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Illuminations are key to Blackpool

Published: 6th September 2010

MEGASTAR Robbie Williams lit Blackpool's famous Illuminations this week speaking of fond memories of the town.

But amid the glitz and glamour has the 'Illuminations' experience had its day?

MMU geographers Steve Mllington and Tim Edensor believe that the 'traditions' of seaside resorts may be more resilient than was thought, and that re-inventing and modernising the town might be a mistake.

Dr Millington, of MMU's Science and Engineering Faculty, led a research project with his colleague Dr Edensor, examining the reasons why visitors come to Blackpool for the illuminations, and their significance for the town.

Heart of heritage

In a speech to the Royal Geographical Society annual conference in London, Dr Millington said: "For thousands of visitors to Blackpool the lights are seen as being at the heart of the town’s heritage and character, and for many the main reason why they choose to return year after year at end of the holiday season.

"Electric lighting, in Blackpool as elsewhere, is key to the town’s identity and heritage. Its brash and antiquated lighting and use of ‘old technology’ provides the very ‘faded seaside’ charm that attracts so many to visit.

"The annual visit to Blackpool is a tradition handed down through generations and while some may see Blackpool’s visitor numbers as disappointing, in reality, the town’s footfall is the envy of many seaside towns.

"Blackpool, with high levels of unemployment and associated social problems, however, urgently needs the new investment and regeneration beginning to take place in the town.

Clone town risk

"Yet, as our research shows, there is a real danger that making changes to the Blackpool ‘experience’ with ‘clone town’ identikit redevelopment schemes will ‘throw out the baby with the bathwater’.

"Visitors return to the town because it is different. Future developments in the town need to recognise and build on its heritage and history and make sure they don’t lose the visitors – young and old – who at the moment give the town a good balance in its night-time economy."

People's memories of the resort, often as children, are key, say the team. As Robbie Williams said this week: "Blackpool has so many happy memories for me."

The research featured on BBC News and on regional and local media.