Festive lights team in Southwold looking to the future

SOUTHWOLD'S annual Christmas lights switch-on event has been hailed a success by organisers.

Despite it being held on a much smaller scale than in previous years, the traditional, Victorian-themed event attracted more than 1,500 people, who gathered in Market Place to watch Southwold mayor Michael Ladd join Santa Claus to perform the switch-on from the town hall balcony.

This year's celebration, which included a fake snow machine, cost just �10,000 to put on compared with the �25,000 spent on the previous year's switch-on. That event featured the actor James Bolam and his actress-wife Susan Jameson and drew a crowd of more than 2,000 people to the town centre.

Mr Ladd said: 'It was a success, especially considering the limited resources and funding we had available. Generally it went better than we anticipated. The numbers were lower than previous years but I think we were looking to make it more of a smaller, community-based event. We have since had some reasonable feedback from people saying they felt it was better being smaller this year. It was less crowded and people liked that, especially in Market Place because they did used to get squashed.

'I think the snow machine added to the atmosphere as well. I have had quite a few good comments about that.'

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The switch-on was almost cancelled earlier this year when the committee behind it dissolved amid acrimony after an exchange of views with the town council over the scale and cost of the event.

The town council teamed up with Adnams and the local community to salvage the popular event with limited time, resources and budget.

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Mr Ladd told The Journal: 'We were very fortunate to have �10,000 towards this year's lights from Adnams. Without that we wouldn't have been able to put the event on at all.

'We have now got to look at making the event sustainable as we go forward. What we can't do is keep pumping money in to it, It took �25,000 to put the event on in previous years, which is a huge amount of money.'

He added: 'This year we had a lot of volunteers putting up the trees and organisations taking responsibility for different parts of the town. We would like to encourage more of that next year.'

Mr Ladd said the town council had bought new, longer-life LED Christmas lights this year and planned to renew more lights and the town's decorative Christmas trees over the coming years.

Because of that, he said, he expected the annual Christmas lights budget would remain at �10,000 for the next few years at least.

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