Beloved Blackpool

by Louis Barfe

I didn’t go a bundle on Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen until I saw him on a celebrity edition of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire with his missus. They clearly knew their stuff. however, on the £1m question, about the motto of the US, a wrong answer meant their charity lost out on £468,000. Except, the wrong answer was right. The answer wanted was the old motto, abandoned in 1956. The pair argued successfully that the question had been badly worded, and were given another question. Quite right too.

I’ve always been a fan of the Blackpool illuminations, though, and over the years, Llewelyn- Bowen has designed several of the tableaux, as well as serving as creative director. Somehow I missed his documentary on their history, All Lit Up, when it went out in 2012, but I caught it on Radio 4 Extra last week. That was the year the big switch-on was performed by five Olympic gold medallists. Just six years ago but it seems like a different, more hopeful world. It was also the 100th anniversary of Blackpool councilors deciding to extend the summer season with electricity.

Amazingly, every last detail of the illuminations is made in Blackpool. One year, illuminations bosses realised they hadn’t done anything to celebrate the local Asian community, so Diwali was a natural choice.

There’s quite a bit about the history of Blackpool, and how it became the mecca for working-class holidaymakers, and the ‘sense of fantasy’ and escapism in Blackpool's architecture, not least the work of Andrew Mazzei, who designed most of the Winter Gardens complex.

Llewellyn-Bowen's manner is sometimes a bit rich and fruity, but it’s impossible to doubt his enthusiasm for the resort. It’s inspired me to take another trip up there this year.