Posted on: Monday 14th August 2023

It’s almost the Illuminations season here in Blackpool, and everyone is gearing up for the grand switch-on ceremony, which this year features a colourful float parade featuring the stars of the children’s TV channel Nickelodeon, fireworks, live performances, and a fantastic light show!


This year, the lights will be switched on by none other than the Kitchen Disco Diva herself, Sophie Ellis-Bextor.


The Nickelodeon Grand Parade


The big day is Friday, 1 September, and the entertainment begins with the Nickelodeon Grand Parade, starting at Central Pier and working its way north up the Promenade to the Tower Festival Headland, passing right by Coral Island.


The larger-than-life floats include all your favourite Nickelodeon characters, such as SpongeBob SquarePants and his friends, the pups of PAW Patrol, Baby Shark, Transformers, and Monsters High, all accompanied along the seafront by 100 dancers, musicians, and street performers - all guaranteed to be an unforgettable sight!


Sophie Ellis-Bextor


At the Tower Festival Headland, there will be a free family party, complete with live entertainment and music, all of which lead up to the big celebrity switch-on, this year to be done by Sophie Ellis-Bextor!


Pop star and DJ Sophie has eight studio albums to her name, after first finding fame as the vocalist on the number-one single Groovejet by Spiller, following that with massive hits such as Murder On The Dancefloor.


Her first album, Read My Lips, sold over two million copies, and her latest and eighth album HANA has already debuted in the UK album top ten, with over a million streams within a few weeks of its release.


In 2020, during the lockdown, Sophie launched her phenomenally successful Kitchen Discos from her home with her five sons and husband Richard Jones, which she launched on Instagram, and was watched by 40 million people all around the world!


The success of the live-streamed shows landed Sophie a regular show on BBC Radio 2, and her first live album, Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Kitchen Disco: Live From The London Palladium. In 2021, she went on to raise more than £1 million for Children In Need with her 24-hour Kitchen Disco Danceathon, and she will be taking her Christmas Kitchen Disco live show on tour around the UK this winter.


Sophie said: “I’m so excited to be coming back to Blackpool to perform a few of my favourite tracks and to switch on the iconic Blackpool Illuminations! I can’t wait to see you all there!”


Cllr Lynn Williams, Leader of Blackpool Council, said: “We are thrilled to announce Sophie Ellis-Bextor as this year’s Switch-On star.


“She is a pop phenomenon with a fabulous recording career and someone who captured the hearts of the public during lockdown. We can’t wait to see her light up Blackpool.”


The whole event will start to build up around 7 pm, with the float parade due to set off around 7.30 pm. And the even better news? The whole event is ABSOLUTELY FREE!


Blackpool Illuminations


When Sophie flicks the switch, she’ll be lighting up Blackpool with over a million lightbulbs stretching 6 miles up the Fylde coast and includes traditional festoons, tableaux and interactive features.


The greatest free light show on the planet starts on 1 September and runs all the way to the end of the year, so even if you can’t make it to the big celebrity switch-on ceremony, there’s plenty of time to make a trip to see the lights!


There are a number of new additions to the Illuminations this year too, including two amazing new tableaux designed by internationally renowned artists Dr Chila Kumari Singh Burman, MBE and Bruce Alfred, and built by the Illuminations’ in-house team based at the Lightworks manufacturing facility in Blackpool


Dr Burman, from Merseyside, has previously produced installations for the Tate Gallery and Covent Garden, as well as one called Blackpool, Light Of My Life for the Grundy Art Gallery in Blackpool. This year, she has produced a 26-metre-wide tableau called Lollies In Love With Light, an incredible kaleidoscopic celebration of Blackpool.


It features 760 metres of LED neon lighting surrounding a technicolour ice cream van, inspired by her parents’ ice cream business. It doesn’t get much more Blackpool than an ice cream by the seaside!


Bruce Alfred, from Canada, is a specialist in Native American art, and he has produced a mesmerising design based around eagles and Orca whales, and it will be the first Illuminations displays to be designed by a North American artist, as well as one of the first to be developed using 3D printing technology.


The tableau will incorporate more than 13,000 programmable LED bulbs and is the first of a new series of tableaux called Light Around The World which will celebrate a variety of international cultures.


Also new to 2023’s Illuminations is a brand-new design for Spitfire Island, sponsored by Airfix and developed in collaboration with designer and Illuminations curator Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. It features replicas of three Spitfire aircraft - Progress I, II and III - which were all funded by the residents of Blackpool during World War Two.


But that’s not all! You can take a trip down memory lane for a nostalgic journey into the history of Blackpool in another new section of the Illuminations called Iconic Blackpool, which features a selection of posters dating back to the 1920s, and an ode to the rich history of the seaside town.


Also produced by Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen was a brand new Art-Deco section, which debuted in 2022 and was one of the largest roadway sections ever built. This year, the Golden Mile Remixed section has been seamlessly linked with the iconic Blackpool Tower, creating a synchronised symphony of light.


Visitors can now capture their Blackpool Illuminations visit with a special experience in front of the tower, with a dazzling Hollywood-style Blackpool sign, made using Cabochon lamps and spanning 9 metres in length, for the ultimate selfie for Instagram!


The Spiro Light Tunnel is an immersive installation with a walk-through tunnel 26 metres in length and returns this year by popular demand. The illuminated tunnel is made up of individually mapped LEDs that display intricate patterns, and it returns to the promenade this year with brand-new lighting.


Plan Your Trip


Of course, it is expected to be very busy at the big opening ceremony and switch-on, so please plan ahead if you want to beat the crowds and the traffic.


Coral Island, right on the Promenade, is just a short walk from the Tower Festival Headland, and it’s always lit up like Blackpool Illuminations here! So whether you’re avoiding the crowds or the rain, you can always come and visit the largest free-admission attraction in town, without ever being too far from all the Illuminations switch-on action!


There are games and rides for people of all ages, crane grabbers full of the latest plushies and soft toys, ticket games galore, the biggest and best prize shop in Blackpool, traditional seaside amusements, and the latest video arcade games.


And don’t forget that Kids Eat Free all day, every day at Coral Island. Children aged under 10 can receive a free kids’ meal with each paid adult meal, making Coral Island a budget-beating day out whatever the occasion!


So start planning your trip to the Illuminations this autumn and winter today, and we’ll be ready to greet your happy, smiling faces!

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