Blackpool Illuminations – shining a light on Britain!

Celebrating its 140th anniversary this year, Blackpool Illuminations are an annual celebration of light, design and creativity that have been inspiring travellers to visit the north west since 1879!

Running from 30 August to 3 November 2019, this year the northern seaside town is set to welcome 20,000 people for the official Switch-On party which will feature numerous light-themed delights, from illuminated see-saws to giant representations of the sun and earth. Boasting a ten-kilometre stretch of light displays along the promenade, comprised of an estimated one million light bulbs, the displays transform the historic town into an illuminated wonderland.

But it doesn’t end there. Blackpool will also host a range of exciting light-themed events at the annual Lightpool Festival, while numerous other locations in Britain are taking the chance to light up and celebrate. Discover our round up below and get ready to watch Britain get lit!

Blackpool Illuminations

Ride the Lights

Blackpool promenade will be closed to all but bike riders on 27 August 2019 for the annual Ride the Lights event. Visitors and locals can ride their bikes carefree along the famous seaside strip, and get a first-look at the illuminations ahead of the official switch-on event. Held each year since 2006, this ten-kilometre ride is free for all to attend.

When? 27 August 2019

The switch-on party

The Switch-On Party on Blackpool’s Promenade will kick off the celebrations with a bang – live music and dance performances will add to the build up to the official switching on of the illuminations themselves.

The opening ceremony on 30 August will host acts including singer Nina Nesbitt, drum and bass DJs SIGMA and dance troupe, Diversity. Adding to the party atmosphere will be MTV DJs R3WIRE & VARSKI, while the headlining act will be the much-loved British pop band, Busted.

The climax of the evening will be the switching on of the illuminations, with the switch set to be flipped by Blackpoolian Lucy Fallon, best known for her role as Bethany Platt in TV’s Coronation Street.

Although the free wristband ballot has closed, VIP tickets are available to purchase for guaranteed entry. Included in the cost is marquee access, a picnic bag, ice cream, welcome drink and an invite to the official after party. VIP tickets cost £73 for adults and £37.50 for children.

When? 30 August 2019, starting at 4pm - 10.30pm

Lightpool Festival 2019

Back for another year of illuminated free events, Lightpool Festival 2019 will include live performances and art installations for two weeks over the October half term. Offering a mix of light-inspired events, including a Carnival of Lights, SUN, Gaia, Pyronix and light-up see-saws, to name but a few.

Gaia

Visitors can check out Gaia, a seven-metre spherical representation of the earth, created from detailed photography from NASA. The work of artist Luke Jerram, Gaia will be showing in Blackpool Tower Ballroom during the Lightpool Festival and features a bespoke soundtrack composed by BAFTA award-winning composer Dan Jones. There will also be a dedicated dance event held in the ballroom below this installation on 17 October.

When? 11-26 October 2019, free

Lumidogs

Artsy animal fans wanting to get creative need look no further than Lumidogs! Held over two days, the fun workshops gives dog lovers the chance to make a light-up costume for their favourite furry companions, with the best dressed dog winning a prize during the grand finale! Afterwards, take to the streets during a mass dog walk, which will see the pampered pooches illuminating the town in their new get ups. 

When? 12-13 October, free

SUN

From 14-26 October 2019 Blackpool’s Olympia Winter Gardens will be home to SUN, a new art installation by Alex Rinster. Made from NASA projections of the sun’s surface, the seven-metre spherical representation promises to be an immersive experience.

When? 14-26 October 2019, free

Late at the Library

Blackpool Central Library will open late and dim its lights, as they invite visitors to enjoy an atmospheric evening of illuminated entertainment. Late at the Library will include unique inside lighting coupled with workshops for children, atmospheric readings, local art, close-up magic and archive footage from the town’s early Illuminations.

When? 18 October, free

Wavefield

With built-in motion detectors, Blackpool’s town centre will welcome eight giant seesaws, which light-up and play music when used. Shipped from Canada, Wavefield is a unique playground experience which can be enjoyed in St John’s Square.

When? 23-26 of October, free

Carnival of the Lights

The Carnival of the Lights will come to Blackpool Promenade with a procession of three fully illuminated trams, a convoy that highlights the town’s historic collection of tramcars. This year will see the vehicles decorated to represent a battleship, a fishing boat and a Great Western train. The East Midlands Caribbean Carnival Arts Network, a troupe of illuminated dancers and performers, will also join the procession.

When? 24 October 2019, 4-7.30 pm. Free

Pyronix

Belgian performance group Pyronix are bringing an exclusive performance of their hit show Ignipotens to the UK especially for the LightPool festival. Combining intense choreography based around and interacting with fire, the show will include elements of martial arts and acrobatics and will be performed opposite the Blackpool Tower.

When? 26 October 2019, 7pm. Free

 

Other light festivals in Britain

 

Lumiere Light Festival, Durham

Celebrating 10 years of transforming buildings, outdoor spaces and famous architecture in Britain through creative light displays, Lumiere Light Festival is the UK’s largest light festival. Having been enjoyed by 240,000 people in 2017, this year it will return to Durham, the city that hosted the festival’s first transformative event. By inviting artists from around the world to create installations through light and projections, Lumiere aims to give visitors the chance to see British cities in a new and inspiring light.

For 2019, Lumiere asked the people of north-east England to submit their ideas for new light installations and selected four winners: environmental artist Diane Watson, furniture design company director Lucy McDonnell, artist Penelope Payne, and Durham County Council worker Mike Donaghy. They are currently producing their work in preparation for the autumn display.

When? 14 – 17 November 2019, free

Longleat Light Festival, Wiltshire

Boasting the biggest lantern festival in Britain, Longleat Light Festival brings together hundreds of illuminated lanterns across a stunning 30-acre landscape. Welcoming a ‘myths and legends’ theme for 2019, Longleat will take inspiration from the ancient Greek gods, British folklore and mythical sea monsters, in addition to the traditional silk lantern event.

The perfect way to brighten up an autumn evening, entry to this event is included in the price of a day ticket - save up to 10% by booking online.

When? 9 November 2019 - 5 January 2020

Matlock Bath Illuminations, Derbyshire

For eight weeks of the year, the River Derwent in the Derbyshire town of Matlock welcomes a procession of amazing floating illuminations. Matlock Bath Illuminations sees the Matlock Bath Venetian Boat Builders Association decorate a selection of models with brightly coloured lights. With a new theme each year, the creative displays travel along the river, past the crowds on the riverside.

Tickets cost £8 on Saturdays (£7 concessions) and £7 on Sundays (£6 concessions) on the night, but can be bought online at a discounted price.

To mark the end of the festival, a fireworks display can be seen in the town on 27 October at 9pm, which is priced separately.

When? 7 September - 27 October 2019

London Design Festival 2019

The London Design Festival (LDF) returns to the capital for a 17th time in September, marking a citywide celebration of all things design. An eclectic mix of events, fairs, workshops and exhibitions spanning nine days, the festival will feature numerous specially commissioned works from renowned international designers.

Formed by Sir John Sorrell and Ben Evans in 2003, the festival seeks to bring together creative individuals from around the globe to promote London as a global powerhouse for art and design. The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) acts as a hub for the festival – taking place from 14-22 September – housing a number of innovative installations and hosting the festival’s thought-leadership programme: The Global Design Forum. Visitors can listen in to inspirational talks, take part in debates and workshops, and enjoy daily tours.

Encompassing trade shows, exhibitions and installations across the capital, London Design Festival dives into the world of design innovation and its impact on everyday life.

Design Districts

In order to make as many of the London Design Festival’s 400 events and installations as accessible as possible, events are clustered into Design Districts – groups of events all within a short distance of each other. The number of districts has increased alongside the festival’s popularity, with ten areas set to showcase the best in design in 2019.

Bankside Design District

Running along the banks of the River Thames from Borough Market to Oxo Tower Wharf, the Bankside Design District will champion the region as ‘London’s Other Side’ in celebration of the area’s thriving creative industries. Alongside innovative installations by Tate Edit and The Africa Centre, the iconic Oxo Tower Wharf will showcase craft and design from its abundance of designer-maker shops and studios.

Brompton Design District

As the oldest of LDF’s designated districts, the Brompton Design District is renowned for having a focus on progressive and responsible design. Expect an array of installations and exhibits that explore the theme of Nature/Nurture for 2019, with designers urged to reassess human relationships with nature to determine how design can aid preservation. Leading international designers including Marlene Huissoud and Jorge Penades are among those taking part.

Clerkenwell Design Quarter

The Clerkenwell Design Quarter is preparing for its eighth year and brings together an array of multidisciplinary design strands dotted across the historic part of London, stretching from the boundaries of EC1 to the Barbican and Hatton Cross. The region hosts new product launches and events from showrooms and retailers, as well as plenty of bars, pop-ups and restaurants.

Marylebone Design District

Home to a diverse collection of design retailers, galleries and workshops, the Marylebone Design District has everything from small independent designers to internationally famous brands. As well as exclusive launches, there’ll be a number of partner-hosted demonstrations and workshops for the duration of the festival.

Mayfair Design District

The Mayfair Design District seeks to showcase how this small portion of London is embracing modern art and design. Established galleries and pop-up spaces host inspiring exhibitions, while major estates including The Crown Estate, the Pollen Estate Commission and the Duke of Westminster’s Grosvenor Estate have all commissioned architecture. A number of international collaborations put a further focus on the importance of design in an area rich with regeneration.

Pimlico Road Design District

A creative hub just minutes from Sloane Square, the Pimlico Road Design District is home to internationally renowned designers, studios and an abundance of shopping opportunities. Known for its antiques, art and fine furniture, the district provides a unique insight into design in Belgravia.

Shoreditch Design Triangle

Since being established in 2008 to aid collaboration among designers in the East End, the Shoreditch Design Triangle mixes exhibitions and installations with product launches, talks, tours and workshops, as well as numerous culinary options. Past years have seen as many as 60 individual events, showcasing everything from furniture and accessories to lighting, prints, cookware and textiles.

Victoria Connections Design District

With a theme of Connections: people and places, the Victoria Connections Design District will showcase the role that design has played in creating the Victoria that exists today. This newly formed Design District launched last year and different forms of design will be highlighted at a variety of events and activities, delving into the area-wide transformation that has occurred in recent years.

West Kensington Design District

Another newly formed district, having first made an appearance in 2018, the West Kensington Design District will bring together exciting cultural institutions, leading design destinations and numerous events for the duration of the festival.

Kings Cross Design District

A new district for 2019 to coincide with the widespread development of the region, the Kings Cross Design District is recognition that the area is now a thriving hub of design, architecture and creative industries. Expect an extensive programme of events, including large scale public installations, contemporary design event, designjunction, and plenty of other exhibitions.

Landmark Projects

The London Design Festival will see Finsbury Park Square, in Broadgate, transformed by British designer Paul Cocksedge’s landmark project, Please Be Seated. Marking the most ambitious of British Land’s commissions to date, the installation will feature curves for people to sit on and walk under. Made from scaffolding planks, the project represents a reimagining of how building wood is used.

Trade shows and exhibitions

This year marks 25 years of 100% Design, a trade event that showcases innovative exhibitions, panel discussions and talks from some of the biggest names in design. Renowned as being a centre of design and innovation, the show features a stellar line-up of more than 400 exhibitors, inspirational installations and thought-provoking experiences that push the boundaries of design.

Designjunction will return to King’s Cross, presenting an exciting range of over 200 internationally known design brands for four days from 19 September. Now in its ninth year, the exhibition features pop-up shops, temporary structures and brand activations, alongside the latest developments in furniture, lighting and technology design.

The London Design Fair takes place from 19-22 September and welcomes 550 exhibitors from around the world to the heart of East London at the Old Truman Brewery Site near Brick Lane. Independent designers and more than 300 established brands are involved, while a host of international country pavilions showcase innovations from particular parts of the globe.

Focus/19 includes an array of collection launches and immersive events from 600 international brands, spread over six days from 15 September. The Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour, hosts Design Discovery Tours, meet the designer sessions and workshops that explore various elements of design, accompanied by talks from world-class speakers.

Installations

French-born designer Camille Walala will attempt to create an ‘urban living room’, transforming South Molton Street in Mayfair into the Walala Lounge, featuring 11 unique, geometric and boldly colourful benches for the public to enjoy. Surrounded by international boutiques and cafes, the design aims to make Molton a place for reflection and relaxation.

Matthew McCormick’s Falling Sky multi-storey design-art installation will hang in the V&A for the duration of the festival, with a focus on global warming and its impact on life. Manually crafted from reflective aluminium, the installation is designed to mimic frost-like formations that are seemingly frozen in time.

The V&A’s Medieval and Renaissance galleries will be home to Rony Plesl’s unique glass installation Sacred Geometry, featuring hexagonal glass tree trunks. Marking the first time the exhibition has been seen outside of Plesl’s native Czech Republic, it details how new technology enables glass to be casted into any array of 3D shapes.

Tate Modern

Housed in the former Bankside Power Station, the Tate Modern’s collection of contemporary art is the most extensive in the country. Offering free admission to the majority of the pieces, including Picasso, Rothko, Dali and Matisse, there are also after-hours ‘Tate Lates’ events on the last Friday of every month, as well as ticketed exhibitions. One such exhibition coinciding with the LDF is ‘Takis’, one of the most celebrated artistic voices to come out of 1960s Europe.

The Design Museum

Kensington’s Design Museum will host the Beazley Designs of the Year exhibition in September, showcasing the best ideas that the design industry has seen over the last 12 months, as voted for by the public and experts.

Where to eat

In a former tram-generator building, Tramshed offers high-quality food, with many sharable dishes. Meals are served with a backdrop of Damien Hirst artworks, most notably his ‘Cock ‘n’ Bull’ installation. Run by renowned chef Mark Hix, the East End eatery is a unique blend of food, art and style.

Located in Hyde Park, Chucs Café is a modern architectural gem in itself. Designed by iconic architect Zaha Hadid, the café is located in the ‘Magazine’ extension of the Serpentine Gallery. Open from breakfast to dinner, it serves everything from fresh salads, pizza and fish dishes.

Inspired by the traditional tearooms of 1960s Hong Kong, Duddell’s serves high-end Cantonese cuisine in a richly decorated Grade II deconsecrated church. Found in London Bridge, in the shadow of the Shard, the elegant interior is complemented by ‘museum-quality’ art exhibitions, displayed all year round.

Where to drink

In the trendy area of Dalston, Hackey, Untitled Bar serves cocktails by celebrated mixologist, Tony Conigliaro, in a tinfoil-covered, minimalist space.

Within the new Battersea Power Station’s Circus West Village is the luxe-1960s inspired bar and restaurant No29 Power Station West. With a cocktail menu ranging from ‘Long & Fresh’ to ‘Short & to the Point’, this is a bar carefully designed and curated for a modern yet homely atmosphere.

Lyaness (formerly Dandelyan) has an interior as rich as its reputation, and is renowned for its flavoursome cocktails. With a multi-award winning bartender dubbed ‘Mr Lyan’, Lyaness is located in the Sea Containers hotel, overlooking the River Thames.

Where to sleep

In the heart of Shoreditch, The Hoxton Hotel offers rooms ranging from ‘Shoebox’, which although a money-saver, does not scrimp on style, to the bigger ‘Roomy’ size. The ‘Concept’ rooms, each individually designed by a local artist, offer a unique design experience, while the Hoxton Grill offers American dishes, served all-day. Prices start from £109 per night.

Found near Spitalfields and Brick Lane, Leman Locke offers an over-night experience lying somewhere between relaxed apartment living and boutique hotel. Every inch of the aparthotel is design-led, with a refreshing pastel colour scheme, simple industrial-chic furniture and space-saving layouts. Prices start from £180 per night.

With ten unique bedrooms located in the heart of London’s West End, Artist’s Residence offers eclectically designed rooms and suites. Luxury additions include roll-top baths, floor-to-ceiling windows and a rainfall shower. The Tate Britain, the Saatchi Gallery and the hub of the London Design Festival, the V&A are all within walking distance. Prices start from £215 per night.

Discover Caribbean culture in the UK

The Caribbean community has played a pivotal role in shaping British culture, since the arrival of HMT Empire Windrush 71 years ago. This is now celebrated annually on 22 June as Windrush Day. On that day in 1948, the vessel landed at Tilbury Docks, in London, bringing with it the first immigrants from the Caribbean. In the years that followed, a huge number of immigrants from the Caribbean followed, and the ship’s name inspired the term, the Windrush Generation. The celebration is designed to recognise and celebrate the incredible contributions of the Windrush Generation and their descendants in helping create the multicultural Britain that exists today.

As well as the Windrush Day celebrations, numerous other events take place across Britain throughout the year to celebrate Caribbean culture, including one of the world’s largest street festivals – the Notting Hill Carnival. Visitors can enjoy revelry, dance and music, while getting a true taste of Caribbean food and drink in Britain.

Events for Windrush Day

A number of events are taking place in London to mark Windrush Day, including the Radiate Windrush Festival, held in Crystal Palace Park. Numerous acts are performing, alongside a food village offering a range of Caribbean and African cuisine.

The Migration Museum at the Workshop is also hosting a day of activities to coincide with a new audio-visual exhibition called Caribbean Takeaway Takeover: Identity and Stories. The museum’s café will morph into a Caribbean takeaway, while also telling inspirational stories from those who arrived on the HMT Empire Windrush.

Newcastle is hosting a Rum and Reggae Festival on 22 June, where guests will be taken on a rum journey around the world. The festival is visiting numerous other locations during the summer months, including London, Reading, Nottingham, Brighton, Kidderminster, Manchester, Weston-Super-Mare and Lincoln.

Meanwhile the city of Bangor in Wales is hosting a Jamaican breakfast to mark the occasion.

Notting Hill Carnival

As one of the world’s largest street festivals, the Notting Hill Carnival celebrates Caribbean culture in Britain every August Bank Holiday. From the first event in 1959, the carnival in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has continued to grow, with steel bands, street food and dancing commonplace. By bringing together talents from London’s Caribbean community, the festival is a celebration of cultural diversity, creativity and the arts, with a traditional J’ouvert parade taking place early on Sunday morning (25 August). Expect revellers donned in brightly coloured paint and an array of dance shows, with the Sunday of the festival aimed at children in particular. As well as a Children’s Parade, a host of other family-friendly entertainment can be found dotted around the streets. The Notting Hill Grand Finale Parade brings an end to proceedings on Monday (26 August), with an array of dancing, street performances, steel bands and music groups all taking part.

When? 24-26 August

Jerk Jam

Having evolved from a small gathering, Jerk Jam is now a fully-fledged celebration of the Caribbean, with food vendors, artists, DJs and dancers flocking to Houndhill Farm in Hampshire. Alongside four stages of live music, there’ll be workshops for children, fairground rides and plenty of circus, arts and magic performers. The centre piece of the festival is the Jerk-Off BBQ Battle, when chefs from all over the country go head-to-head in a boxing ring, battling it out with authentic jerk pans.

When? 20 July

Caribbean Carnival of Manchester

Since launching in 1972, the Caribbean Carnival of Manchester has celebrated all that is great about Caribbean culture in the heart of the city’s Alexandra Park. Expect to see Caribbean music and dance, as well as theatre, steel bands and an abundance of bright and extravagant costumes. Proceedings start with an early morning J’ouvert parade before the main carnival procession weaves its way through the crowds, complete with floats, DJs, dance troupes and a host of carnival queens and princesses in the early afternoon. Three stages of music will be accompanied by a host of food vendors and Soca bands.

When? 10-11 August

Caribbean Music Festival – Liverpool

Dubbed the ‘ultimate Caribbean festival’, Liverpool’s celebration of the Caribbean welcomes an array of DJs and other artists to Brick Street to showcase their talents. Headline acts for the main stage of this year’s Caribbean Music Festival include Scrappy Sinon, DJ Rockshun, Big Band Tropical Storm, Firebiggz, DJ Rory and Iyah Sample, among others.

When? 17 August