Virtual Switch-On Blackpool Illuminations

5 min read


5 min read


The first virtual switch-on of Blackpool Illuminations generated more than 225,000 views with people watching from all around the globe.

The freely-accessible streamed show, which culminated in seven of the UK’s Corona Heroes switching on the Lights, created the biggest ever audience for a Switch-On event and a very special moment in Blackpool Illuminations history.

At one point, the show was trending at number six in YouTube’s top ten videos with people watching in Australia, Brazil, Netherlands, France, Ireland, Cyprus and America. Around 86,000 people watched the stream on the YouTube channel, a further 141,000 on Facebook.

Take a look back and read the history of Blackpool illuminations.


Blackpool Illuminations Facts

  • Blackpool Illuminations will shine nightly from Friday 4 September to Sunday 3 January 2021.
  • Blackpool Illuminations attract more than three million visitors to the resort each year.
  • Blackpool Illuminations are funded by Blackpool Council as part of its vision to make Blackpool a great place to visit, an even better place to live and help towards achieving the goal of improving Blackpool’s economic prosperity- creating local jobs and opportunities for local people.
  • The Illuminations display stretches for more than six miles.
  • Blackpool’s first electric lighting display was in 1879 when just eight arc lamps illuminated the Promenade. The effect was described by Victorian visitors as ‘artificial sunshine’.
  • The Illuminations cost £2.4 million to stage

Over the past few years, the Switch-On has been staged in an outdoor arena on the promenade with a live audience of around 18,000 people.

Due to coronavirus restrictions, this year’s outdoor concert was cancelled. Instead, it was replaced by the virtual event, produced by MTV, with a mixture of live performance in Blackpool’s Empress Ballroom, and a series of “at home” performances featuring Melanie C, Becky Hill, Fleur East, Tom Grennan, Joel Corry, as well an exclusive routine by Diversity.


Rae Morris dancing with her Gran in the Blackpool Ballroom. Directed by Noel Paul


Blackpool-born singer-songwriter Rae Morris performed two live songs in the ballroom, where she was joined by hosts Jordan and Perri, Blackpool Illuminations creative curator, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, and the seven Switch-On stars.

They included an NHS consultant, frontline nurses, a hospital catering manager, extraordinary fundraisers, and a therapy dog and his owner. Each carried an illuminated strip that was attached to the main switch so that they could all play a part in triggering this year’s Blackpool Illuminations.

Cllr Gillian Campbell, Cabinet Member for Tourism & Culture for Blackpool Council, said: “Given that this was a first, we were unsure as to how many people would watch the virtual show. To generate more than 225,000 views is quite extraordinary.

“Given that many of those views were families and groups of people watching the show together, the overall number of people who have watched the Switch-On moment is huge. There is no doubt that the virtual show and the Switch-On by some of the UK’s brave Corona Heroes has captured the public’s imagination on a grand scale.”

Virginia Monaghan, Vice President, Events and Experiences, ViacomCBS Networks International added: “We are delighted that MTV was able to deliver the first ever virtual Switch-On of the Blackpool Illuminations.

“It has been a hugely successful collaboration with VisitBlackpool and the number of views around the world over the 24-hours that the streamed event was accessible has been quite astonishing. Our team are proud to have been part of such a memorable moment in Blackpool Illuminations history and we look forward to exploring how we can build on this next year.”

This year’s Blackpool Illuminations, which are being presented under a theme of Bring On The Light, celebrate the unstinting work of the NHS, key workers and other outstanding individuals during the coronavirus pandemic, with the Golden Mile featuring a display of hearts and rainbows.

A further 47 Corona Heroes have illuminated images of themselves included within that section. They were chosen from hundreds of nominations from across the UK.

It has already been announced that the Illuminations will be extended by two months, starting on September 4 and ending on Sunday 3 January, 2021. It will be the first time the Illuminations have shone over Christmas and New Year.

These are the Corona Heroes who switched on the 2020 Blackpool Illuminations:

Leona Harris: The nurse from Rossendale has worked as a COVID-19 frontline nurse at Fairfield Hospital in Bury since the start of the pandemic.  Not only that, she has helped raise £75,000 and bought i-Pads for patients in hospitals, care homes, and hospices all over Britain to keep isolated patients and families connected. Her remarkable efforts earned her the nickname of “The Angel from the North”.

Rachelle Sutton: For three months, the nurse moved out of the family home and lived in a hotel so that she could complete 12-hour shifts at the Nightingale Hospital in Manchester at the height of the pandemic. During that time she won the “star award” from Nightingale for her dedication and compassion for end-of-life patients.

Will Ritchie: The six-year-old boy from the Wirral was born with a severe visual impairment and suffers with epilepsy. During lockdown his parents took the opportunity to increase his exercise tolerance. Over several weeks, he went from 100m to 1500m a day and then completed a challenge for June – Will’s Marathon Month. Inspirational Will has now completed 30 miles and raised more than £14,000 for the Wirral University Teaching Hospital Foundation Trust COVID-19 Support Fund.

Dr Jason Cupitt: The consultant led the COVID response at Blackpool Victoria Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit, working every day and most nights at the peak of the pandemic, spending only a few hours away from the hospital over several months. His constant presence provide encouragement and reassurance to staff and patients in the struggle against COVID-19.

David Anderson and Jasper the therapy dog. Hospital chaplain David and his cockapoo have provided support and comfort to sick patients as well as boosting morale for the staff on wards at East Lancashire’s NHS Hospitals. Earlier this year, Jasper was presented with an “employee of the month” award for his services to the hospitals.

Donna Doyle: Employed at Alder Hey Hospital for more than 40 years, the restaurant manager led her catering team through some unprecedented challenges, instantly doubling the number of meals produced on site to provide a free service for patients, families, volunteers and staff, and initiating a delivery service that took free food and drink to front-line staff.

Kirsty Jones: The nurse from Blackpool’s Trinity Hospice moved into a flat by herself in order to continue her work but also protect her husband who had an underlying medical condition and was on the shielded list. After moving out of the family home on April 15, Kirsty was only able to make daily contact with her husband and two children through FaceTime calls. She was eventually able to return home and be reunited with her family five weeks later.

See below for the full list of Corona Heroes who will have their illuminated images in the 2020 display:


Blackpool Illuminations Corona Heroes Roll Of Honour


Mark Stanley (deceased) Specialist paramedic Todmorden Ambulance Station
Isabel Johnson Student nurse/COVID volunteer UCLAN/East Lancashire Hospitals Trust
Spencer Gibbons Director, Independent Living Warren Manor, Blackpool
Dr Carole Gavin A&E consultant Salford Royal Hospital
Donna Doyle Restaurant manager Alder Hey Hospital
Will Ritchie COVID fundraiser, aged six The Wirral
Liam Entwistle PPE stores department apprentice Blackpool Council
David Anderson (and Jasper) Hospital chaplain and therapy dog East Lancashire Hospitals Trust
Mark Jenkins Carer Blackpool
Laura Martin Cardiac day care nurse Blackpool Teaching Hospitals
Dianne Bennison Domestic staff Blackpool Teaching Hospitals
Dr Jason Cupitt COVID lead consultant Blackpool Teaching Hospitals
Rachelle Sutton Nurse Nightingale Hospital, Manchester
Simon Mitchell Volunteer Blackpool
Kirsty Jones Nurse Trinity Hospice, Blackpool
Karen Knock Nursing home senior carer Braintree, Essex
Katherine Truelock District nurse North East England
Jeanette Richards Children’s services leadership team Blackpool Council
Derek Wright Catering services manager Blackpool Council
Abby Johnson Ward sister Royal Blackburn Hospital
Joy Redwood Care team manager Royal Bolton Hospital
Laura Crawford Critical care nurse Leighton Hospital, Crewe
Norbert Mate Adult social care team Blackpool Council
Justine Whittaker Nurse consultant Airedale Hospital, West Yorks
Debra Ramsdale-Walsh Ward sister Blackpool Teaching Hospitals
Leanne Ratcliffe Intensive care nurse Liverpool Heart & Chest Hospital
Mark Carrington Support worker Ashley Foundation, Blackpool
Rachael Bailey Occupational therapist Preston NHS Trust
Janette Mills Nurse Southport Hospital
Rachel Carr Community midwife Birmingham
Dr Helga Brown Geriatrician Blackpool Teaching Hospitals
Hola Healy Healthcare assistant Blackpool Teaching Hospitals
Jordan Field X-ray assistant Glan Clwyd Hospital, Wales
Phil Helm Cardiology matron Blackpool Teaching Hospitals
Rose Lord Radiographer Chorley Hospital
Charlotte Wells Cleaner Royal Derby Hospital
Laura Ivinson Team leader Corona Kindness hub, Blackpool Council
Tanya Elliot Store assistant B&M, Cumbria
Christine-Anne King Private carer Blackpool
Kelly Richards Intensive care nurse Wrexham Maelor Hospital
Dr Robert Downes Intensive care doctor Blackpool Teaching Hospitals
Terri Starkey Newly-qualified nurse Leighton Hospital, Crewe
Stella Noonan Practice nurse Sheffield NHS Trust
Emily Sykes Phlebotomist Blackpool Teaching Hospitals
Holly Chapman District nursing sister Lancashire NHS Trust
Leona Harris Nurse/Fund-raiser Fairfield Hospital, Bury
Jackie Bailey Intensive care nurse East Lancashire Hospital Trust
Lee Andrew Jones Patient Services Assistant East Lancashire Hospital Trust
Samuel Johnston Mental health social worker Blackpool
Cath Powell Community team leader The Grange, Blackpool Council
Ellis Porter Physiotherapist Blackpool Teaching Hospitals
Ruby Aziz Complex case manager Royal Blackburn Hospital
Nina McCallion Support worker Renaissance Lancashire
Brett Hogarth Factory manager (supplier of sterile gowns to NHS) Survitec, The Wirral


For further information on Blackpool Illuminations, please go to


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