Virtual switch on for Blackpool's Illuminations as annual display is set to be extended for two months

Blackpool’s annual Illuminations display is to be extended by two months to provide an invaluable boost to the resort’s tourism season.

By Simon Drury
Thursday, 18th June 2020, 9:00 am
Updated Thursday, 18th June 2020, 10:36 am
There will be a virtual switch-on for The Illuminations
There will be a virtual switch-on for The Illuminations

Blackpool’s annual Illuminations display is to be extended by two months to provide an invaluable boost to the resort’s tourism season.

VisitBlackpool has also revealed that the traditional Switch-On concert will be replaced this year by a free-to-access streamed event in association with MTV.

The annual Switch-On concert was scheduled to take place on the night of Friday 4 September on the Tower Festival Headland in front of a 20,000 capacity audience.

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However, the social distancing restrictions arising from COVID-19 means it cannot go ahead in its usual format.

It will be the first time in more than 70 years that the resort has been unable to hold a live Switch-On celebration – but also the first time that a Switch-On event has been accessible to a national and international audience.

The streamed hour-long concert, which will feature a mixture of exclusive pre-recorded, at-home performances, as well as live performances at a closed event, filmed inside the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, acting as the curtain-raiser for the extended Blackpool Illuminations season, which will now run from September 4 to January 3, 2021.

It will be hosted by Diversity’s Ashley and Jordan Banjo, and will feature a star-studded line-up of talent, leading up to the all-important Switch-On moment.

Coun Gillian Campbell, Cabinet Member for Tourism & 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.”

Virginia Monaghan, Vice President, Events and Experiences, ViacomCBS Networks International commented: “We are delighted that MTV will help launch the first live virtual Blackpool Illuminations Switch–On celebration. While we may not be able to go ahead with the event as originally planned, we are incredibly excited to now be able to bring this fantastic night of entertainment for audiences to enjoy at home!”

Ashley Banjo, who has helped choreograph and performed with Diversity at live Switch-On events over the past four years, 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.”

Details of the Switch-On concert line-up will be revealed in the coming weeks, along with details of how you can view the streamed event, plus a sneak preview of the new features in the 2020 Illuminations display.