Combine a walk, fresh air and exercise with a bit of exploration! Head to the end of Blackpool seafront and enjoy the New South Promenade Artwork Trail. The proper name for it is the ‘Great Promenade Art Show’. It joins other public works around the town, for example the award winning ‘Comedy Carpet’ by Gordon Young. They’re all part of the many unique cultural experiences which Blackpool has to offer.
2021 saw a complete overhaul of the Mirror Ball. But it was less good news for the Tide Organ which has now been removed 🙁
We went to have a look at all of the pieces in the trail on a gorgeous day in November 2020 (including the Tide Organ). See them all in this video and on this page. Plus some other ideas for things to do while you’re there.
The Great Promenade Show originally included 10 pieces of artwork along the 2km trail at Blackpool New South Promenade. It includes works such as the Mirrorball and Glam Rocks.
The outdoor art gallery reflects Blackpool’s history and character. Each piece is a unique interpretation of Blackpool’s natural and man made environments.
The works were commissioned from both established and emerging artists. In 1999 more than 50 artists were approached and asked for their ideas. Then in 2000 the public voted for their favourites. These are the chosen ones.
You might not like them all, but there’s definitely something interesting for everyone – and it’s a great spot to visit for a cheap day out.
Explore the New South Promenade Artwork Trail
We start our exploration of the Great Promenade Show at the very southernmost end, against the beach at Starr Gate. Tucked behind the big tram depot building the trail starts with…
The Sound of the Wind Looks Like This
An artwork made of aluminium poles and powered by the wind. It makes the strength and direction of Blackpool’s fresh air visible. Find it at the southernmost end of the Promenade. By Stephen Hurrel, 2002.
A couple of seafront shelters are next, looking deceptively like artworks themselves. Functional and attractive, they also provide a frame to the glorious views.
The Frankenstein Project
This piece looks like a submarine but is a contemporary freak show that warns of sinister outcomes when meddling with nature. Made in steel, glass and neon, by Tony Stallard, 2001.
Sadly, when we went to take a look, the portholes didn’t reveal anything inside. Can you remember what was once on display? Please tell us in the comments below!
‘The Frankenstein Project’ by artist Tony Stallard is another piece which Blackpool Council is planning to de-commission.
An image of freedom made from laser cut stainless steel. The ever changing sky behind this artwork becomes the water in which a child swims. By Bruce Williams, 2001.
This piece is so large that it’s best seen from a distance. At sunset it looks amazing, back-lit with that gorgeous amber glow.
You won’t miss this group of three giant pebbles. They sparkle with multi-coloured fibre optic lights which also glint in the sun. Rendered with marble-lite, they’re fitted with stainless steel and glass light points. By Peter Freeman, 2001.
Blackpool’s Giant Mirror Ball
The proper name of the piece is ‘They Shoot Horses Don’t They?’ and is the world’s biggest dance hall mirror ball.
The steel and fibreglass frame is clad in 47,000 glass tiles and weighs a whopping 4.5 tonnes. By artist Michael Trainor, 2002. The piece is inspired by the film of the same name, featuring a giant mirror ball.
During the winter of 2020 it went off for its second restoration. We caught it on our promenade walk as you can see above, framed by the adjacent shelter. The top slice had just been removed, prior to its full restoration. The salty sea air plays havoc with the mirroring on the glass tiles. It’s back in place, reclad in 47,000 sparkling tiles. Completely overhauled it looks like new!
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Makes reference to Blackpool as the capital of kiss-me-quick, holiday liaisons. These corten steel slabs tower over the seafront, with their stainless steel spikes. But beware… when the sun is low in the sky it casts the shadow of a broken heart on the ground. By Chris Knight, 2001.
The architectural seafront shelters continue along the New South Promenade artwork trail. Each one is slightly different – almost an artwork in themselves!
The Swivelling Wind Shelters
Are also artworks of the Great Promenade Show. They move with the wind to provide a constant source of respite from Blackpool’s bracing breezes. Their single sweeping form acts as both a wind vane to turn the structure, and a baffle to shelter promenaders. By Ian McChesney with Atelier One, 2005.
Life as a Circus
Casts a variety of fantasy circus acts in bronze for perpetuity. It celebrates the great entertainment tradition of Blackpool. Sir Peter Blake, 2004.
Sadly these bronze statues proved to be a magnet for scrap-metal thieves. But thankfully they’re now on display in the new Blackpool Council office at Bickerstaffe House. Their plinths stand empty opposite the Pleasure Beach. More about them below.
Not far away from ‘Life as a Circus’ you might spot this plaque. It celebrates the architectural lighting columns at New South Promenade. Surprisingly, lending form to such a mundane item makes such a big difference to the look of the place.
A 10m high prism which refracts visible lights into its component colours. Seven carefully placed object each glow with colour. By Bruce & William McLean, 2004.
Does anyone know what happened to this piece? Are these concrete blocks part of the original installation? Please let us know by leaving a comment below!
There’s another one of the Swivelling Wind Shelters at this northern end of New South Promenade too.
The Tide Organ
The Tide Organ by Liam Curtin and John Gooding was one of the range of art works originally commissioned by Blackpool Council at the start of the millennium in ‘The Great Promenade Show’.
However, the hostile seaside environment had a big impact on the steel/metal piece. The artwork was commissioned with a planned 15 year life-span so it’s done well to last much longer.
The artist preferred the piece to be removed now that it didn’t work as intended. Blackpool Council followed professional advice that the Tide Organ needed to come down to ensure it doesn’t become unsafe. Specialist contractors began dismantling it on Monday 13 December 2021.
Before that you would have seen it at the northernmost end of the artwork trail, near to the Sandcastle. A musical manifestation of the sea it stood on a concrete base, with a corten steel reflector clad in copper sheet. It had polyethylene inlet pipes and zinc organ pipes. By Liam Curtin and John Gooding, 2003.
The best time to hear it play was one to two hours before or after high tide, when the sea is rough. The sea forced air into the pipes and through the organ. Did you ever hear it play?
While you’re in the area…
Are you looking for cheap days out in Blackpool? Exploring the artwork trail is just one of the things that you can enjoy while you’re in the area.
- Go for a walk on the beach – there’s miles of golden sand to enjoy!
- Build a sandcastle – go prepared with buckets and spades. Why not take your garden spade from home and make something REALLY big! It’s perfect sand for it – but don’t forget to check the tides before you go.
- Look out for dolphins – yes really! If you’re sharp enough you might see the distinctive fins of dolphins and porpoise in this area.
- Enjoy the views – have you seen Anglesey, Wales and the wind farms? Look to the left on a clear day – you might be surprised at the views you see.
- Have a brew at the Solaris Cafe. There’s a park and outdoor seating on the other side of the Solaris Centre too. (And public toilets!)
Take a look at the map – New South Promenade is in pink – and see what else you can do.
And those Sir Peter Blake Statues?
‘Life as a Circus’ was originally a piece of artwork on the Promenade across from the Pleasure Beach.
The artwork consists of two sculptures, ‘Four Man Up’ and ‘Equestrian Act’. The two statues depict balancing acts as seen in a circus, of strongmen, horses and a mermaid.
Blackpool Council worked with sculpture specialists AB Fine Art Foundry, recreating the statues after they were damaged in 2011. Remoulding them in a material that holds no value to metal thieves.
Originals on Display
The two original ‘Life as a Circus’ sculptures are on public display at the main reception of Blackpool Council’s offices on Bickerstaffe Square. Restored, they now stand in the reception at the new offices, behind an alarmed glass cabinet.
Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for culture and heritage, said: “When Sir Peter Blake was originally commissioned to sculpt this piece of artwork, it was a huge coup for Blackpool.
“He is an internationally acclaimed artist and to have his work in our town was absolutely fantastic. Because of the quality of work, when the originals got damaged, we vowed to do everything we could to make sure that Blackpool locals could still enjoy them in some form.
“Their new home is alarmed and secure, while still being available for anybody to come and take a look at them.”
About Sir Peter Blake
Sir Peter Blake is widely regarded as the father of pop art. After studying at Gravesend School of Art he was accepted into the prestigious Royal Academy of Art in London.
His work extends across a diverse range of media including watercolour, drawings, prints, collage, painting, and sculpture. Sir Peter designed many album covers including The Beatles ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ and the Paul Weller ‘Stanley Road’ album. Sir Peter received his knighthood in 2002.
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