United Kingdom

Magical show lights up lives

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 December, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 December, 2003, 12:00am

Lighting up the town means exactly what says in Blackpool, the number one seaside holiday resort in the northwest of England. For more than 200 years, Blackpool has worked hard to become the UK's most famous holiday town with its beaches, entertainment spots and theme parks. Every year thousands of tourists flock to Blackpool with one intention. They want to have a good time and they know that Blackpool will give them exactly what they are looking for.

But as the long summer days slip into autumn and tourist arrivals drop, Blackpool suddenly reinvents itself by switching on an amazing display of lights known all over the world as Blackpool Illuminations. From the end of August until the beginning of November, tourists flock back to Blackpool just to see the illuminations. Each year more than 3.5 million visitors drive, walk or take a tram along the sea-front promenade to marvel at the spectacular light display. This is Britain's most brilliant light show and it does not cost a penny to enjoy.

It all started back in 1879, when Blackpool became the first town in England to get electric street lighting. Visitors from other towns actually travelled to Blackpool just to see the eight arc lamps that lit a stretch of the promenade with artificial sunshine.

In 1912, the town had an important visit from a member of the British royal family and, as part of the civic celebrations, a stretch of the seafront was decorated with garlands of coloured electric lamps. More than 10,000 light bulbs were used and the results were so extraordinary that the city council decided to repeat the free light display in September the following year.

The holiday season usually ended in Blackpool in September when the weather deteriorated and the new light display was seen as a way of getting tourists back into the town for another few weeks.

The public response to the illuminations was astonishing, but Blackpool's light show was soon brought to an abrupt end when the First World War broke out in 1914. The illuminations were back bigger and better in 1925 with lights festooned along the seafront and tourists swarmed to Blackpool to see the show. It was obvious that the Blackpool Illuminations were a popular visitor attraction and the town council decided to stage them annually from then on.

In 1932 animated tableaux (scenes from history or legend) were added to the light show and the length of the display was extended along the seafront promenade to its present length - just under 10 kilometres. The Second World War blacked out the illuminations until 1949 when the lights were lit again with great celebrations.

The scale and wonder of Blackpool Illuminations has grown year by year and each autumn a world-famous celebrity is chosen to switch on the lights. The figures behind the 2003 illuminations are mind-boggling.

More than a million bulbs were used to light up 80 kilometres and along the way there were 500 individual designs and 40 dramatic tableaux. Spotlights lit up buildings and displays along the Blackpool sea-front and the whole show cost #2.5 million (HK$33.5 million).

There is no doubt that tourists from all over the world don't like being left in the dark when the Blackpool Illuminations are lighting up the sky. It is a magical show that lights up many lives.


1. Besides its obvious meaning, the phrase 'to light up the town' means ...

a. to go out and really enjoy yourself.

b. to spend a day shopping in town.

2. Which town in England was the first to get electric street lighting?

3. Where is the seaside resort of Blackpool?

4. What are the Blackpool Illuminations?

5. At what time of year are the illuminations staged?

6. The illuminations cover what distance of the sea-front promenade in Blackpool?

7. How many light bulbs are used in the show?

8. Who turns on the lights each year?

9. When do the illuminations end?

10. How much do the illuminations cost to stage and how much do tourists pay to see them?


1. a

2. Blackpool was the first English town to use electric street lighting.

3. It is on the northwest coast of England.

4. The illuminations are a big annual light show.

5. They are switched on usually at the end of August.

6. The light show covers a distance of almost 10 kilometres.

7. More than a million light bulbs are used in the show.

8. Each year someone famous turns on the lights.

9. The illuminations end at the beginning of November.

10. The illuminations cost #2.5 million to put on but tourists pay nothing to see them.