Hoteliers today welcomed a decision to return the Illuminations Switch-On to a free event – providing it does not reduce the impact of the Lights curtain-raiser.
Blackpool Council, which has taken the running of the ceremony back in-house following last year’s financial losses, has announced there will be no charge to attend this year’s concert on the Tower Festival Headland.
Coun Graham Cain, cabinet member for tourism, also said the Switch-On would once more be shown on screens on other parts of the Promenade, and would be part of a weekend-long festival.
Hoteliers today said there needs to be a good quality line-up at the event.
Claire Smith, president of StayBlackpool, said; “I would have been happy for there to be a nominal fee and I hope making it free isn’t to the detriment of the quality of the event.
“Big names bring in publicity and we need the world to know the Illuminations are being switched on and will be on for three months.
“But if the council can bring in big sponsors to help with the costs, that will be good.” Last year Marketing Blackpool, which has since been scrapped, was criticised after it suffered losses of £372,109 when headline act The Script pulled out at the last minute.
People had paid £34 for a ticket to the show which still went ahead after Take That star Gary Barlow stepped in.
Shirley Hunt, of the Friends of the Illuminations, said: “It is good for the people of Blackpool that the ceremony is going to be free, but it does cost money to stage the Switch-On and I would not like the Illuminations themselves to suffer.
“I’m pleased they are going to have the screens on the Promenade again.”
Corrie Norris, of the Sea Breeze, on Gynn Avenue, who is a Friends of the Illuminations ambassador, said: “Although I didn’t agree with the £34 cost last year, I think there should be some charge for people coming from out of town, but not for locals.
“As a town, it does cost money to put on the Switch-On.”
Mick Grewcock, of the Queens Mansions in Bispham, also said he would have supported a nominal fee.
He said; “Everyone realises it was too expensive last year, but the council’s budget is being massively cut and I don’t think it’s the time not to charge anything.
“I think we could have charged £5 entry and people would have been happy to pay that.
“There are no free lunches any more and I wouldn’t like to see the Switch-On ceremony become a financial burden on the actual Illuminations themselves.”
But Coun Cain said the costs of staging the event would be off-set by sponsorship and media deals.
He said: “There is a cost involved in staging the Switch-On and we are looking to off-set that by bringing in sponsorship and working with other partners, and I am confident we can do that.
“I believe going back to a free event is the right thing to do and I have listened to what people have said and had umpteen meetings.
“It is one of our flagship events and it is about restoring people’s confidence.
“There will also be activities on the Saturday and Sunday, and we want to create a real buzz in the town over that weekend.”
It costs the council around £150,000 to stage the Switch On ceremony.