Yorkshire Times
Voice of the North
Graham Clark
Features Writer
11:33 AM 22nd August 2020

Corona Heroes To Switch On Blackpool Illuminations 2020

A group of Britain’s brave Corona Heroes will switch on this year’s Blackpool Illuminations.

They include a consultant, two nurses, a hospital catering manager, two extraordinary fundraisers, and a therapy dog and his owner.

Together, they will pull the famous switch at a special virtual switch-on event to be staged in association with MTV on the night of Friday 4 September.

They will be joined in a closed set in the Tower Ballroom by the show hosts, Ashley and Jordan Banjo, Blackpool-born singer-songwriter Rae Morris, and the Illuminations’ creative curator Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen.

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

A further 48 Corona Heroes will have illuminated images of themselves included within that section. They were chosen from hundreds of nominations from across the UK.

The switch-on moment in the ballroom will be part of an hour-long streamed event that will be freely accessible on VisitBlackpool and MTV channels. It will feature at-home performances by Melanie C, Becky Hill, Fleur East, Tom Grennan, Joel Corry, as well as a performance by Diversity.

The show will start at 8.30pm on Friday 4 September and can be viewed at:,

Those who will help pull the switch to trigger four months of Illuminations are:

Leona Harris:
The nurse from Rossendale has worked as a COVID-19 frontline nurse at Fairfield Hospital in Bury since the start of the pandemic. Not only that, she has helped raise £75,000 and bought i-Pads for patients in hospitals, care homes, and hospices all over Britain to keep isolated patients and families connected. Her remarkable efforts earned her the nickname of “The Angel from the North”.

Rachelle Sutton: For three months, the nurse moved out of the family home and lived in a hotel so that she could complete 12-hour shifts at the Nightingale Hospital in Manchester at the height of the pandemic. During that time she won the “star award” from Nightingale for her dedication and compassion for end-of-life patients.

Will Ritchie: The six-year-old boy from the Wirral was born with a severe visual impairment and suffers with epilepsy. During lockdown his parents took the opportunity to increase his exercise tolerance. Over several weeks, he went from 100m to 1500m a day and then completed a challenge for June – Will’s Marathon Month. Inspirational Will has now completed 30 miles and raised more than £14,000 for the Wirral University Teaching Hospital Foundation Trust COVID-19 Support Fund.

Dr Jason Cupitt: The consultant led the COVID response at Blackpool Victoria Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit, working every day and most nights at the peak of the pandemic, spending only a few hours away from the hospital over several months. His constant presence provide encouragement and reassurance to staff and patients in the struggle against COVID-19.

David Anderson and Jasper the therapy dog: Hospital chaplain David and his cockapoo have provided support and comfort to sick patients as well as boosting morale for the staff on wards at East Lancashire’s NHS Hospitals. Earlier this year, Jasper was presented with an “employee of the month” award for his services to the hospitals.

Donna Doyle: Employed at Alder Hey Hospital for more than 40 years, the restaurant manager led her catering team through some unprecedented challenges, instantly doubling the number of meals produced on site to provide a free service for patients, families, volunteers and staff, and initiating a delivery service that took free food and drink to front-line staff.

Kirsty Jones: The nurse from Blackpool’s Trinity Hospice moved into a flat by herself in order to continue her work but also protect her husband who had an underlying medical condition and was on the shielded list. After moving out of the family home on April 15, Kirsty was only able to make daily contact with her husband and two children through Facetime calls. She was eventually able to return home and be reunited with her family five weeks later.

Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, who helped select the winning nominations for the Corona Heroes section in the Illuminations said:
“We have all been truly humbled by the volume and nature of the nominations that we received.

“Every single nomination has illustrated the dedication and self-sacrifice that has been made by so many individuals during this pandemic, whether they be NHS staff, care workers, delivery drivers, fund-raisers or others who have put their own lives on hold to support the sick and the vulnerable.

“I only wish that we could include all of the nominations within the Illuminations display because each and every one deserves their place in the limelight.”

Cllr Gillian Campbell, Cabinet Member for Tourism & Culture for Blackpool Council, added:
“Those that have been invited to perform the actual switch on will be there to represent the hundreds of thousands of people who have done so much to protect and support the British people.

“This is an extraordinary year with our traditional celebration on the Tower Festival Headland becoming a virtual event, but we are delighted that the switch-on moment will be a tribute to the truly remarkable people who have led our nation’s response to coronavirus.”

It has already been announced that the 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.