The Blackpool Illuminations first started out way back in 1879 when just 8 electric arc lamps stood along the promenade. They were described as ‘artificial sunshine’ and were revolutionary as light bulbs weren’t even invented until 1878.
132 years on, and about 10 million pounds worth of equipment, Blackpool has become dubbed as the greatest free light show on earth.
Today’s illuminations are a far cry from when they first started out, few people could have predicted that the handful of street lamps along the promenade would eventually become the phenomenon that they are today. More than seventy thousand people visited these 8 street lamps in sheer excitement, as this futuristic vision provided the same amount of light as nearly fifty thousand candles. These first lights however did suffer inevitable problems of new technology, as the electric cables passed through iron pipes which were not waterproof, and so it was necessary to switch the lights off when the tide came in.
The lights didn’t start to really grow until May 1912, which marked the first royal family visit to Blackpool where Princess Louise opened a new part of the promenade. The new section was decorated with 10,000 light bulbs – the first display that was similar to the modern day illuminations. Huge numbers of visitors were drawn to the spectacle and boosted trade with local businesses. It was requested that the lights were staged again in September that year when holiday season was traditionally finished, bringing thousands of people to the resort. It was such a success that in 1913 the council were asked again to stage the ‘Princess Parade Lights’ at the end of the holiday season.
The lights did not shine again until 1925 due to the outbreak of war, but they had become much grander than before. With a giant vivid display of animated lights stretching nearly six miles, people flocked in their thousands to see this spectacular display. The Second World War also halted the illuminations, but they were switched back on in 1949. The lights were continuously added to throughout the twentieth century with new features each year, slowly becoming more unrecognisable from those first 8 arc lamps that bathed the promenade.
Nowadays every type of lighting you could imagine is on display, searchlights, spotlights, lasers, fibre optics, neon, floodlights, illuminated tableaux, scenic designs and illuminated trams. Altogether it takes 65,000 staff hours to maintain, prepare, erect, operate, and dismantle the features and fixings. The total cost of setting up these fantastic lights each year is around two and a half million pounds, but this is nothing compared to the three hundred million pounds spent by the three and a half million visitors each year.
Every year to mark the turning on of the lights there is the Blackpool Illuminations Switch on Ceremony, one of the biggest nights in the UK tourism calendar. Famous celebrities are invited to switch on the lights, and a great evening is made out of it, with live coverage from BBC radio two and entertainment from performing artists to enjoy the start of the sixty six night spectacle.
Undoubtedly one of the best ways to experience the Blackpool lights is to travel by coach, you do not have to worry about driving and dodging the traffic, so you can fully appreciate the wonder that is the illumination. You are also much higher up than normal traffic so cars and other small vehicles do not obstruct your view, and with the long windows on the coach you have a total panoramic view of the stretch of the lights.
Many coach operators do trips to the Blackpool lights, and also include extra excursions to see other attractions in and around Blackpool, definitely something that is not to be missed this autumn!
Here are some coach holidays to Blackpool and the Illuminations:
For further details click on the links above or call our friendly reservations team on 0845 330 3747.
Please Note: Pickups for each tour vary, please ask for further details in your enquiry or when you speak to a member of the reservations team.