An event which started when Queen Victoria celebrated her diamond jubilee will return on Saturday, September 10, celebrating its 125th anniversary. The 2022 Matlock Bath Illuminations will then run for every eight weeks, every Saturday and Sunday, until October 30.
Organised by Derbyshire Dales District Council, the illuminations draw in thousands of people each year to see the light show spectacular in Derwent Gardens and Lovers’ Walks. Fireworks finales will take place every Saturday in October – and one of this year’s innovations is a low noise fireworks display on the final night, Sunday, October 30.
Also new this year is the creation of a tunnel of lights over the pedestrian bridge that links Derwent Gardens with Lovers’ Walks and 12 new specialist lights on the Lovers’ Walks side of the river. Every Illuminations night will once again be themed for younger visitors.
Another popular attraction is the parade of decorated and illuminated boats created painstakingly with thousands of lights by members of the Matlock Bath Venetian Boat Builders’ Association – these pre-date the illuminations by about 30 years.
Entry charges recognise the different levels of entertainment provided on each night. Tickets have been frozen at 2021 prices – £6.50 on firework Saturdays (£5.50 concessions) and £5.50 on non-firework Saturdays and Sundays (£4.50 concessions) if bought online in advance – apart from the final Sunday (30 October) when Saturday prices apply. Accompanied under 16s continue to be free, with concessions available for OAPs.
It means a family of two adults and two or more under 16s can enjoy a Saturday night out at Matlock Bath Illuminations for £13 – including a fireworks finale – if they buy in advance at www.derbyshiredales.gov.uk/illuminations
On the night prices (card payments only) are £1.50 more expensive than buying online. Advance sales give the district council improved monitoring of likely crowds and give it the option to designate certain nights all-ticket if necessary. On-the-night tickets are not guaranteed and will not be available if the event sells out in advance.
After its grand start in 1897, the event did not take place in 1901 and 1902, but it is not known why. However, a new organising committee was formed in 1903. The event was also suspended for three years just before the Second World War because of bad weather and remained suspended during the war years. In 1950 there was a significant change when electricity was used for the first time to power the lights of the illuminated boats.
Decorated boats have been an integral part of the Venetian Fête, later the Venetian Nights, since the beginning but they were part of the village’s entertainment before then. In August 1869, there was a large firework display in front of 10,000 people and Mr. Woodfield, a spar and marble turner, lit his boats with Chinese lanterns.
By 1882, as well as the evening display of fireworks, there were also several boats on the river that were reported as being brilliantly-lit by Chinese lanterns and this was followed in 1897 by the first of today’s boat and light events which were seen as a way of extending the tourist season into September and October.