Blackpool Illuminations extended by two months to boost tourism

The Blackpool Illuminations will stay lit for an extra two months to boost tourism trade hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The resort's annual switch-on celebration will take place away from the public for the first time in more than 70 years and will be replaced with a closed event filmed inside the Tower Ballroom.

Social distancing restrictions will prevent the usual 20,000-capacity audience gathering on September 4 for the switch-on.

Instead, a streamed hour-long concert hosted by Diversity's Ashley and Jordan Banjo will feature a mixture of pre-recorded clips and live performances in the curtain-raiser for the Illuminations, which will run until January 3, 2021.

Ella Eyre performs at the MTV Blackpool Illuminations Switch on 2018 at Blackpool Pier. Credit: PA

Gillian Campbell, the cabinet member for tourism and culture for Blackpool Council, said: "The annual switch-on event is the biggest night in Blackpool's events calendar. Sadly, it is simply not possible to stage an event of that scale given the current restrictions around social distancing and mass gatherings.

"However, it would be unthinkable not to launch our Blackpool Illuminations season with an extraordinary event. Staging the first ever virtual switch-on concert to a mass audience watching from home does exactly that.

"We are very much aware of how much our tourism businesses are suffering as a result of the pandemic and we hope that by extending the Blackpool Illuminations season by two months, it will give them an opportunity to bring in some additional trade.

"We are planning for a safe, socially-distanced Illuminations experience and will be keeping all Government health guidance under review as we move towards the autumn season."

General view of Blackpool Illuminations at Blackpool Pier. Credit: PA

Ashley Banjo said: "Jordan and I are delighted to be hosting Blackpool's virtual switch-on.

"Blackpool is very much our second home and we cannot wait to return to the resort to host what will be an amazing experience that people will be able to watch, wherever they are."