The original Blackpool Carnival was a spectacular, huge event held in 1923. Local volunteers resurrected it in 2017 in a bid to create an event for local people and the community. A few years ago, the Blackpool group gained £10,000 from the Lottery fund to pay for its revival.
Modern Day Blackpool Carnival
1-9 July 2023
It begins on Saturday 1st July with Coronation themed events during the following week, culminating in the Grand Carnival Procession packed full of amazing classic cars, dancers and bands on Sunday 9 July. Taking place along the promenade, at Tower, St Chad’s and Waterloo headlands plus various other Blackpool locations.
This event is totally FREE.
On Sunday 9 July, the Grand Carnival Procession leads off from The Solaris Centre at 12 noon, travels along the promenade up to and dispersing at Manchester Square.
This year’s Carnival is a 9-day event from and including 1st to 9th July.
In the Town Centre, street performers will be creating the Showzam! part of the event. Restaurants, bars, music venues all supporting the Carnival whilst promoting their own venue, along with participation from several of the big attractions, such as Merlin, Coral Island, the Pleasure Beach, the Winter Gardens and so on.
Find things happening on all 3 Promenade Headlands – Waterloo, St Chads and the Tower Festival including, of course, the Comedy Carpet.
The Grand Procession takes place on the final day (Sunday 9th July). All those who performed during the week are invited to take part.
The whole ethos of the Blackpool Carnival CIC is to get as much of the local community, education, community centres, charities, businesses, in fact everybody working together. Showcasing the huge amount of local talent to the world!
While celebrating the history and heritage of the previous 100 years, the Carnival is also looking forward to the next decades. Working towards ensuring that Blackpool Carnival is not only the biggest local event but is known and supported throughout the country and held in the same esteem as events such as the Edinburgh Fringe.
How to Take Part in Blackpool Carnival
Blackpool schools, children’s groups, sports groups, adult organisations and businesses are all welcome to join the Blackpool Carnival Parade. As with the other Fylde Coast galas, there’s a Carnival Queen and Retinue. All of the Gala Royalty from other local events are invited to take part.
- The event is free to attend, with acts, activities and events taking place on Waterloo Headland.
- Taking part in and organising the event is for us – for the people of Blackpool.
Blackpool Carnival is NOT organised by Live Blackpool. Please contact the event organisers for more information. All details correct at time of publication.
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The Early Blackpool Carnivals
Did you know? In 1879, Blackpool became the first place in Britain to have electric street lights.
Visitor numbers had fallen during the recent national depression, but on 18 & 19 September 1879 Blackpool celebrated ‘The Inauguration of the Lighting of the Town by Electric Light.’ 8 Siemens arc lamps were erected on the promenade, with one on each of the two piers (North and Central) to create a massive arena for carnival night.
On the night of 19 September 1879 a ‘Grand Carnival at Sea’ was held. A grand torchlit procession set off from the Drill Hall on Yorkshire Street. After a banquet of sumptuous foods a grand, mock naval battle was staged on the beach. 100,000 people came from miles around to see the ‘artificial sunshine’ provided by the arc lamps, and a ‘large ship on fire on the sea’.
This artificial sunshine was the precursor to the Blackpool Illuminations. Find out much more about how the Lights began here.
Blackpool Grand Carnival
The first Blackpool Grand Carnival was held from 9-16 June 1923. What a massive event that was! 2 million visitors attended, arriving on 200 extra trains and 51,000 extra vehicles. Based on the world-famous carnival in Nice, it was an attempt to replace the Illuminations.
Doodles the Clown (real name William McAllister) appeared at the Tower Circus from 1915, but was also Carnival King in 1923. He arrived by aeroplane onto the beach – unfortunately the plane turned over as it landed! His Queen was Fred Walmsley – the ‘Dame’ from the Pier Show.
The King and Queen led a huge procession, including people wearing papier-mache heads. Craftsmen from Nice made them, working in Blackpool at the tram works.
Did you know? In 1924 an old hangar was erected at the side of the Corporation Donkey Stables on Rigby Road. Known as the ‘Carnival Shop’ it was where floats were made. Then Blackpool Corporation decided not to hold any more carnival events, and in 1936 it became the Illuminations Department.
Take a look at this British Pathe clip of the first event –
Florence Stevenson, a local music hall singer, was face of the carnival. Her face featured on thousands of commemorative pin brooches and badges of the time. And South Shore Open Air baths opened on 9 June to coincide with Carnival week.
It was such a success that organisers decided to make it an annual event – incorporating Blackpool Children’s Carnival dating back to 1897.
Between 11 and 21 June the following year the second Blackpool Carnival took place. But the 1924 event proved to be the last. Several of the days were event-free. Without any scheduled activities to take part in, many of the visitors just spent their time drinking and being merry! Little changes over the years! With all the problems that so much drunkenness created, the Council decided to hold a festival of Lights from 1925 instead. Of course that was to become the world famous Blackpool Illuminations.
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