Lancaster University part of exciting collaboration for new Blackpool Illuminations installation


A picture of the Lancaster University research team
L-R: Kobi Hartley, Lorraine Underwood, Dr Miriam Sturdee, Professor Joe Finney

A team of Lancaster University computer scientists are joining forces with an outstanding young designer to create a spectacular light installation for this year’s world-famous Blackpool Illuminations.

Jack Irving, known for his dazzling costume designs for Lady Gaga, will collaborate with a team of researchers from Lancaster University’s School of Computing and Communications after the two were named as winners of a £100k competition to deliver the new attraction in the 2020 display.

Mr Irving and the Lancaster team, led by Professor Joe Finney, were among numerous entrants from all over the world vying for the unique opportunity to be part of the Illuminations. 

A panel of judges, chaired by Blackpool Illuminations creative curator, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, decided to award the prize to joint winners, with Jack providing the creative content and Professor Finney’s team providing the technical expertise. 

Their concept will incorporate deep sea creatures brought to life in a high-tech, interactive projection show on the Promenade close to The Blackpool Tower. 

The project will now move from concept to manufacture stage with the two teams working together to create the installation which will be unveiled in time for the switch on of this year’s Illuminations on September 4. 

Jack, 26, born and raised just a couple of miles down the coast from Blackpool, said: “It’s been a childhood dream of mine to design part of Blackpool Illuminations and so excited that this competition has made my dreams come true. 

“Being brought up next to the sea, my fascination with the eye-catching creatures and organisms that live there, has been my inspiration for the design. 

“It’s a little appreciated fact that most of the animals in our ocean make light and have used this bioluminescence as part of the Illuminations installation.” 

Professor Finney added: “Lancaster University is committed to local, regional and international public engagement, and we are really excited about this opportunity to create a unique and engaging visitor experience for this year’s Blackpool Illuminations. 

“This project provides a great example of the creative and collaborative nature of modern Computer Science, and how it can transform our daily lives.” 

Cllr Gillian Campbell, Deputy Leader of Blackpool Council, said: “The whole purpose of the Illuminations competition was to bring exciting design and technological expertise to the table. 

“It has done exactly that with some incredible concepts submitted from designers and artists across the world.

“When it is completed, this project will add a completely new dimension to the 2020 Illuminations display.” 

Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen added: “Judging by the sheer number of extraordinarily exciting entries there’s no doubt in my mind that our illuminations X factor competition has captured the imagination of the creative world. Young and old, professionals and amateurs, From Fylde to Australia we’ve had some truly illuminating ideas.” 

Other short-listed entrants included The Guild Hall School of Music and Drama and Lisa Ashcroft, an artist born in Preston, but now working in Australia. 

The new light installation will be revealed during the Illuminations season which runs from September 4 to November 8 this year and will be located on the Tower Festival Headland. For further information, please go to visitblackpool.com/illuminations.

Professor Joe Finney's team includes Lorraine Underwood , a Senior Teaching Associate of Creative Applied Computing; Dr Miriam Sturdee, a Research Fellow and Kobi Hartley, a Masters student in Computer Science.

Back to News