many people have childhood memories of Blackpool. It’s a place designed to make people smile, to make them feel at home as possible, a place to amaze people.

“Blackpool was somewhere I went on holiday and my own children have experienced that too. It means they have a much broader picture of life.

“If you look at Blackpool now, it’s a completely different place from five years ago - with the developments, new Promenade, Comedy Carpet. You can just sense the optimism.”