Category Archives: Christmas
A few people have moaned a bit about the Christmas Lights and I thought I’d put down the background and facts to help people understand where we are and how we got here.
A few years ago we really DID have terrible lights. Basically, we had the bulbs along the river and some more bulbs in the Market Place, and that’s it. The Christmas Light Switch On was a handful of Councillors and a few dozen people watching a switch get pressed and some bulbs light up. It wasn’t ideal.
Every year people complained bitterly about them, but Christmas lights are a lot of money and Town Council didn’t want to commit that sort of budget to improving them. When I became a Town Councillor I put in a motion to spend a huge chunk on lights and managed to get support for it.
But we wanted to be sure the people of the Town supported it to0, so we did a vote in the local papers. Here’s a blog post from 2014 about it:http://www.stevetierney.org/the-great-wisbech-christmas-li…/
A majority voted for the improvements, but even then there were still a fair few who thought it was a waste of money and shouldn’t be done.
With a majority vote and support on the Council we pressed on and implemented the new lights, which took six months of getting competitive quotes, designing schemes etc.
Myth Buster 1: We did not spend loads of money on designing a scheme, that was all included in the quotation as the companies sought to win our business.
Although it was quite close and we weren’t sure we’d get the improvements in time we did manage to get them installed for Christmas 2014. That year the Christmas Light Switch on event broke all records. It has continued to break them each year since.
Myth Buster 2: You can’t just buy any old lights and string them up. Government authorities must purchase suitable, safe, durable, commercial lighting from reputable companies.
£20,000 does not go as far as you might think. We managed to secure the central piece in the Market Place, the lights and glowing stars on the trees, the light fixtures that adorn most exits from the Market Place, and the long channel of lights than run along High Street. Also some improvements elsewhere.
We did not spend all the money the first year and we did not install all the lights we had purchased. We have added a little each year since: lights on Hill Street. Lights on the Town Council Chambers. In response to calls from people for lights on the Freedom Bridge Roundabout, we did those.
Myth Buster 3: March have lovely Christmas Lights. They were donated by a very wealthy benefactor in a will. March are very lucky to have had such a generous donation. Wisbech has not had any large donations but would certainly welcome any if you have some funds you can spare, or know somebody who does.
Although spending £20,000 may seem like a lot, people do not realise that it costs a huge amount for a contractor to install the lights and to remove them, and this cost repeats every year. Every time we increase the amount of lights we put up, we increase the large installation and removal costs too. So when new lights are purchased that is not a one-off cost, but must also consider the additional costs every year for installation, runtime and removal.
Myth Buster 4: Lights do sometimes break down. This is outside of our control. When they break down the Council does everything it can to get the contractor to put the problem right as soon as possible. Sometimes this can be done quickly, sometimes it cannot. The North Brink lights were down for a few days and have now been repaired. Some of the lights on the Christmas Tree aren’t presenting working and that will be remedied as soon as possible.
All of this – the Switch On Event, the organisation of the lights, the planning, is done by a tiny team of dedicated volunteers and a handful of Town Council staff and Councillors. Anybody can volunteer to be a part of the Festivals Working Party, which organises and runs almost all of our town festivals. Please do volunteer if you can spare the time. It’s hard work, but mostly rewarding. The only time it’s not rewarding is when somebody sits on their couch and tells those volunteers how much better everything should be. If you want it to be better, come be a part of making it better.
Myth Buster 5: What can be done in the Market Place is quite limited. To install Christmas Lights requires special permanent fixtures to attach the lights to and to get power to them. All the buildings around the Market Place are privately owned and you cannot attach things to those buildings without securing permission from the owner. Owners are not always easy to contact and do not always say “yes.”
Personally, I like our town lights and would not want to see them gaudier, or too over the top. I think they are tasteful and lovely. But what I think doesn’t matter. If enough of you want the Council to spend another huge sum of money on more lights and more annual installation costs then let me know and I will go and make the case all over again. But bear in mind that this will almost certainly require a Council Tax rise over and above the demands that Town Council save the Museum, save and run The Castle, and invest large sums renovating the Market Place. It’s a debate that’s well worth having, if you think we need to.
Christmas Light Switch-On 2017
It has been a fantastic day, taken up by one of the big events of the Wisbech calendar, the Christmas Light Switch-on.
Up early to help set the event up, then off to “rehearsal” for the part I was going to play later. Back again to help as a steward. Then a quick visit to the Institute as the Mayor, to open the Christmas with Cricket show, featuring the comedian and the awesome and wonderful Nine Lives Theatre Company.
Back to being a steward again for a couple of hours before joining the lovely folk of the Walsoken church for Carol Singing in the Horsefair. At this point I was joined by my Wife and Spiderman (who was acting as my super-bodyguard for the day.) :)
Then I went to meet Bob Dalek (yes, he is a real Dalek) and get him safely into the festivities.
With the big “switch on” fast approaching I made my way to the stage, where I met the other volunteers who were playing a part in the little surprise we had planned.
My friend and colleague, Garry Tibbs, who was last year’s Mayor, had previously battled Darth Vader and I just felt like adding a bit of action was a traditional we shouldn’t end.
So it was that the stage was invaded by the Batman villains; Two Face, The Riddler and the Joker, all intent on preventing the lights from being turned on. I was joined by Gru (from Despicable Me) and Spiderman. Of course, there was a battle. I hope people enjoyed it (because it took hours of practice to choreograph the fairly short scene) and the Good Guys won. Lights Switched on. Job done. :) My sincere thanks to Dave Topgood (Spiderman), Cllr Andy Maul (Gru), James geddis (the Joker), the super-talented Giles Maythan (Two Face and the choreographer/director/stage combat expert), Annie Larkin (The tiny Riddler) and Michele Larkin who took my crazy idea and brought her fantastic team to make it happen.
After the show the Festivals Team have to pack everything away, and it was getting really cold by then, but we still got done in record time.
I think it went very well and was a great day. Thanks to all the usual people who are behind most of our festivals. Cllr Sam Hoy, the Oliver Family, the rest of the Town Councillors and staff, the Town Clerk, Tinfish, Nine Lives Theatre Company (who helped us plan and deliver the supervillain fun), the sound guys, the various acts that performed, Wisbech Lions, the Angles Theatre, Brenda and Tony Barber, and all the friends, volunteers, stewards and helpers who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make days like this happen. It gets bigger and better every year.
Christmas Diary Part 1
The first week of December marks the beginning of what, for many of us, is the most frantic month of the year. Loads of Christmas things to do, but the normal day-to-day work doesn’t conveniently take a pause and so we often find ourselves overloaded. I’m no different to most, so as the new Month rolled in I knew it was going to be hectic.
On Monday I was at work here in Wisbech, and in the evening I had a NECCA Officer’s Meeting to attend (something of an eye-opener, that one.) Tuesday I was in Hertfordshire at my factory there, and in the evening I was at the Newton & Tydd Conservatives Christmas Meeting (and very pleasant it was too, as we have snacks and drinks alongside the regular business.)
On Wednesday I had several conflicting duties to attend and it was a challenge to decide which were more urgent than which. The evening featured several visits to see constituents who had issues they needed help with in both Medworth and Peckover.
Thursday I had to travel to Kings Lynn for two meetings there as part of a project I’m working on (more about that in the New Year) but I did get the evening off to spend some time with the family and the only early night of the week.
Friday I spent the day working on the accounts of two of my businesses and chasing up debts, but had to rush off in the late afternoon to attend a meeting in March of the 20Twenty Productions group (with whom I am a trustee.) I drove immediately from that to the Alexandra Road Conservative Club where I was the quizmaster for a Fundraising Christmas Quiz with supper and drinks. That was a great evening and a big “Thank you!” to all the people who came along, participated, and made it such fun. Commiserations to the Farmer Team – who almost always win quizzes but who were pipped at the post (literally on a tie breaker point) by the Brunton Collective.
On Saturday I had business as a DJ; first at a Child’s birthday party, then straight on to run the disco for the Newton Village Free Family Disco. No rest for the wicked Tory because I was then straight on again to the King’s Head for my final gig there of the year – good turnouts at all the events and I enjoyed them though I was shattered by the time I finally got home.
I was up early this morning to get some household chores done and try and finish my December Councillor’s newsletter – which I hope to put out next week. This afternoon I was invited to attend a Carol Service at St. Augustine’s Church on Lynn Road. It was a lovely event, well attended and supported. It has a beautiful atmosphere in that particular church, even more so on a dark December afternoon with dozens of Christmas Trees all around (they have a Christmas Tree Festival ongoing) and glitting Christmas Lights. I enjoyed it very much and would like to thank Julie Mills who invited me.
This evening I have a meeting with a Town Councillor who shall not be named. Yet. The meeting is to finalise some paperwork. There may be a surprise coming. :)
Christmas Light Extravaganza
The Christmas Light Extravaganza had a lot of hype to live up to. From the soundings on the street and on Facebook it did just that. A truly phenomenal event, latest estimates have the crowd at three thousand strong – by far the largest ever for a Wisbech Christmas Lights event. The atmosphere was really very special – older people and younger people, English people and Eastern Europeans, families and couples and individuals in a sea of excitement, good will and merriment. If you weren’t there, then I’m sorry for you – because it was Wisbech at its truly finest.
We should remember that none of this happens on it’s own. It takes a team of amazing volunteers and dedicated local people who put in many hours of very hard work. It’s impossible to name them all but we must not forget Cllr Samantha Hoy (Chairman of the Festivals Committee), Cllr David Oliver, Cllr Jessica Oliver and Barbara Oliver (the Oliver Family are priceless and are behind the scenes on so much good that happens in town), Jonathan and Susanah Farmer, Angie from Tinfish who volunteered so much of her own time, money and resources (the Town has no greater supporter), Cllr Sam Clark who was around all day to help, the amazing team of stewards who sold tickets enthusiastically and handed out mince pies cheerily and helped lost children find their parents throughout the afternoon. The Frozen Princesses and their entourage, who were like rock stars today. The entire Tanfield family. Aigars Balsevics (Landlord of The Angel, the Kings Head and The Three Tuns) and his team of Eastern European muscle men, who lifted and moved and leapt to help any time anything needed doing as though energy were something they had bottomless resources of. David Gutteridge (aka The Viking) who single-handedly sold nearly 200 draw tickets before the event even began and who worked like a trooper all day. Terry Jordan (Town Clerk) who provided such boundless good spirit and enthusiasm from dawn ’til dusk. Cllr Stevo Brunton – who is always there to nurse wounds and treat injuries, should they occur. The Lions who provided help, organisation and – Santa! The Globe, Costa Coffee, Loafers and the other businesses who extended their opening hours and who decorated to add their own cheer to the town. Particularly to Cats Pajamas and the lovely ladies who run it – who were part of the Festivals Committee and gave selflessly of their time and resources to help the event succeed. I’m sure i’ve forgotten some people, but it wasn’t deliberate. There are just so many great people. The Mayor and Mayoress who brought joy to the Festival, the wonderful performers who shone on the stage, the pantomime people, Cllr Reg Mee and his excellent band, the sound and light crew, the electricians who installed all the light fixtures in such a short space of time, and the many Town Councillors who turned out to work with us today. This town has such a great team.
But, as ever, the real thanks go to the people of Wisbech and district. Who may occasionally be grumpy and may occasionally be demanding and are quite often cynical – but who never miss a chance like this to provide energy, enthusiasm and spirits bright enough to light up the dark Fen landscape, long may they continue to do so. This is why this town is so very awesome. Thank you all. Merry Christmas!
Cllr Sam Hoy and Angie from Tinfish.
It’s That Time Again
I’ve not blogged for a few days because it’s been one of those crazy busy weeks. I’m busy on almost all fronts. Work is hectic, my new enterprises are also quite demanding at the moment, I’ve got lots of Councillor casework to get my teeth into and this is the time of year when there are lots of events to attend also.
This week I’ve been all over the place what with a trip to London and another to Hertfordshire, helping Steve Barclay deliver surveys to my District Ward and trying to resolve some tricky problems in both Medworth and Peckover.
On Friday night I was in my old stomping grounds, Roman Bank, Gorefield to be specific – as the quizmaster for a fundraising quiz in support of the Fenrats. It was nice to see all my old friends again and we had a giggle. On Saturday evening I was at another fundraiser – also in Roman Bank – this time Newton. A different bunch of old pals but just as enjoyable a time.
Of course tomorrow is the “big day” since it’s the Christmas Light Switch On in Wisbech. I’ll be out from dawn ’til dusk, lugging stuff around, being a steward, putting stuff away, and helping make sure the event runs smoothly and hopefully successfully. I’m excited about the new lights, which I haven’t seen “on” yet but which look promising in their “off” state. Given that this is only Phase 1, it still looks like we’re going to get a significantly improved show. It feels a little like a “legacy” – mostly because the opposition and their friends in the local press tried so hard to stop it happening but the people of Wisbech absolutely did not agree with them. In the end, the vote was clear, the policy rushed forwards and goodness I hope it all works out well! No doubt there will still be some folk who aren’t happy – there always is. But we listened, to asked and we actioned. What more can you do?
Christmas is just about here. Have a very very merry one! It’s that time again. :)