In 1996, Ken Morley (Coronation Street's Reg Holdsworth) flicked the switch to turn on the last ever Morecambe illuminations. The town had seen autumn illuminations since 1949, and over the years they had been switched on by George Formby (in 1950), Morecambe and Wise (1969 and again in 1975) and Rod Hull and Emu (1986).
"We simply could not compete with Blackpool just down the road," says Morecambe Tourism.
Blackpool is currently trying to become the UK's answer to Las Vegas, in terms of gambling. With its autumn illuminations, this year switched on by Ronan Keating, it already has the lights. This year's display features half a million lights and includes an "Animal Magic" section with 19ft illuminated tigers and peacocks. The Blackpool illuminations can be seen every night until 3 November, and are switched on earlier as the evenings get darker. Details from the Blackpool Visitor Centre (01253 478222; www.blackpooltourism.com).
But Blackpool is not the only light show in town. Next Saturday sees the launch of the illuminations at the Walsall Arboretum, which run until 3 November (information: 01922 653148; bookings: 01922 653183; www.walsall-lights.com). Admission is £4 for adults and £3 for children. This year's West Midlands wonders include displays ranging from Thomas The Tank Engine to Digimon monsters.
Matlock Bath, just outside the Peak District National Park, lights up each dusk from now until 26 October, along the bank of the river Derwent. These illuminations date back to 1897, when lanterns and rockets were lit to mark Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. At weekends from 7.30pm, the Venetian Nights display in Matlock Bath features boats floating up and down the river bearing illuminated figures. For a bit of extra fizz, there are firework displays scheduled for 28 September, and 12 and 26 October, at 9pm. All these displays are free. (Matlock Bath Tourist Information Centre: 01629 55082).
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