Organisers of Blackpool’s Illumination switch-on concert have said the event lost £372,000 after entrance fees for imposed for the first time.
The two-day event to celebrate the switch-on of Blackpool’s Illumination, which included a concert featuring Gary Barlow, was the first time visitors were charged. Marketing Blackpool, part-funded by the Labour-led council, said it decided to introduce a fee in the hope of making the event profitable within five years.
Blackpool Council’s Conservative leader, Tony Williams, said it was “the worst switch-on in 100 years”, but the council leader has not commented.
“Gary Barlow did a wonderful job of standing in at the last minute but the people didn’t turn up and it was doomed from the start,” he added.
TV presenter Jonathan Ross flicked the switch to turn on the famous illuminations, which will shine for 73 nights until 10 November.
Expenditure for the event was £775,000 with income being £402,891, Marketing Blackpool said. It said the deficit would be contained within its budget, although the cost to taxpayers for staging, production, marketing and road closures was £170,000.
A spokesman said, “We appreciate that there will be questions relating to artist fees but due to confidentiality clauses we are not, for legal reasons, able to provide these.”
Irish rockers The Script were due to play at Friday’s concert but withdrew citing a “serious family illness”. Gary Barlow then stepped in and asked organisers to make an undisclosed donation to Children in Need.
Labour Party Councillor and Leader of Blackpool Council, Simon Blackburn, has been unavailable for comment.