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'Yorkshire is God's own county' - Sheffield born Illuminations boss heads back to his roots

Richard Ryan is heading back to Yorkshire after 3 decades working in Blackpool
Richard Ryan is heading back to Yorkshire after 3 decades working in Blackpool
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As Sheffield-born Richard Ryan departs his role as Blackpool Illuminations boss, he recalls his life in the city on his way back to his Yorkshire roots.

After nearly three decades in the role, he has called it a day after being head hunted by illuminations company Blachere, Europe’s largest specialist light companies, providing displays for shopping centres and theme parks.

Ever since he was young, Richard has been interested in illuminations

Ever since he was young, Richard has been interested in illuminations

The company have a plant in Huddersfield meaning it's likely Richard will be returning to 'gods own county' - Yorkshire.

Richard, 56, who grew up in Sheffield on Devonshire Road, Dore, recalls of a good childhood in a nice location.

"We had little money," he said.

"I was a late child, my brother and sister were older by some margin and both my parents were in what would now be termed as zero hours contracts so fun was football, making things, local trips to Derbyshire and the like."

Richard has played a key role in the Blackpool Illuminations

Richard has played a key role in the Blackpool Illuminations

He added: "Posh boy as they used to say, they don't now!"

Starting school life at the Dore Primary School he went on to secondary education at King Ecgberts, a school he calls interesting.

It was later on in further education where his love for engineering grew.

"Academically I did way better at Granville College which I absolutely loved as the staff had all been there and done it in real industry," he said.

Richard has played a key role in other illuminations, such as the Matlock Illuminations

Richard has played a key role in other illuminations, such as the Matlock Illuminations

"They were great attributes to teaching Engineering, which is what I studied."

But it was back in the late 60's to early 70's that Richard's love of illuminations was born, viewing 'the best lights in the UK, here in Sheffield.

"My dad took me to see the city centre on Sunday as the roads were deserted as shops were shut and they put lots of them up on Sundays," he recalled, an occurrence that happened around late September to November.

In the 70's, after visiting Matlock Illuminations, Richard decided to create a miniature 'at-home' version.

Eager to know more about how things worked, his mother then wrote a letter to the Illumination organisers, who invited him for a VIP tour behind the scenes which further fuelled his love of illuminations.

It was his dad who taught him the electrical basics, he said: "We had outdoor lights which got bigger and hopefully better each year. We were among the first to do outdoor, it was strange back then.

"They must have thought we were odd. I got hate mail during the Ted Heath power-cuts in the early 70's as we kept them on at time when our power was on, but my mum kept the house in darkness to compensate!"

At the time, the 'three-day week' was a measure introduced by then Prime Minister, Edward Heath, to reduce consumption of electricity.

Richard later went on to volunteer at Matlock Baths during the festivities, and learnt bits a long the way.

"Some of it was ex Blackpool, very exciting," he added.

Eventually he moved to Portsmouth, to study Electrical Engineering at the then Portsmouth Polytechnic before completing a Masters at UCLAN in Preston.

But he was never far away from Sheffield, visiting family and his best friend who still lives in the city at least twice a year.

Fast forward to today, and Richard is still living in Blackpool but after leaving his role at the beginning of June, Richard is looking forward to being back in Yorkshire.

He said: "Yorkshire is God's own county after all so it's lovely to be back. Saying that I really enjoyed all the missionary work in Lancashire over the years and have discovered them to be a friendly and kind section of humanity.

"I'll be visiting Blackpool again to see how the lights are as well of course!"