Blackpool Illuminations is an annual Lights Festival, founded in 1879 and first switched on September 19, that year, held each autumn in the English seaside resort of Blackpool on the Fylde Coast in Lancashire.
Also known locally as The Lights or The Illuminations, they run each year for sixty-six days, from late August until early November at a time when most other English seaside resorts’ seasons are coming to an end. Dubbed as “the greatest free light show on earth”, they are 6 miles (10 km) long and use over one million bulbs. The display stretches along the Promenade from Starr Gate at the south end of the town to Bispham in the north.
In 2013 the Illuminations were meant to shine from August 30 to November 3. However on March 14, 2013 it was announced that they had been extended by a week shining until 10 November making it the first time ever the Illuminations will shine for 73 days. This continued in 2014 when the Illuminations shone from 29 August to 9 November.
The Illuminations first shone in 1879 when they were described as ‘Artificial sunshine’, and consisted of just eight arc lamps which bathed the Promenade. The original event preceded Thomas Edison’s patent of the electric light bulb by twelve months. The first display similar to the modern-day displays was held in May 1912 to mark the first British Royal family visit to Blackpool when Princess Louise opened a new section of the Promenade, Princess Parade. The Promenade was decorated with what was described as “festoons of garland lamps” using about 10,000 light bulbs. The local Chamber of trade as well as other local businesses requested Blackpool Council to stage the event in September of the same year. The subsequent event was such a success that in 1913 the council were again asked to stage the Princess Parade lights as an end of season event. With the outbreak of World War I there were no further displays until 1925 when the lights were again on display and extended to run from Manchester Square to Cocker Square. In 1932 animated tableaux were erected running along the cliffs from North Shore to Bispham, and the Illuminations were extended to its current length running from Starr Gate to Red Bank Road at Bispham. The Illuminations were ready to shine in 1939 but the outbreak of World War II again interrupted the annual display.