Illuminasia

Illuminasia

Illuminasia was a larger than life attraction of Chinese lantern craft, indoors in the Olympia Exhibition Hall at Blackpool Winter Gardens.

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 technology to create incredible larger-than-life exhibits. Illuminasia was presented in seven zones:

– 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

Caterpillars and toadstools at Illuminasia Blackpool
Caterpillars and toadstools at Illuminasia Blackpool
Under the sea at Illuminasia
Under the sea at Illuminasia

How Illuminasia Came About

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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. The 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. Jon had previously produced shows in Blackpool until about 2006. His passion and enthusiasm for Blackpool is openly evident and one comment at the project launch could be a new slogan –

‘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 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. This fuses the best of Chinese culture with our very own hundred years old Blackpool Illuminations.

Building Illuminasia

Visit Fylde Coast managed a few peeks into the building site that was to become a 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. Along with 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.

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

Even more incredibly that there were no tape measures to be seen on site. These craftsmen are SOOO skilled that they could look at the drawings provided by the designer, sketch them out on the floor at full size, and then start building.

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

First a metal framework is built which is covered with coloured silks and then painted.

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!

Illuminasia opened on 18 April 2014

In 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.

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.

It was always designed to be a short-term attraction with a limited lifespan. It finally closed its doors in autumn 2017.

While you’re here…

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