Lightworks - Where the Magic is Made!

Lightworks - Where the Magic is Made!

“Lightworks” is the Blackpool Illuminations Depot. It’s where all of the magic is made! It’s an unassuming grey unit on an industrial estate in South Blackpool near to the airport runway.

The Lightworks Illuminations Depot at Squires Gate
The Lightworks Illuminations Depot at Squires Gate

Unremarkable it might be from the outside, but magic happens inside. All of the Blackpool Illuminations are created and maintained here.

This short video about the Illuminations and Lightworks Depot is narrated by Andrew Walker, Directed and Produced by Stuart Braithwaite and stars Richard Williams.

The Lightworks Depot

Sign Up

There’s no such thing as an ‘Illuminations Shop’ where you can go to buy things off a shelf!

Everything that you see in the Blackpool Illuminations is dreamed up, planned out and made at Lightworks. It’s all because of the team of skilled and imaginative craftsmen and engineers.

Inside Lightworks where the Blackpool Illuminations are made
Inside Lightworks where the Blackpool Illuminations are made

The original Illuminations depot was at Rigby Road. The old building wasn’t fit for purpose so the Lightworks depot was commissioned. It’s a modern, purpose built building which took two years to design and build and opened in 2000.

The outer building and the space inside are designed for the shape and size of the Illuminations themselves.

For example, the shutter doors are especially high so that lorries can drive straight into the building for loading and unloading. So the massive tableaux and displays can be moved about out of the wind and rain.

Inside Lightworks where the Blackpool Illuminations are made
Inside Lightworks where the Blackpool Illuminations are made

The floor space is sectioned for a logical workflow and the Illuminations move sensibly around the factory as they progress through different stages of manufacture or repair.

Working at Lightworks – A Unique Job

People typically join the Illuminations team with a trade. So you might start work as an electrician or welder before learning how to adapt traditional skills to suit the very unique requirements of the job. Imagine this being your career – what a story to tell your grandchildren!

A Blackpool Illumination light fitting being made at Lightworks
A Blackpool Illumination light fitting being made at Lightworks
A Blackpool Illumination light fitting being made at Lightworks
A Blackpool Illumination light fitting being made at Lightworks

How do they do all that at Lightworks?

Have you ever wondered how new Illuminations get from the spark of an idea to the streets of Blackpool Promenade?

Within the team are people with skills in design, costing, manufacture, building and display. In fact they’re everything needed to take an display from an idea to illumination.

Design Stage

The team starts with a brief for their new Illumination, first working out how it can be made into something that’s interesting, that people will enjoy looking at.

It’s always vital to consider the weather because not only do they have to look good but they must be structurally sound. They’re strong enough to withstand the weather, which can be atrocious!

There’s a lot more to planning for the wind than you might imagine. Each one’s built no larger than a certain size for windage, it’s weight is calculated and they all have their own lifting plan.

The Blackpool Illuminations team are experts at adapting indoor equipment to work outside in all weathers, often done by developing special housings. For example, the projector equipment in the Brilliance installation on Birley Street and within the Illuminations display on the promenade.

Lamps and cables and fittings for Blackpool Illuminations at Lightworks depot
Lamps and cables and fittings for Blackpool Illuminations at Lightworks depot

In the old days designs were drawn by hand. Now they’re computer generated with CAD (computer aided design) software, the biggest change in the process in recent years. CAD accurately calculates strengths and tolerances and performs an analysis of the build design and cost.

Getting Creative at Lightworks

Once a design is finalised, the next step is to make it, transferring the design from a two dimensional, flat plan into 3D.

The illuminations are made using fibreglass, steel and wood.

If more than one feature is being made a mould is made first. The shape is carved out of polystyrene just like a sculptor would carve a statue, which is used to make a mould. The mould is then used to make multiple pieces in fibreglass.

Making Blackpool Illuminations at Lightworks
Making Blackpool Illuminations at Lightworks

That’s also how the overhead road sections are made, like these below.

Blackpool Illuminations being made at Lightworks
Blackpool Illuminations being made at Lightworks

Making the Lights Work

Do you wonder how the Blackpool Illuminations are controlled, and how they come on and go off every day?

Noddy and Big Ears at Lightworks
Noddy and Big Ears at Lightworks

The daily switch on is controlled with modern technology. Seven substations along the route are linked linked together and controlled in that way.

All the big tableaux have a little hut behind them and all of their wiring and controls are inside.

Did you know? That the Blackpool Illuminations run on 24 volts? Different voltage levels have been tried but this is the perfect one.

You’ve probably never seen a 24v lightbulb available anywhere to buy. So you won’t be surprised to learn that the lamps are made to a bespoke specification and specially imported. Plus they’re made out of plastic, including the globe, so they do in fact bounce!

All these developments and refinements over the years enable the Blackpool Illuminations to achieve a 98% lit rate at any one time.

Be a Jack of all Trades at Lightworks

The construction team has a broad range of skills between them and can turn their hand to anything. They work in steel, fibreglass, plastic, timber, fibre optics, lasers, LEDs… and many other forms of lighting.

And don’t forget they use ‘lamps’ because ‘bulbs’ grow underground!

Their skills all come together in the joinery, fitting and fibreglass shops under the guidance of foremen and engineers to create the finished product.

Installing the Illuminations on Blackpool promenade which are made at Lightworks
Installing the Illuminations on Blackpool promenade which are made at Lightworks

No two days are the same for the staff on the shop floor, the managers or administration staff. The people who build the lights are the same ones who go out on the promenade to put them up. Everyone in the team is very hands on and can do many different jobs.

Coming Home to Lightworks for Winter

Each winter, about half of the Illuminations come into the Lightworks depot by rotation.

They’re pressure washed to clean them, serviced, their paint work is touched up, and they’re repaired before being stored in bays and racks. Each one has a service history and a full paper trail.

Blackpool Illuminations being stored over winter at Lightworks
Blackpool Illuminations being stored over winter at Lightworks

Bringing them in means they can be moved around, reviewed and assessed from a health and safety point of view. It protects them from some of the wind damage on the rough winter seafront.

Each spring the whole season starts again, and the process of installing them begins from about April.

Obviously they all HAVE to be in place by the end of August for Switch On!

Storage racking at Lightworks
Storage racking at Lightworks

An Amazing Sight!

Lightworks depot is an amazing place and the first time you go into this vast shed it just makes your jaw drop!

Whether the familiar features are neatly arranged in their racks or stood on the floor they just look so very different. They also look so much bigger than they do out on the Prom in the dark night air.

The best time to see inside Lightworks depot is in Spring, while everything is in storage and refitting for the season hasn’t yet started.

Have a look around our website to see some of their wonderful creations. But nothing beats a stroll along Blackpool promenade on an autumn night, gazing up at all the miles of twinkly lights!

You can enjoy a Heritage Tour of Lightworks too

Find out More

If you love Blackpool and the Illuminations you ought to sign up for our weekly email newsletter. It’s packed full of interesting things and will arrive in your inbox all 52 weeks of the year.

Sign up for the Visit Fylde Coast enews here

You’ll find lots of photos on our Live Blackpool Facebook page why don’t you share yours!

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @visitFyldeCoast

What do you think?
What do you think?
5 Comments
  1. Dear Sir/madam
    We are the NCPL from Newport Pagnell. After watching salvage hunters and seeing what they bought we are a non profit group with one of the oldest set of displays. We are a small group that hang lights and features throughout the high street. Sadly we are running low on features as they are over 35 yrs old, damaged and unable to be used. We would love a chance to purchase some you don’t use Christmas themed

    Yours sincerely J Green and Scot Haynes

    1. Jane Rabbit

      Hi Julie, they are sometimes offered for sale on eBay, and the depot occasionally sells things off.

  2. when are you open and are the lights for sale ???

    1. Jane Rabbit

      Hi Keith. Lightworks isn’t open to the public, except for pre-booked Heritage tours. Illuminations are sometimes offered for sale, usually to make space for new ones. Check out the Visit Blackpool online shop for details.

  3. I like the lights put it would be nice to have some different ones.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *