Illuminasia in Blackpool


Do you remember Illuminasia? It was a larger than life attraction of Chinese lantern craft, indoors in the Olympia Exhibition Hall at Blackpool Winter Gardens. Officially opened on 18 April 2014.

It included illuminated sights from around the world. Huge creatures and flowers, fish, things from space and more. The walk-through attraction blended the tradition of Chinese lantern craft with modern, cutting-edge technology to create incredible larger-than-life exhibits.

Don’t go looking for it now though because it closed for the last time in November 2017. Always intended to be a short-term thing, after it closed the exhibits were all sold off.

The photos on this page are copyright to Visit Fylde Coast

Caterpillars and toadstools at Illuminasia Blackpool
Caterpillars and toadstools in Land of the Giants at Illuminasia Blackpool

Illuminasia was presented in seven zones:

The exhibit was divided into several sections, each one dedicated to a different aspect of Chinese culture. The colours were vibrant, and the attention to detail incredible. There were giant pandas made from lanterns, a section dedicated to the Terracotta Army, and a replica of the Forbidden City.

Interactive exhibits enabled visitors to get involved and have some fun. You could dance on a platform surrounded by projections, and create your own lanterns using touch-screens. And walk through a tunnel of lights that reacts to movement.

  • Mysteries of China
  • Dragon Emperor
  • Land of the Dinosaurs
  • Land of the Giants secret garden
  • The Deep, with sharks, sea creatures and sunken treasure ships
  • Wonders of the World
  • The Planet zone
Under the sea at Illuminasia
Under the sea at Illuminasia

How Illuminasia Came About

The huge 45,000 sq ft Olympia Arena on the back corner of the Winter Gardens was the site for this major new attraction. It was an investment in the region of £3m.

Olympia exhibition hall before it became Illuminasia
Olympia exhibition hall before it became Illuminasia

The glass roof of the Olympia was dimmed with a new, blacked-out suspended ceiling. The different areas inside used to create five worlds. A huge 45′ tall illuminated Blackpool Tower stood in the centre, paying homage to our own unique landmark.

The upstairs balcony areas, the dog legged L shape and the whole of the hall became home to the Ancient Wonders of China, the Land of the Giants, an Undersea World, and a Planetarium in the dome on the corner opposite New Look. The main feature was the Wonders of the World Square where, along with Blackpool Tower, was Tower Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and other world landmarks.

The man behind Illuminasia

Jon Conway was the driver at the back of the project. He’d produced shows in Blackpool until about 2006.

Jon Conway with his plans for Illuminasia, in August 2013
Jon Conway with his plans for Illuminasia, in August 2013

His passion and enthusiasm for Blackpool is openly evident and one comment at the project launch event could be a new slogan for the town! ‘YOU’VE NO IDEA HOW GOOD WHAT YOU HAVE IS’

Jon’s produced over 400 pantos, and had been working on cruise ships and projects abroad. That’s where he met International Special Attractions (ISA), the company based in Shanghai and Los Angeles who for 20 years have been creating Luminasia. They’re the fantastic illuminated luminary shows that had never been seen before in Europe. The Blackpool display was their largest indoor project.

Tradition and technology

The tradition of celebrating with lights in China goes back 3000 years. Illuminasia brought the tradition to the modern world with modern lantern technology – but still built and created by Chinese artisans. It fuses the best of Chinese culture with our very own, hundred years old, Blackpool Illuminations.

The exhibit was first introduced in 2014 – the brainchild of a company called Artisan. The company had previously worked on large-scale projects in China and wanted to bring a piece of Chinese culture to the UK. They worked with a team of experts in China to create the lanterns and then brought them back to the UK to assemble the exhibit.

Building Illuminasia

Visit Fylde Coast managed a few peeks into the building site that was to become this bright, new, colourful world. It was a great view across the construction site from the mezzanine balcony at the entrance to Olympia. The smell of welding was the first thing to hit you. And a misty fog in the air, created by the dozens of Chinese craftsmen, all immersed in their work to build, weld and craft the exhibits.

The making of Illuminasia was no small feat and took over a year to create. The exhibit spanned over 40,000 square feet with over 35,000 individual lanterns. A team of skilled craftsmen made the lanterns in China, using traditional techniques passed down for generations. Each one handcrafted then shipped to the UK.

Building Illuminasia, in March 2013
Building Illuminasia, in March 2013

Even more incredibly, you didn’t see a tape measure on site! These craftsmen are SOOO skilled! They could look at the drawings, sketch them at full size on the floor and start building. The metal framework emerged first, then covered with coloured silks and finally painted.

Throughout construction you could see the true scale and proportion of the world they created. Without the scenery and backdrop it really was fascinating.

Illuminasia Blackpool during construction
Illuminasia Blackpool during construction. This photo taken on 2 April 2014.

Perfect replicas of the front end of the biggest puppy you’ve ever seen stood near a perfect Statue of Liberty and a Sphinx. Plus a Goldfinch so big you’ve got to wonder what kind of bird seed he’d eaten!

What on earth has this Goldfinch been eating!
What on earth has this Goldfinch been eating!

Illuminasia opened on 18 April 2014

The £3m all-new, indoor attraction covering a space of over 4100 square metres was the first new attraction to open in Blackpool for over twenty years.

Dinosaur Zone at Illuminasia
Dinosaur Zone at Illuminasia

An imaginative and interactive attraction for all ages, it featured over 35,000 lights in a blend of traditional Chinese lantern crafts with the latest in lighting technology.

The Replica Blackpool Tower
The Replica Blackpool Tower

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1 thought on “Illuminasia”

  1. Yes I visited Illuminasia. It was absolutely brilliant. Very cler designs and so colourful. Then it disappeared and nothing replaced it. So disappointed nothing replaced it.

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