Oct 30

Brilliant #LightPool illuminates Blackpool in artistic style

by in Culture, Festival, UK

When the Red Rose by Steve Messam Lightpool Blackpool - photo zoedawes

‘When the Red Rose’ by Steve Messam

The large red balloon glows like a radioactive tomato, enticing visitors with its voluptuous beauty. Children run up to it and gaze in amazement. Photographers try to capture its scarlet vibrancy, cyclists glance at it as they whiz past – and an unobtrusive guard ensures no-one damages its fragile form. Artist Steve Messsam created ‘When the Red Rose’ one of a series of beautiful artworks he’s making for Lancashire. It’s all the more impressive as it’s only here until November 2nd 2016.

When the Red Rose Steve Messam - Lightpool - Blackpool - photo zoedawes

‘When the Red Rose’ in daytime

I’m in Blackpool for the launch of LightPool, a festival of light and joyfulness running from October 29th to November 2nd. Barry McCann, Visitor Ambassador, explains what #Lightpool is all about. Lightpool is a wonderful celebration that ties in with Blackpool Illuminations. It was decided to expand what we offer at this time of year to include art installations along the promenade, live performances and also a special exhibition of Neon at the Grundy Art Gallery. We’ve also got brilliant 3D videos projected onto Blackpool Tower including Chasing Stars: our adventures in Space from British astronaut Tim Peake and a very quirky one called, ‘Down the Rabbit Hole‘, loosely based on ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Yoko Ono has a couple of installations including ‘Imagine’ at the head of the North Pier.

Imagine by Yoko Ono - Lightpool Blackpool - photo zoedawes

Imagine – by Yoko Ono

“At Lightpool Village, you get a drink and watch the live performances that go on every evening on the Comedy Carpet in front of the Tower. You can even have your photo taken and projected onto the Tower!  The festival is FREE, as of course are the illuminations and it’s bringing loads more visitors who are spending more time here. We’ve got so much to offer, and it’s great to have a bigger cultural offering for the town, but still linked to our seaside heritage.” Barry offers to show me round; our first stop is Neon; The Charged Line at the Grundy Art Gallery.

Neon Exhibition - Grundy Art Gallery - Lightpool Blackpool

Neon Exhibition – Grundy Art Gallery

Bringing together one of the biggest collection of Neon artworks ever seen, it’s a feast for the eyes. There’s a ballerina wearing a tutu of neon tubes, a trio of art-deco style moving panels, a bright red triangular installation that gives a dramatic 3D effect and much more. Upstairs in the Rotunda Gallery are ‘images of original designs for 1930s neon Illuminations, taken from Blackpool’s unique and historic archive of working drawings,’ including some by Georges Claude, inventor of Neon. Education Officer Taneesha Ahmed says the exhibitions appeal to all ages, especially younger children.  One of the big draws is  ‘I Know, I Know, I Know’ created by Tracey Emin in 2002, but every exhibit is a delight.

tracey-emin-i-know-neon-exhibition-lightpool

‘I Know, I Know, I Know’ by Tracey Emin

We leave the Grundy and walked down towards the Promenade. It starts to drizzle but nothing serious. I’ve not been to Blackpool for a couple of years and the town is looking a lot smarter than it used to. It’s mid-afternoon on a half-term Friday and there a loads of people, mainly on the prom but also in the shops, bars, restaurants and cafes. As we near the North Pier I can see ‘When the Red Rose’, its redness brightening up the grey day. Steve Messam has taken one of the Victorian shelters that line the Golden Mile and enveloped it in a red ‘balloon’ of material. No idea how he has done it but the effect is delightful.

When the Red Rose by North Pier Lightpool Blackpool - photo zoedawes

When the Red Rose by North Pier

We walk along the shore to Blackpool Tower, that icon of British seaside exuberance, visible from all over North West England. We go upstairs to the Tower Ballroom where we watch couples of all ages dancing and enjoying afternoon tea, and I dream of appearing on Strictly Come Dancing

Afternoon Tea Dance at The Tower Ballroom Blackpool - photo zoedawes

The Tower Ballroom

From the window we get a great view of the beach and people starting to mill about for the start of the main #LightPool events this evening. I’m getting peckish so we queue for ages at Harry Ramsden’s, but it’s worth it as the fish and chips really are very good. It’s going dark and soon the Illuminations will be turned on and #LightPool will come alive. Barry takes me over to SnapCast, where Manager Tom Westcott explains how visitors can get their photo taken, as if turning on the Blackpool Illuminations and other poses. If they buy a photo souvenir they can then get their photo projected onto the Tower. Barry and I have our picture taken – what do you think?!

Lightpool Snapcast - Blackpool Tower

Lightpool Snapcast – Blackpool Tower

The Illuminations come on and Blackpool is doing what it does best; giving its visitors the best light show in the country. The Tower suddenly bursts into a rainbow of light announcing LIGHTPOOL in glowing neon. A band starts to play lively music. People jig about in time to the music. A brightly-lit heritage tram trundles past, looking like a gaudy old American steam-train and LightPool Village does a roaring trade in light sabres and fluorescent wands. Barry’s colleague Annette clears a space through the audience to make way for the first performance: Captain Kronos: Return to Planet Earth. There’s a carnival atmosphere that is enhanced by the dramatically innovative attractions that Lightpool brings to Blackpool.

LightPool Blackpool - collage by zoedawes

LightPool

All too soon I have to leave to get a train back to Carnforth. As we walk back along the Promenade, we pass a memorial for Remembrance Day. The face of a young sailor gazes out at us from a huge poppy. In the distance, When the Red Rose, glows in the dark beside the sea. Only in Blackpool, only at LightPool …

We Will Never Forget - Blackpool Remembrance Day Memorial

We Will Never Forget

More about the LightPool Festival, on until Wednesday, November 2nd. Blackpool Illuminations are on until November 6th 2016. Thanks so much to Visit Lancashire for inviting me to experience this unique festival and to Barry McCann for showing me round and sharing his knowledge and love for his home town.

Another Steve Messam incarnation of ‘When the Red Rose was at #LightUpLancaster Festival over the weekend of Nov 4th and 5th in Lancaster.

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#LightPool Festival of Light Blackpool - image zoedawes

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17 Responses to “Brilliant #LightPool illuminates Blackpool in artistic style”

  1. From Zoe Dawes:

    What I really loved about #LightPool is the quality and quirkiness of the artworks. I’ve been going to Blackpool since I was little but have to admit I have never actually got out of the car for the Illuminations. LightPool gives visitors a really good reason to take time to enjoy the attractions and also experience superb creativity from internationally famous artists. Blackpool has firmly established itself on the cultural travel map 🙂

    Posted on October 30, 2016 at 5:45 pm #
  2. From Barry McCann:

    A delight to be your host, Zoe. I am glad you enjoyed your time and hope this proves a taster for further visits to Lightpool events in the future. And everything else Blackpool has to offer.

    Posted on October 30, 2016 at 6:23 pm #
  3. From Zoe Dawes:

    Thanks Barry, it was a lovely day and hope you get lots of visitors in the coming weeks. I’m looking forward to visiting your town again soon.

    Posted on October 30, 2016 at 10:31 pm #
  4. From Carol Jennings:

    What an impressive line-up of artists – and looks great fun ????

    Posted on November 2, 2016 at 2:08 pm #
  5. From John MacBeath:

    Looks like you had a good time in Blackpool. Had fish and chips from Ramsden’s a long time ago – overrated! then! And from Yorkshire!

    Posted on November 2, 2016 at 2:11 pm #
  6. From Zoe Dawes:

    It was really good to see such world-class art, installations and performances Carol. Blackpool is definitely raising its game in the cultural entertainment stakes.

    Posted on November 2, 2016 at 2:13 pm #
  7. From Zoe Dawes:

    You’re right John, I didn’t think they were that good before but they were very tasty this time. However, the queue was so long I wouldn’t go again. Barry recommends Seniors which has a few fish and chip shops in the area including Bispham.

    Posted on November 2, 2016 at 2:16 pm #
  8. From Rosalind Forster:

    Lightpool looks absolutely amazing! we’re really looking forward to welcoming Steve Messam to the Storey for #lightuplancaster on Friday!

    Posted on November 2, 2016 at 2:48 pm #
  9. From Zoe Dawes:

    Glad you enjoyed it Rosalind. I’m sure Lancaster is going to put on a fantastic show this weekend! I’m really looking forward to seeing Steve’s artwork for you, the other installations – AND the fireworks ????

    Posted on November 2, 2016 at 2:51 pm #
  10. From Fiona Graham-Spicer:

    We were so miffed we couldn’t get there this year! Note to selves: better planning in 2017 is required. Blackpool has worked so hard at reinventing itself and participation in brilliantly imaginative projects

    Posted on November 6, 2016 at 10:49 pm #
  11. From Zoe Dawes:

    As you say Fiona, Blackpool have done really well at raising the cultural offering – and it’s still great fun! Hope you make it next year 🙂

    Posted on November 6, 2016 at 11:47 pm #
  12. From Marianne Turner:

    I haven’t been to the Illuminations for so many years, your blog is making me put a date in my diary for year Zoe! Thank for such an illuminating blog.

    Posted on November 9, 2016 at 5:59 pm #
  13. From Becky Hindley:

    I love it and am so sad I missed it. It sounds amazing and I love your photos. The red rose is brilliant not to mention all the neon, so Blackpool. I used to go to the illuminations with my family when I was little, I remember everyone wearing glow in the dark necklaces etc, I loved it. I’ve been lucky enough to perform at the wonderful Grand Theatre, a real gem. I’ve also danced a really bad waltz at the Tower Ballroom, an experience I’ll never forget. I must go next year. Thanks for putting back in my mind.

    Posted on November 9, 2016 at 8:36 pm #
  14. From Zoe Dawes:

    Ha – very appropriate comment Marianne – illuminating indeed. Must admit to having my own preconceptions about Blackpool blown away by LightPool. Hope you get to see it next year, assuming they run it again 🙂

    Posted on November 11, 2016 at 2:03 pm #
  15. From Zoe Dawes:

    Thanks for sharing those memories Becky. Blackpool is having a big revival now having been in the doldrums for a while and this festival really puts it on the cultural map. How fab to have performed in the Grand Theatre – bet that was VERY special. It’s such a beautiful place. Hope you get back someday soon 🙂

    Posted on November 11, 2016 at 2:06 pm #
  16. From Lony Angel:

    Blackpool is definitely raising in the cultural entertainment stakes.Nice trip and good memories of Blackpool.

    Posted on November 22, 2016 at 7:28 am #
  17. From Zoe Dawes:

    You’re right, it is so good to see Blackpool showcasing really good and innovative artworks, and in such an original way.

    Posted on November 22, 2016 at 12:13 pm #

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