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Page last updated at 13:55 GMT, Thursday, 30 July 2009 14:55 UK
Keeping Blackpool bright for 40 years
Peter works with a team throughout the year getting the Illuminations ready for the autumn switch-on
Peter works with a team throughout the year getting the Illuminations ready

In 1970 Peter Parr was employed to work on the Blackpool Illuminations for six months.

Nearly 40 years later, he's still there!

Peter is now Operations Manager for the world-famous extravaganza of light and sound that will once again light up the prom from 4 September 2009.

He's responsible for putting the lights up, keeping them up and lit, and taking them down - and he's the one they call at 3am if one blows down!

Peter works with a team throughout the year getting the Illuminations ready for the autumn switch-on: "It's hectic at times but I love the challenge and adrenalin rush," he says.

Spooky goings-on

That same team include managers, admin staff, foremen, various trades artists, painters, joiners, electricians and fitters, who are thinking of new ideas a year in advance.

The majority of the pieces that make up the display are made from fibreglass and plywood. It takes 22 weeks to put up, where they stay for nine weeks. It then takes another 14 weeks to take them down.

David Tennant
1949 Anna Neagle
1951 Stanley Mathews
1959 Jayne Mansfield
1964 Gracie Fields
1977 Red Rum
1978 Terry Wogan
1986 Les Dawson
1989 Frank Bruno
1994 Shirley Bassey
2007 David Tennant

Over the years there have been big changes. The lights are now much more energy efficient as Peter explains: "We've changed everything to 24 volts and the majority of the display is now LED lamps which use very little electricity.

"We also have a tableau called the Green Machine which uses solar energy."

Since the 1920s, the Illuminations have been made, repaired and stored in a depot on Rigby Road that started life as a stables, but in December Peter and the team are moving to a new depot on Amy Johnson Way.

"While the yard had plenty of character I'm sorry it's being demolished but it was no longer fit for our purpose," says Peter. "The layout in the new premises has been designed so staff have a better work flow with the minimum of movement between sections."

It also comes without the spooky goings-on: "Several members of staff have had experiences myself included. We have had ghost tours and people claim to pick up vibes from different parts of that old depot.

"I thought I heard footsteps at 3am when we were working a night shift but when I went to look there was nothing there."

'Extra sparkle'

It costs £2.5 million to stage the lights, with celebs of the day switching them on each year, "I think the nicest one I had dealings with was Frank Bruno." says Peter, "I found him a real friendly and genuine guy who had time for the kids in the crowd and didn't take it too seriously and had a laugh."

Last year Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond flicked the switch - whilst James May missed out as he was still en route to Blackpool after a Top Gear race from Switzerland!

Peter loves switch-on night: "I think I've got the best job in Blackpool when everything is up and working properly, with crowds walking through, especially if it has just rained, it seems to add an extra sparkle."

So Peter, who changes the light bulbs at home?

"The wife."


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