After they secured a generous and much needed regeneration grant from The Coastal Communities Fund, I was engaged by Blackpool Council in 2016 and set an incredible task – to create something new and exciting to celebrate the internationally famous, 100+ year old tradition of the Blackpool Illuminations.
We set about creating something that would celebrate the resorts unique relationship with light, but in a contemporary way, and from here was born the inaugural LightPool Festival which won the award for Best Tourism Event at the Lancashire Tourism Awards and still continues to run to this day.
The programme commissioned a number of stunning new 3D projection mapping films on The Blackpool Tower by some of the worlds leading producers including Czech production house The Macula. The LightPool projections ran throughout the duration of the entire Illuminations season (September – November) and throughout late October, LightPool Festival exploded on to the streets with six earth shattering nights of spectacular, live, outdoor performance, a neon exhibition, an arts conference and a glittering array of light art installations.
The performance programme included Captain Kronos: Return to Planet Earth by The Kazimier, Les Interventions Mobiles by Commandos Percu, Mr Wilson’s Second Liners, Spark! by Worldbeaters Music, Polar by Compagnie Bilbobasso and LumiDogs the “Crufts meets Light Art meets Cabaret” show hosted by yours truly and starring Lucy Heath and Trip Hazard from Britain’s Got Talent.
The Festival also brought about the largest artist-commissioning programme in the history of Blackpool Illuminations. Over thirty installations were put in place across the town centre creating an illuminated trail of artworks for the public to explore. The trail included works from Yoko Ono, Michael Trainor, Steve Messam, Elisa Artesero, Emma Allen, Mark Titchner, Ron Haselden and Bob and Roberta Smith among many others.
Being a Blackpool boy myself I wanted to embed a highly engaging talent and skills development programme within the festival to continue to inspire our younger generations. Alongside a vast volunteering programme open to all residents of the town, I created a series of engagement workshops for students of Blackpool & Fylde College. The creation of this partnership allowed me to provide the opportunity of working with internationally renowned artists and performance companies to over 200 students from across the institutions Performing Arts courses (Foundation to Degree), in turn gaining them invaluable industry experience and their first professional working credits.
LightPool Festival brought about a change in the mindset of many residents, re-building a much-needed sense of pride and belonging in their hometown. As well as driving tourism (over 60,000 visits), LightPool placed the local community at its heart and asked them to take a moment, a breath and a fresh new look towards what could be possible for a bright new future, not only for Blackpool Illuminations but for the whole town itself.
I will be forever grateful for LightPool and the opportunities it gave me, and I will be forever proud of everything we achieved in 2016.
All photography credits – CJ Griffiths Photography