Author Topic: A Question and Answer session with Mr Richard Ryan - Head of Illuminations  (Read 4941 times)

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I have this week, just prior to the official illuminations press launch for the 2012 Centenary Show undertaken an exclusive Q&A session with the man behind it all, Richard Ryan for Live In Blackpool.

Below is the script in its entirety.


Hello Richard


First of all on behalf of the members and the readership of Live In Blackpool, can I take this opportunity to thank you for agreeing to do this question and answer session with me.

The illuminations is a popular subject on this forum so we are really pleased to be able to get an insight from the man behind it all.


Q: You were born in Sheffield and took a keen interest in the Sheffield Christmas illuminations; when did you first visit Blackpool illuminations and what are your earliest memories?

A: I reckon when I was around 5 or 6 so it would be 1968/9, there were some crackers in there at that time.


Q: You famously made your own illumination as a child, which story has it you still have. Are the electrics still a potential death trap? Does it still work?

A: I still have some of the holders from the first set of outdoor lights I made with my dad in 1969, outdoor lights were NOT commercially available back then, so we is fair to suggest they would not pass to the 17th Ed regulations today (or the 16th or 15th!)
I also have my first "drum flasher from 1974. It was a (washed out) KITEKAT can with two stripes of blue insulating tape spiraling round it, 5 pieces of Meccano and the addition of a rubber band/motor enabled the thing to rotate and flash a "4 way run". A later addition was a capacitor purchased as a smoother and voila the interference was gone from the TV screen!

Q: What is your all time favourite illumination road section and all time favourite tableau?

A: Hard one -there have been so many. I love the 1960's designs and some from the 70's but like Dr Who's there is a tendency to pick those you were at a certain age with. If pushed I'd say pre my era "Fireworks" or " the original Candyland" , During "my"era I'd say "Diamond lites (1992)  as road section and Venus (2008) as a tab by a mile!


Q: What has been the most challenging design the team has undertaken in your time at the illuminations and what was so challenging about it in particular?

A: Venus reborn, due to both complexity and time, we had to develop the technology from scratch and had precious little time. It was commenced on June 4th 2008 (the thing was grant funded and until it was confirmed we could not start) and first tested at around 3am on the date of Press day that year! It worked first time ....and we all collapsed in shock!


Q: What is the most satisfying part of the job for you?

A: Positive feedback from the public and others and I like it when members of our staff are clearly relishing their role and are proud of what they do. Its quite a privilege to be associated with that.


Q: I know a few weird things have happened down the years. What has been the most surreal moment for you?

A: Wow so many. Some classics : Fibre optic man getting shot, Mummy getting stolen, lego man held hostage at Fleetwood cricket club, my (own designed) burglar alarm on the Ghostbusters tab getting stolen (yes the alarm!)  and Giant hand chopping the car. Its a job for two things thick skins and senses of humour.

Q: I have just won the Euromillions and become the biggest ever single ticket winner. How are you going to invest my blank cheque in the illuminations? I know the immediate response will be with glee, but seriously what would you like to be able to do given that money is no object?

A: Improvements to infrastructure/presentation. Make it more Disneyesque. Invest in some absolutely World class projects and spend enough marketing them to help put Blackpool on the map.

Q: What has been the project that has given you most satisfaction in your time working at the illuminations and why?

A: Venus as above, but I also enjoyed working with LLB on Decodance, it's a first class road-section.

Q: Which project from your years of experience was the most difficult to maintain and keep burning brightly and why?

A: Oh we have had some shockers! Spectrumagic- too open to weather effects, in fact anything with 240V non neon on them (e.g. Timber Pylons), Blackpool magic's first set of gearboxes -wrongly specified (and my fault) in my first year, we fixed it by the end of the show but it was utterly depressing watching them fail one after the other!

Q: Looking back to Day One when you joined the team, what do you miss most from those early days and what do you miss least and why?

A: I used to walk up Rigby road and sit on the front (near the pumping station- glam eh!) and look at the sea and reflect at lunchtime, I don't tend to get Lunchtime nowadays we are too busy. Reflection is a good thing to do and does improve the product, so I miss that and wish I could allow myself to do it more.


Q: And what is the biggest change and advance you have seen down the years?

A: Low voltage (24V) and introduction of Flu tubes, both of which I was responsible for, they were both battles to introduce but both utterly transformed the display. Following that, the development and use of DMX has allowed us to drive the technology and sophistication upwards.

Q: If you could have redesigned and displayed any road section or tableau from the history of the illuminations for the Centenary Show, what would you have chosen and why?

A: Fireworks or The Dancing Years, pure class and a totally irrational personal choice!


Q: Are you able to divulge any exclusives to the readership of Live In Blackpool about this years display Richard?

A: On Wednesday (Aug 1st) we release it all to the world.......oh go on then...this years display will be...better than last year, by a mile. I have a very good feeling about a display we are all working long hours to complete!


Q: Finally, what project has excited you the most for the Centenary display?

A: Its a hard one I've enjoyed them all but funnily enough working on the Centenary book has been awesome - we have reunited designers and managers from 1958 onwards and meeting and interviewing these people has been amazing. It's been fabulous reuniting them with their own work! Feature wise I'm very pleased we are doing the Rocket tram and it will become iconic for the second time !


Many thanks for your time in taking part in this Richard, and all the very best wishes from Live In Blackpool for the success of this years display and indeed the future of the Illuminations – The Greatest Free Show on Earth   

My thanks for asking and I hope you all enjoy the show ! :)


« Last Edit: August 07, 2012, 11:23:49 PM by PETER MOWBRAY »

Proud Salopian (With a part of the heart in Blackpool)


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    • Welcome to Live In Blackpool, I hope you like it..x
In Spain at the moment typing from my phone.. Firstly a huge thank you to Ruchard once again, and to Chris..brilliant interview


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Thanks Peter.

Richard is always a pleasure to deal with. I love his enthusiasm, his openess and his honesty.

I thought long and hard about questions to ask. I wanted to get a depth of feeling of the history, the present and the future of the illuminations through Richard's eyes. I also wanted a bit of quirkyness in there.

I believe this has captured that and, from a personal viewpoint at least, I found it very enlightening and enjoyable. Definitely a worthwhile exercise  :thumbup1:

Proud Salopian (With a part of the heart in Blackpool)


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Brilliant Interview

 Its always great to get an insight into what goes on behind the scenes & from the man himself, i must admit i love to read his little teases that he leaves on the Friends of the Illuminations facebook page. Personally i think that they do a great job with the limited budget they have & who knows if one of us wins the Euromillions hehe


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I see a lot of Richard in myself,time to reflect is the best because its usually the time i get my best ideas (even sometimes when im sleeping),i always have had a love of outdoor lighting and pyrotechnics in particular.Probably has come from my xmas display and hogmanay fireworks!!!


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Richard posts updates, thoughts and little teases on the Friends of Blackpool Illuminations Facebook page, as mentioned by Potter1 in his post below.

As well as Richard's posts, there are lots of pictures and the latest gossip on all things illuminations.

For those interested, follow the link below:

Proud Salopian (With a part of the heart in Blackpool)