Blackpool is preparing to give visitors a special preview of the largest light installation ever created for the famous Illuminations.

Odyssey will be a spectacular interactive display co-created by international designer Jack Irving in collaboration with a highly-talented team of computer scientists from Lancaster University.

The completed Odyssey installation will comprise six large-scale towers combined with state-of-the-art technology to create an immersive projection show themed on undiscovered creatures lurking in the depths of the deep sea.

The towers comprise varying designs based on sea gods from Greek mythology: Poseidon, Aphrodite, and Amphitrite. Aphrodite, the tallest of the towers, is an impressive 7 metres wide, and 11 metres high!

As a special preview to give a flavour of the coming installation, four of the towers will be unveiled on the Tower Festival Headland on the evening of Friday 21 October as part of the annual Lightpool Festival and to mark the start of the main October half-term school holidays. The free attraction will remain in place during Lightpool Festival, which runs until October 29.

This preview is a small taste of the full deployment of a high-tech interactive experience, which will feature two further towers, and the creation of an 18 metre long digitally projected path that interacts with visitors.

The full Odyssey experience, which has been manufactured at the Blackpool Illuminations Lightworks factory, and has taken more than two years to design and build will be exhibited during the extended Illuminations season which ends on January 2, 2023.

Once completed, the installation will create an extraordinary 15-minute experience for visitors. For the first ten minutes, they will experience real-time interactive projection mapping on the floor of the Promenade and discover alien sea creatures as they swim, swirl and sway around their feet.

Through advanced technology, no two experiences will be the same as the projector maps individual movements and reflects back a customised projection, creating a unique and dynamic encounter for each person. 

Following the interactive element of Odyssey, the installation then displays a spine-tingling light and sound show created by the towers and 60 powerful lasers.

Cllr Lynn Williams, Leader of Blackpool Council, said: “Odyssey is the largest, most ambitious work that has ever been created at our Lightworks factory. The end result of this collaboration with Jack Irving and the team from Lancaster University is quite extraordinary, something that will truly capture people’s imaginations.”

“It will bring something quite unique to the seafront and adds a completely new dimension to the Illuminations display and the Lightpool Festival.”

The creation of Odyssey has been assisted by the investment that Blackpool Council has received from the Towns Fund, which is aimed at rejuvenating the Illuminations and developing new concepts that will attract new generations of visitors.

Jack Irving, Artist, said “It has been a total dream come true to design Odyssey. It’s been an incredible experience, inspired by all the creatures that I love, and to be able to bring everyone into my futuristic alien world. The installation will total immerse all the senses and it will feel like the Jack Irving aliens have landed in Blackpool and are ready to shine in all their glory”

Joe Finney, Professor of Computer Science at Lancaster University, said “We are thrilled to have worked with the Blackpool Illuminations team and Jack Irving in creating Odyssey. Lancaster University is committed to engaging actively with our partners as a force for societal good at regional, national and international levels. Through Odyssey, the most technologically advanced art installation ever deployed by Blackpool Illuminations, we aim to instil a new paradigm of interactivity into the illuminations, allowing visitors to not only see the lights, but to feel a part of it.”

Background on Odyssey 

In 2019 Blackpool Illuminations created a new design competition which saw the winner creating their design to feature in the Illuminations display. Part funded by the Arts Council, the competition was overseen by a panel of judges, chaired by Blackpool Illuminations creative curator, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, who decided to award the prize to joint winners, with Jack Irving providing the creative content and Professor Finney’s team at Lancaster University providing the technical expertise.

Artist Jack, who grew up in Blackpool and produced costumes for the Hot Ice show at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, has since gone on to specialise in extravagant, wearable art sculptures and create amazing costume designs for the likes of Lady Gaga.

Through his creative vision and innovative flair, Jack designed the giant alien sea Gods for Odyssey, and developed the overall concept for the installation.

The team of computer scientists at Lancaster University, one of the top universities in the UK, have provided the technological expertise required for this mammoth project, bringing Jack’s creatures to life, adding a new dimension that has never been seen before in the Blackpool Illuminations display.

The impressive installation would not have come to life without the highly skilled and experienced production team at Blackpool Illuminations, combined with monies from the Towns Fund to invest in cutting-edge technology.

Five futuristic facts about Odyssey:

  • Over 10,000 lines of code were written to enable the interactive elements of Odyssey
  • In excess of 2,500 hours have been spent on developing the software, simulation and testing
  • Each tower contains a Panasonic 20,000 lumens projector, camera and machine learning software to detect interactions from visitors.
  • Over 32 tonnes of steel has been used in the construction of the towers
  • 2,400 LED nodes and over 3,500 metres of LED lighting has been used in the display

The award-winning Lightpool Festival, sponsored by Fox Brothers Group, is currently underway with an amazing free-to-see programme of light installations, 3D projection shows, art trails, and stunning live performances running until 29 October. In addition to Odyssey, the festival programme includes a stunning array of international works from France and the Netherlands, with artwork never seen before in the UK. Full details of the programme can be found here:  




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