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Review: Visit Blackpool’s Season Launch

It was another busy one, literally standing room only as Visit Blackpool showcased what is upcoming for the resort’s season. An odd choice of soundtrack of Leonard Coen played as the huge crowd of people filled the newly refurbished Durham Lounge in The Winter Gardens. I managed to sneak a complimentary Danish and cup of tea past the security and I grabbed one of the last chairs.  So, pastry filled, I settled down to the unveiling of events designed to bring the tourists into the town.

Councillor Graham Cain kicked us off, informing us that it is English Tourism Week and that Blackpool is high in the order yet again. Teasing us with a promise of a sneak peek at Illuminasia, the latest attraction to Blackpool, he went on to give a brief overview of the day’s events and to stress the importance that the season-long booking of Mamma Mia should succeed in bringing on a tide of West End shows to the town.
Philip Welsh was up next with a message that we should all be working to “change the perception” of the town.  Turning the negatives into positives seems to be key in most of the events I have attended, the driving message to us as residents and businesses. Stressing that Blackpool should be celebrating the “heady unique mix of heritage and modern attractions”.

The old Blackpool adage of ‘win over the landladies and you are 99% of the way to success’ was very much evident at the launch.  With promises of free tickets and deals to the attractions and shows duly given we were then shown a slightly overlong preview film of Mamma Mia.  The day felt a little weighted towards The Winter Gardens as shows at The Grand or theatres on the piers were not mentioned at all.

Other events touched on briefly were:

  • Pride Festival – a big one this year with The Pet Shop Boys playing the opening night
  • Armed Forces Week
  • The ever popular World Firework Competition
  • The now two day Air Show – the Red Arrows are back again, always a pleasure to see
  • The free once more Illuminations switch on – lessons learned from last year’s troubled switch on duly learned
  • Oddly the Young Farmers’ cCnference is mentioned, with its four or so thousand visitors
  • Labour are back in Blackpool for their conference as well – all good news to the hoteliers

Jon Conway, producer of Illuminasia, bounded to the stage to enthuse, with good reason, about the new indoor Illuminations attraction. It sounds brilliant. All the ‘Bs’ are represented: ‘big’, ‘bold’ and ‘brash’. Six different arenas on offer will transport visitors to the depths of the sea and around the world via giant scale gardens, all created from tons of iron and hundreds of thousands of light bulbs.  The promised preview fast became the focus of the day. And after a brief thanks to all involved we all filed out to get the first glimpse of the wonders created in the Olympia space.

If Blackpool needed the wow factor, Illuminasia certainly delivers. Even the still-under-construction, fully lit attraction is staggering in scale and it drew a constant stream of gasps from the hundreds gathered to see it. A giant sphinx stands next to The Statue of Liberty opposite a 45 foot high Blackpool Tower.  There are so many things jostling for attention. When finished and illuminated as planned it will be a world class place to visit for tourists and residents alike. I can’t wait to go when it opens in a few weeks’ time.

So, weighed down with bags of flyers and the odd free tickets I came away from the day’s event with a slightly Winter Gardens-based overview of the upcoming season’s attractions.  Something for everyone is promised.  The sneaky preview of Illuminasia alone ticks this aim. An interesting and entertaining year beckons for Blackpool I feel.  Keep reading altblackpool to see if Blackpool can deliver over the next twelve months.

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