New South Promenade Artwork Trail - the Mirror Ball

Changes at the New South Promenade Artwork Trail

The proper name for the New South Promenade artwork trail 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’s less good news for the Tide Organ which is being decommissioned at the end of the year.

We went to have a look at all of the pieces in the trail on a gorgeous day in November 2020. See them in this video –

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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.

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.

The Sound of the Wind, the southernmost piece of Blackpool's Great Promenade Show
The Sound of the Wind, the southernmost piece of Blackpool’s Great Promenade Show
The Sound of the Wind, the southernmost piece of Blackpool's Great Promenade Show
The Sound of the Wind, the southernmost piece of Blackpool’s Great Promenade Show

A couple of seafront shelters are next, looking deceptively like artworks themselves. Functional and attractive, they also provide a frame to the glorious views.

One of the attractive seafront shelters, interspacing the Blackpool New South Promenade Artwork Trail
One of the attractive seafront shelters, interspacing the Blackpool New South Promenade Artwork Trail
One of the attractive seafront shelters, interspacing the Blackpool New South Promenade Artwork Trail
One of the attractive seafront shelters, interspacing the Blackpool New South Promenade Artwork Trail

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.

The Frankenstein Project, part of Blackpool's Great Promenade Show
The Frankenstein Project, part of Blackpool’s Great Promenade Show

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!

Blackpool Council is planning to de-commission ‘The Frankenstein Project’ by artist Tony Stallard in early 2022.

Water Wings

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.

Waterwings, part of Blackpool's Great Promenade Show
Waterwings, part of Blackpool’s Great Promenade Show

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.

Sunset at New South Promenade, shining through the 'Waterwings' piece
Sunset at New South Promenade, shining through the ‘Waterwings’ piece

Glam Rocks

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.

Glam Rocks, part of Blackpool's Great Promenade Show
Glam Rocks, part of Blackpool’s Great Promenade Show

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.

One of the attractive seafront shelters, interspacing the Blackpool New South Promenade Artwork Trail
One of the attractive seafront shelters, interspacing the Blackpool New South Promenade Artwork Trail, and framing the 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 tiles. Completely overhauled it looks like new!

Desire

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.

Desire, part of Blackpool's Great Promenade Show
Desire, part of Blackpool’s Great Promenade Show

The architectural seafront shelters continue along the New South Promenade artwork trail. Each one is slightly different – almost an artwork in themselves!

One of the attractive seafront shelters, interspacing the Blackpool New South Promenade Artwork Trail
One of the attractive seafront shelters, interspacing the Blackpool New South Promenade Artwork Trail

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.

One of the Swivelling Wind Shelters, part of Blackpool's Great Promenade Show
One of the Swivelling Wind Shelters, part of Blackpool’s Great Promenade Show

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.

Where the Life as a Circus piece should be, part of Blackpool's Great Promenade Show
Where the Life as a Circus piece should be, part of Blackpool’s Great Promenade Show

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.

Plaque to the architectural lighting columns, find them illuminating the Blackpool New South Promenade Artwork Trail
Plaque to the architectural lighting columns, find them illuminating the Blackpool New South Promenade Artwork Trail

Blackpool Rocks

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!

Any idea what this is? Is it part of Blackpool's Great Promenade Show
Any idea what this is? Is it part of Blackpool’s Great Promenade Show

There’s another one of the Swivelling Wind Shelters at this northern end of New South Promenade too.

One of the Swivelling Wind Shelters, part of Blackpool's Great Promenade Show
One of the Swivelling Wind Shelters near to the Sandcastle, part of Blackpool’s Great Promenade Show

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 has 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 has been consulted and informed of the work taking place, and now it’s coming down.

Blackpool Council is following professional advice that the Tide Organ now needs to come down to ensure it doesn’t become unsafe. Specialist contractors will begin dismantling on Monday 13 December 2021. It shouldn’t take any longer than a week but is, of course, weather dependent.

Until 13 December you can see it at the northernmost end of the artwork trail, near to the Sandcastle. A musical manifestation of the sea it stands on a concrete base, with a corten steel reflector clad in copper sheet. It has polyethylene inlet pipes and zinc organ pipes. By Liam Curtin and John Gooding, 2003.

The Tide Organ, part of Blackpool's Great Promenade Show
The Tide Organ, part of Blackpool’s Great Promenade Show

The best time to hear it play is one to two hours before or after high tide, when the sea is rough. The sea forces air into the pipes and through the organ. Have you ever heard it play?

How The Tide Organ works, part of Blackpool's Great Promenade Show
How The Tide Organ works, part of Blackpool’s Great Promenade Show

Sir Peter Blake Statues

‘Life as a Circus’ was originally a piece of artwork on the Promenade across from the Pleasure Beach.

Life as a Circus - Sir Peter Blake Statue opposite the Pleasure Beach
Life as a Circus – Sir Peter Blake Statue opposite 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.

While you’re here…

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4 thoughts on “Changes at the New South Promenade Artwork Trail”

  1. I do not think the concrete blocks are part of the art installations. Are they not the base for the beach patrol portakabin which is sited there during the summer season?

  2. It is very sad that the tidal organ is to be removed. It makes such a beautiful haunting sound. I wish it could be refurbished or replaced. Why commission these artworks if they are not going to be maintained properly?

  3. Didn’t realise that when we heard the tide organ playing last Sunday morning, while attending the annual Brian House Santa Dash, it would be for the last time. Although not a pretty artwork, the sound of it is rather haunting. The Grandchildren were fascinated when i told them that the waves helped make it play. Will miss it for sure and sad news it has reached the end of it’s life.
    Martyn Hopewell

  4. It will be sad to see the tidal organ go. As it is only 1 of 3 in the world
    I think it is a unique feature on the promenade . And could not be re-sited elsewhere along the seafront. as i feel it is placed out of view of the other artworks there
    regards Mr. GEOFFREY PLANT

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