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Record-breaking start for Illuminations

There was a record-breaking start to the 122nd Matlock Bath Illuminations as the region’s top autumn event burst into life on 7 September with fireworks and the unique parade of decorated boats.

The boats took to the River Derwent for the first time in 2019 and will be the centrepiece of the Illuminations entertainment organised by Derbyshire Dales District Council every weekend until 27 October.

  • Book cheaper tickets online here.

After a lights switch-on performed on Saturday by the Civic Chairman of the Derbyshire Dales, Councillor Tony Morley, 2,123 visitors – the highest first night total since the District Council took over the event 35 years ago – cast their votes for their favourite of the 10 boats on show.

First prize went to the Motley Bunch (Christine Dence, Richard Wood and Pete Hartshorn from Matlock) for their boat ‘Viserion - Dragon from Game of Thrones’. They were presented with the Arkwright Cup, donated in 1903 by Sir Richard Arkwright, and the Centenary Cup, plus a cash prize of £1,000.

In second place was ‘Minecraft’ by Paul Henshall, of Matlock, winning the Plumtree Cup and £900. Paul was competing for a 45th year.

Third prize for ‘Danger Mouse’s Danger Car’ went to Richard Wood and Angela Fox-Wood of Chesterfield. They won the Sheffield Wire Rope Cup and £800, followed in fourth place by ‘Santa’s Bauble Grotto’ by David Harrison of Ashbourne. He took home the Dave Sanderson Trophy and £700.

The winners were announced before the boats paraded on Sunday, with awards presented by Jacquie Stevens, who is assisting husband Geoff Stevens MBE, compering the event for a 52nd year.

Said Geoff:
“It was tremendous to see so many people attend on the opening night, which traditionally is a quieter night than all the Saturdays that follow. There were lots of happy visitors and that was down in no small part to the absolutely stunning boat parade. The development of LED lighting means the designs keep getting better and better and once again the Matlock Bath Venetian Boat Builders' Association deserve great credit.”


It's a friendly competition, with all non-prize winners receiving £600. Making up this year's stunning Illuminations flotilla are ‘Batwing Jet’ by Matlock’s David Gregory, competing for a 49th year, ‘Speed King’ by Mick Hall from Ashbourne, 'R.C. on the Derwent’ by Matthew Hall and Sarah McCue from Ashbourne, ‘Mickey’s Steam Tractor’ by Ian Page from Cromford, ‘The D-Day Landing Craft’ by Harry Davidson from Matlock, and ‘A Lot Less Bother with a Hover’ by Ashbourne’s Rory Harrison.

The traditional candle boat, which goes out before the main parade and is constructed by all the boat builders to show how the models used to look a century ago, is ‘Riber Sand Castle’ – inspired by Year 7 students at Matlock’s Highfields School. It is lit with more than 60 night lights.

Saturday’s opening night also included a thrilling fire and glow show and a fireworks finale – there are fireworks every Saturday during the 2019 season, plus the last night on Sunday 27 October.

Sundays feature special family oriented themed nights, continuing with a ‘Children’s TV’ event on 15 September, when youngsters are encouraged to attend in fancy dress.

The unique parade of illuminated boats happens twice on Saturdays at 7.45pm and 9.15pm and at around 7.30pm on Sundays.

This year adults pay £6.50 on Saturdays and £5.50 on Sundays if they buy online in advance at www.derbyshiredales.gov.uk/illuminations - £1.50 cheaper than on-the-night tickets. Accompanied under 16s continue to be free, with concessions available for OAPs and disabled visitors.

  • Park and Ride services operate from 5pm-10.30pm on Saturdays from Cromford Meadows to Matlock Bath Pavilion, and there will be a Saturday Shuttle Bus service for the busy October Saturdays from Matlock Bus Station, also running between 5pm and 10.30pm
  • See our FAQs for more information about tickets, timings, transport and parking
2019 Matlock Bath Illuminations
There was a record-breaking start to the 122nd Matlock Bath Illuminations as the region’s top autumn event burst into life on 7 September with fireworks and the unique parade of decorated boats.

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