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Light Research @ MMU

Blackpool Illuminations archive

I have spent a wonderful day at the Blackpool Illuminations archive, located at the depot in the town. A Heritage Lottery Funding was secured to archive the extraordinary range of posters, designs and plans that stretch back to the 1920s, and the work going on to catalogue this resource underlines the shifts in design practice, themes and tastes that have been deployed, but also the continuities that resonate through displays of different eras. See their fabulous and evolving blog : http://illuminationscollection.wordpress.com/

Celebrity designer Laurence Llewellyn Bowen emphasises in his preface to a recent book on the Illuminations that, ‘restraint, straight-laced good taste aesthetics and minimalism are your sworn design enemies. To work, Blackpool Illuminations have to be high kicking, showbiz, jazz hands and more than a little “nudge nudge, wink wink” Terms no-one ever teaches you at art school’*. Yet tensions between good taste, and popular jollity and brashness, have surfaced in the town  at various times. The many exquisite designs of the art deco influenced 1930s were intended to create a cutting edge tastefulness, an approach that resonated with other architectural innovations during that period (see the ship design). A more inclusive, irreverent approach to designs drawn from popular culture emerged in the 1960s and has continued (as in the image ‘Fright Night’), yet there are periodic attempts to introduce more artful (and ‘tasteful’) installations as part of this annual two month extravaganza of light. This variety is what contributes to the continuing glory  of the display.

* Vanessa Toulmin (2012) Blackpool Illuminations: The Greatest Free Show on Earth

1930s ship   Fright night 1990s

October 30th, 2013 - 18:12pm

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