DeLight in the Pool 2016

Spark! Drummers

Artists are set to re-invigorate Blackpool Illuminations through a new festival of light; LightPool which runs Friday 28 October – Wednesday 2 November 2016. We met up with Festival Producer Mykey Young who told us about the exciting plans for this year’s illuminations.

Blackpool are now part of Light up the North which is a network of outdoor light festivals across the North of England and this is of huge importance because it means the town can be more ambitious with creative commissions and attracting exciting artists from all over the world into the town. Mykey hopes that this year’s LightPool Festival will be an important moment in the history of the illuminations. He says:

Light Shelter (by Jack Boniface)
Light Shelter (by Jack Boniface)

“It’s not about forgetting the past, our heritage is so important – after all we were the first place in the world to have outdoor lighting with those first eight arc lamps on the promenade 137 years ago and now there’s over 1,000,000 lamps in the illuminations. For me, it’s amazing that all these other places around the world are having brilliant, modern light festivals and Blackpool has never had one. We tested the water a little last year with our Brilliance on Birley St programme and it was really popular and so our hope for LightPool this year is about connecting with more local residents and also about encouraging some of those 3.5 million visitors to get out of their cars and experience everything that Blackpool has to offer.”

The six-night LightPool Festival programme sees local, regional, national and international artists come together using installations, performances and community activity to literally throw new light on some usually unexplored places as well as iconic buildings around the town. Along with a spectacular walking route forming an illuminated trail around the town centre using a specially designed map, each night a spectacular programme of lives performances will take place on St John’s Square. The whole festival is free to attend and accessible for all and will celebrate Blackpool’s unique relationship with light. Highlights include:

A new commission Art Is Your Human Right by Bob and Roberta Smith, which sees illuminated words around the town centre including the Council Office, The Grundy and Clifton Street.  Bob and Roberta Smith will also convene a public discussion on the power of art to drive social change on Friday 28 October.

Cie Bilbobasso Polar
Cie Bilbobasso Polar

French Compagnie Bilbobasso will perform Polar; an explosive fable of fire and tango.

When the Red Rose from Steve Messam, a new series of temporary installations taking the county’s historic symbol and by a twist of language creating something new and surprising.

Ron Haselden’s Brothers and Sisters – 34 light drawings, including three works created with young people in Blackpool, will appear in windows of the former Ocean Hotel on North Promenade. The building has recently been purchased by local arts organisation LeftCoast with plans to convert it into an Art Bed and Breakfast (AB&B).

UK premiere of Santiago by Emma Allen, an animated self-portrait combining body-painting and light to explore the human evolution from past to future, as well as a new commission for Lightpool called Light Lessons.

Performances and installations premiered at Burning Man Festival 2016, including The Musical Periscope an immersive installation by Yuli Levtov and a performance from The FireWorks Collective, the troupe which represents the UK fire performance community in the Nevada desert, USA, each year.

Spark! Drummers
Spark! Drummers Courtesy CJGriffiths 

We welcome back Spark! by Worldbeaters Music who conclude the festival with an LED drumming spectacular, featuring a bespoke new section of the show created with students from Blackpool & Fylde College and accompanied by pyrotechnic virtuosos pa-Boom.

LumiDogs – illuminated costume-making workshops for dogs run by local creatives Aunty Social will culminate in a mass illuminated dog walk around LightPool Festival’s new art trail. “Bark by pup’lar demandsince LeftCoast invented the concept back in 2014 this is for local residents to get involved with; if you’re interested visit the LumiDogs Facebook Page.

The LightPool programme also includes a fantastic new exhibition at Grundy Art Gallery  Neon: The Charged Line, which brings together some of the most internationally renowned neon artworks from the 1960s to the present day.

LightPool Festival builds on the successes of the LightPool projections on Blackpool Tower launched in 2015.  Visitors this year can enjoy three new 3-D projection shows including Chasing Stars by The Projection Studio, introduced by Tim Peake and based on the pioneering work of European Space Agency, Down the Rabbit Hole by Czech digital art collective The Macula, and Enchanted Blackpool, created by film-maker Cecile Llewelyn-Bowen, using designs by her father Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. All three of the films, along with two shows from last year, will be available to watch for free from the Comedy Carpet several times every night during the illuminations, with extra performances at weekends and over the October half term.

Organisers hope that visitors will also visit the new LightPool Village on the comedy carpet as all profits from sales of food, drink and official illuminations merchandise will go back into the illuminations.

Mykey says: “I was born and grew up here, I absolutely love this town and know that there’s a lot of passion from local residents to share how brilliant Blackpool is with the rest of the world. We’re the experts in light, anyone who lives here knows how important great lighting can be, that what we do with light can change how we see things, can help us to tell a new story. I really hope local people will get involved in the festival and help us set the future of the illuminations together.”

If you’re interested in volunteering for LightPool Festival then email [email protected].

For more details on this year’s LightPool, go to the Visit Blackpool website. Blackpool Illuminations light up until Sunday 6 November 2016.

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    Melanie Whitehead is the Creative Director of The Old Electric, Blackpool's newest theatre. She previously worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre.

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