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Blackpool Illuminations: acts announced for 100th Switch-On

Little Mix, headlining at this year's Switch-On Photo: Marketing Blackpool

It is now 100 years since Blackpool Council first had the bright idea of staging an autumn light display. It was a simple way of extending the tourist season and was such a success that it became an annual event. In the century since, the Illuminations might easily have been outshone by the light displays that have cropped up in virtually every city centre. But thanks to 6 miles of ever-more outlandish designs (including one memorable display featuring a certain Tony Morris and Lucy Meacock), the Illuminations' popularity has endured.

And a century on, around three million people a year brave the traditional British weather to come and see the world-famous display.

An increasingly big event in the Blackpool calendar is the Switch-On itself. It is now a party for 20,000 people, graced by some of music's big names: Little Mix, Lemar and Amy MacDonald are coming this year, and Robbie Williams came in 2010. The official Illuminations lighter-upper of 2012 has yet to be announced, but whoever it is will join an illustrious group that includes a former Duke of Kent, Red Rum, Shirley Bassey and The Stig. Such stars have helped maintain the high profile of a display that costs £2.4 million to stage.

With the rise of cheap air travel, Blackpool is locked in a constant battle with Europe's sunnier resorts. The Illuminations, like its Tower and trams, give the town its unique character. Blackpool Council credits the lights with adding £275 million to the town's economy since their birth; apparently the distraction is working.