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The purpose of the Friends Group is two-fold:
-to raise the profile of the Blackpool Illuminations and to show local people and businesses just how vitally important they are to the economy of the Fylde Coast, and
- to raise funds for new Illuminations projects - either through directly raising funds for new features, or by seeking business sponsorship.
Blackpool Council are only able to contribute £2m each year to the running costs of the Illuminations. This pays for putting them up and maintaining them, but as you can appreciate, their pot of money isn't bottomless and so, so much more could be spent.
Especially in these modern, economically more difficult times, it's the investment into innovation and new features - the very things that keep people coming back year on year - which the Council cannot fund.
Which is where the Friends come in.
In this section you can find out about events, fundraising and projects, and how to get involved.
In October 2011 a meeting of businesses at North Shore was called to discuss the cuts to the Illumination Fund, and how between them they could help to boost support and donations for the department.
There were natural concerns that cutbacks to the fund and displays would have a hideous affect on North Shore businesses. (It was rumoured at the time that the lights were to be shortened, to end at Gynn Square).
The meeting made the local and regional news, MP’s and representatives from all over Blackpool attended and put forward their concerns and ideas.
Richard Ryan and Alan Cavill were present to answer questions and from this meeting a group was formed called ‘The North Shore Forum’.
The aim and objectives of the group were (and still are) to support the council and the Illuminations fund to help to maintain and hopefully improve the quality of the ‘Greatest free light show on Earth’.
Several meetings took place before Gary Pretty (the Chair of the Blackpool Combined Association) asked the members of NSForum to consider changing the group name..... It went to vote and ‘Friends of the Illuminations’ (FoIL for short) and from January 2012 this became the new title.
The illuminations department at that time had a newsletter and Facebook page in the name of ‘Friends of Blackpool Illuminations’. The groups have merged into one, with the same outlook, aims and principles, it made sense.
In March 2012 a meeting was held at Lightworks to agree a board for the ‘Friends’ group. This is when Lawrence Llewelyn Bowen attended and agreed to be Patron and others volunteered to be Ambassadors, representing North and South shore sectors.
The relationship with the team at Lightworks has gone from strength to strength and where possible they have acted upon ideas and concerns raised by businesses. The group provides a direct link to traders that the department never had before, and it's beneficial to both parties. Having a say is crucial, but being heard is priceless.
The Illuminations are paramount to the tourist industry and economy of this town - extending the season and creating footfall and significant income when other UK seaside towns are no more than ghost towns.
At the end of the day, the bottom line is money. The bigger and better the show, the more visitors it attracts - and the Illuminations are year-on-year the number one reason for people to visit Blackpool and the Fylde Coast.
Without more funding, the team are unable to improve on what they have, just maintain it. Without progress, the Illuminations stare at the slippery slope of decline, so if you feel able to help the Illuminations, please do!
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