HISTORY was made over the weekend as the world-famous Blackpool illuminations were switched on virtually for the first time in the event’s 70 year run - with some NHS stars from East Lancashire lucky enough to be in charge of the big moment.

The 'Corona Heroes' were selected to be a part of the big event thanks to their hard work fighting on the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis over the last several months, with two East Lancashire superstars featuring alongside other workers and fundraisers from across the North West.

Lancashire Telegraph:

The NHS heroes on stage, ready to switch the lights on

'Angel from the North' Leona Harris, from Rossendale, was invited to take centre stage alongside the other chosen heroes thanks to her efforts in raising £75,000 to buy iPads for hospitals, so families across the country could stay connected with loved ones throughout the pandemic.

Also representing the east of the county were Royal Blackburn Hospital chaplain David Anderson alongside his therapy dog Jasper, who has been on hand to comfort and console hundreds of patients and staff over the last number of months.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Therapy dog Jasper

The Switch-On moment was the centrepiece of an hour-long streamed event produced by MTV, which included “at home” performances by Melanie C, Becky Hill, Fleur East, Tom Grennan, Joel Corry, as well as an exclusive performance by Diversity.

Fleur also delivered her “Blackpool Rap” written and produced especially for the show, and there were cameo appearances by Ashley Banjo and Olly Murs, and the amazing sound of one of Blackpool’s Wurlitzer organs.

The live part of the event was switched to a closed set in the Empress Ballroom within the Winter Gardens following a last-minute technical problem in the Tower Ballroom.

The show was hosted by Diversity's Jordan and Perri, with Blackpool-born singer-songwriter Rae Morris performing two songs before Illuminations Creative Curator Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen introduced the Switch-On stars.

Each carried an illuminated strip that was attached to the main switch so that they could all play a part in the resort’s first ever socially-distanced Switch-On.

Laurence said afterwards: “It was a huge privilege to be able to share a platform with such a deserving group of people.

“Their heroic efforts and those of so many people like them are truly humbling. I am sure that the 2020 Blackpool Illuminations Switch-On will go down in history simply because it has captured all of the emotion of such an extraordinary year.”

Cllr Gillian Campbell, Cabinet Member for Tourism & Culture for Blackpool Council, added: “This has proved to be the most memorable of Switch-On nights as it has given us a unique opportunity to pay tribute to the extraordinary efforts of our NHS, key workers, and other outstanding individuals.

“Those who turned on the Lights tonight each have their own remarkable story to tell. But more than that, they are here to represent the hundreds of thousands of people across the UK who have put their own lives on hold to help the nation through the worst public health crisis in decades.

“I would like to say a huge thank you to our Switch-On stars, to those who performed for us in the virtual show, to the MTV production crew who made this happen, and to Blackpool’s own Rae Morris who came home to deliver a spell-binding performance.”

This year’s Illuminations, which are being presented under a theme of Bring On The Light, celebrate the unstinting work of the NHS, key workers and other outstanding individuals during the coronavirus pandemic, with the Golden Mile featuring a display of hearts and rainbows.

A further 47 Corona Heroes have illuminated images of themselves included within that section. They were chosen from hundreds of nominations from across the UK.

It has already been announced that Blackpool Illuminations will be extended by two months, starting on September 4 and ending on Sunday 3 January, 2021. It will be the first time the Illuminations have shone over Christmas and New Year.