“Can we go and see the lights?” Generations of families have grown up cherishing a visit to the Blackpool Illuminations, the fabulous fantasy light show that’s been an annual fixture for a century now at the end of each summer season. The big end-of-August switch-on is all part of the tradition, with a 20,000-strong crowd, plus famous faces and a full roster of entertainment taking place on the Tower Festival Headland on the opening night, and then, for a very specific 73 nights – cleverly extending Blackpool’s holiday season well into autumn.
It’s all about the million or more electric lamps strung into dazzling, kaleidoscopic pictures, celebrity characters, animals, star patterns and theatrical tableaux along six miles of the prom.
They come on at dusk every day, and stay on until late at night, drawing over three million visitors a year, whether it’s for old favourites like the Haunted House or Teddy Bears’ Picnic or for new-style attractions, from urban street-art lights to mesmeric strobe displays.
There’s a serious amount of dedicated work behind the lights – Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen is a regular consultant designer, assisted by an army of electricians and engineers – but there’s still an innocence here that’s hard to beat. Strolling or driving the Golden Mile – or even biking it on the annual Ride the Lights event – you’re part of one of the UK’s greatest free shows, with a tradition that stretches back to the glory days of Edwardian Blackpool.