Light switch-on has lost its way

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THE spectacular Christmas tree festival in St Peter’s involving so many groups and businesses proves that Sudbury continues to have a vibrant community spirit. Well done to all connected with the event which brings credit to the town.

It is regrettable that the same cannot be said about the Christmas lighting “switch on” which seems to have lost its way.

In the mid 1970s, with the help of friends and the council, I was involved in organising the first Christmas festivals and dozens of voluntary organisations and businesses took part.

For a modest fee (towards overheads) spaces were allocated on the Market Hill and, rather like a gigantic fete, stalls were set up for games and competitions, for the sale of seasonal goods and, most importantly, for selling warming soup, hot punch, mince pies, hot potatoes and roast chestnuts. Whatever profit the stallholders made was kept for their particular cause.

The church bells rang out and the fair opened with Father Christmas arriving in style and welcomed to Sudbury by the mayor.

Father Christmas then spent the evening in his grotto for children to visit. Bands played for community carol singing; clowns, stilt walkers and jugglers entertained the crowds. Carols were sung by various choirs in St Peter’s.

A vast number were attracted to the event.

Many, including the stallholders, were in Victorian costume. Most of the shops remained open with staff dressed up too; some even offered sweets and refreshments and most featured special offers for the evening; the only problem was that some were overwhelmed by the numbers!

The first Christmas festival closed with a firework display from the tower of St Peter’s - spectacular but never repeated again for safety reasons.

In the years following, fireworks were instead launched from Belle Vue with people moving to King Street to view the display. Market Hill and North Street were closed to traffic which was diverted via Great Eastern Road.

Such an event requires long term planning and, hopefully, the town council might soon start planning for 2012.

I venture to suggest:

1 As 2012 is the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Dickens and Sudbury is, reputedly, the Eatanswill of Pickwick Papers, why not an Eatanswill Christmas celebration. How about the prize for the best Dicken’s character? There are Pickwick Clubs in the country who might like to be invited.

2 Because there are so many firework displays around November 5 and the council event at Delphi is just one of them, why not forego it and have the firework display as part of the Christmas event instead.

3 Please everyone and restore the Christmas tree to the bottom of Market Hill. It has been said that there is a traffic hazard but no more so than the market stalls there on Thursdays and Saturdays.

4 Improve the lights at the end of King Street and in Great Eastern Road. Perhaps Roys store, which benefits all year from our custom, might show some interest by lighting the trees surrounding its premises. Although that store sells Christmas lights there was not a glimmer outside this year.

Rev ANTHONY MOORE

Kings Meadow

Sudbury