After war broke out in 1939, there was a very limited Festival in 1940 but then everything closed down for five years, re-opening again in in 1946 when Stage Dancing events were dropped entirely. However, a new event, the British Amateur Old Time Sequence Championship was included for the first time, which was extremely popular.
The same year Mr. Bunny Hayward died. He had been the resident M.C. in the Empress Ballroom and Compere of the Festival since 1929. He was also the Co-Principal with Mrs Ida Ilett of the Blackpool School of Dancing. This meant that Mr P.J.S Richardson became the Compere as well as the Chairman of Adjudicators for the Festival. Mr W.H.H. Smith became the Festival Secretary and in 1954, Mrs Ilett was made the first official Dance Festival Organiser.
Because of the popularity of the Sequence competitions, the Winter Gardens Company decided to hold an Old Time Ball in October 1950 and this was considered to be the 1st Blackpool Sequence Dance Festival.
The original Blackpool Dance Festival continued to grow and in 1953 the competitions were the North of England Amateur and Professional Championships, a Ballroom Formation Dancing Competition, the British Amateur and Professional Ballroom Championships, plus a Professional Exhibition Dancing Competition.
As far back as the 1930s, there were strong ties with Denmark through inter-school activities with the Blackpool School of Dancing but it was in the 1950s that the influx of foreign competitors started. There was a special box reserved for the foreign visitors on the south balcony in the Ballroom. Patrons sat in this box until, by 1980, there were so many foreign competitors and spectators that the box had to be discontinued as completely impractical. In the last few years, there have been fifty countries represented at the Festival with large numbers from Japan, Germany, Italy and the USA.
The major change, however, was the introduction of Latin American Dancing, which made a great impact on the dancing world. In 1961 a British Amateur Latin American Tournament was held, followed by a Professional event in 1962. These two events were upgraded to Championship status in 1964.
As more and more foreign competitors came to Blackpool, it was decided to organise a small Festival for British competitors only and, in November 1975,the first British Closed Dance Festival was held in the Empress Ballroom. The name has now been changed to the British National Championships.
Tragically, Mrs. Ilett died in August 1978. She had developed the Festival into the most famous event in the World. Her husband, Mr Bill Francis, took over the organisation of the Festival but, with failing health, he retired in November 1980. He was succeeded by Mrs. Gillian MacKenzie, who retired this year after the Blackpool Dance Festival, May 2004. The Festival organisation has now been taken over by Mrs. Sandra Wilson.
Possibly the event which has the greatest crowd appeal is the annual Professional Invitation Team Match, which started in 1968 and continues to this day. It started with two teams, Germany and Great Britain, dancing ten dances but for many years there have been four teams invited. Teams from Germany, Japan, Italy, USA, Australia, Russia and Scandinavia have danced in this Team Match. Neutral judges are always invited to adjudicate this event.