Whitstable Christmas Lights 2017

Christmas Lights Update 11th December 2017

The Lights company have just given me an update on installation. There will be more lights installed today, but the combination of snow and wind means the largest lights will not be completed today. There are 2 lights in Tankerton that cannot be fitted, one the lamp post has been replaced, but although KCC assured me this wouldn’t happen, the internal architecture has not been moved over. The second, the lighting connection has been damaged and the connection would be live and unsafe. Lastly, there is a light that cannot be installed in Harbour Street because scaffolding is in the way.

 

It will be remembered that The Chamber of Commerce announced that there would be no lights this year, and even up until the Whitstable Oyster Company’s pledge on 23rd November, it looked unlikely that we would reach our target. We did not have the necessary documentation to apply for a KCC permit until we were able to confirm our order to the Lighting Company, which we did at the earliest opportunity. As such, it has been a challenge to go through the KCC procedure, revised this year,  for a permit and to get our installation slotted into an already busy schedule of light installations across the Country. We now face some additional difficulties caused by adverse weather conditions.
We believe that we have acted as speedily as possible and we hope the community will enjoy the lights which will be fully installed shortly.

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS ANNOUNCEMENT 3RD NOVEMBER 2017

The Chamber of Commerce entered into a 3-year contract for Christmas Lights 2 years ago, with this year being the 3rd year. The contract was for £12,500 + VAT pa.

There was an option to purchase the lights for a nominal sum, once the contract is complete. There was not sufficient time to carry out a survey prior to signing the contract, and as lights had operated in previous years this was not felt critical. Unfortunately, when the lights were being installed on the first occasion, it was discovered that quite a number of the lamp posts did not have the RCD and Time Clock infra-structure required to ensure safe installation. Supplying and installing this critical infrastructure resulted in an additional cost of £7,400.

Since the contract was signed we have struggled each year to raise the money either by seeking sponsors, or from public donations. Many of the big multinational stores and banks in the High Street for example just have no interest in, or mechanism in place to make contributions to this type of community event. When we had buckets in numerous shops and pubs throughout the town, although there were a handful of exceptions where the store owners or publicans made a special effort, the majority of the buckets produced literally just a few pounds. On the occasion of the first lights switch on event, there were buckets going round to collect money from the thousands of people who attended, but the amount raised was less than £20.

We would of course like to say a big thank you to those people who did become sponsors, and to those members of the public who donated. Unfortunately, the majority of the community did not. Even some of the shops were not prepared to contribute, quite a number saying that it was Canterbury City Council’s responsibility.
This year, quite a number of people came forward after Christmas expressing in interest in taking over the fund raising for Christmas this year. Several meeting were held but mid-way through the year it became apparent, even though they had people with particular sponsorship raising skills that they were having little or no success with fundraising. A hardcore of volunteers wanted to continue but to focus on funding and running a Christmas Event Day. This group is called Whitsparkle.

There is an amount outstanding to the lights company of £14,251. 60. They indicated that this sum, together with a payment towards this year’s costs, would need to be paid prior to Christmas Lights being installed in Whitstable this year. Having an outstanding balance has made it very difficult to fund raise from shops and the general public this year. Unless we raised in the region of £20k, we would not get lights. It was all or nothing and to have collected money and then not had lights would have caused greater upset. It would potentially also have been seen as collecting money under false pretenses. Previous attempts to raise money in this way had clearly shown that we were unlikely to produce any amount close to this target of £20k.

The Christmas Lights that were purchased from China 2 years previously, consisted of 3 elements.

• Flag type light strings with brackets that were hung outside of individual shops
• Angel shaped wire sculptures with lights that were displayed on flat roofs.
• A lit arch that was displayed outside of the WIT shop in Harbour Street.

The Flag lights and brackets were distributed to shop keepers throughout the town, and they took individual responsibility for them.

The Angels suffered from the English climate and have now failed PAT Testing. They will need re-wring which is a project that we are investigating.

The arch is fully operational, but the WIT do not want it in their garden, and because of the danger of people climbing on it out of hours, needs to go in a protected area. Because of it’s height, a Cherry Picker is required to assemble it.

The end result of all of this is there will be no organised Christmas Lights in Whitstable this year. The harsh reality is that while everybody appears to want lights, too few people and organisations are prepared to contribute sufficient funds to pay for them.

We are sorry for the disappointment that this may cause.

If all of the businesses in town were to pledge to give £100 each toward the lights, then we may be able to save the day. We would not collect any money until we had sufficient pledges to cover the amount required., and at that stage payment would be requested.

Alternatively, we need someone who would be prepared to loan the money and accept repayment over a number of years.

If anyone is able to help resolve this situation please contact Brian Hitcham on 07825 368 789

Christmas Lights Switch on Event 2015 – All Christmas images Copyright George Fisk Photography