20 June 2024

Festive event reignites lights switch-on debate

By Rebecca Hannant

Withernsea’s Christmas in the Valley event has prompted further debate among residents over the location and nature of the town’s lights switch-on celebrations.

Opinions have been long divided over the switch-on location being changed from its “traditional” home in Queen Street to Valley Gardens.

In recent weeks, Withernsea Town Council has said that due to funding, electrical facilities and the age of some of the existing lights infrastructure, this year’s event would be scaled down and not classed as a switch-on event as such, but a festive fair filled with entertainment, stalls and games.

This year’s event on Saturday, December 3, also featured a range of special visitors including Olaf the snowman, the Snow Queen, and the Snow Wolf and the Sapphire Dragon, who all delighted younger visitors eager to have their photographs taken with them.

The cafe in the Valley Gardens was busy with staff from the Shores centre who had their own Christmas fair and provided refreshments. The event also included children’s rides, Father Christmas’s grotto, a maze, entertainment on the stage by a puppet show and the City of Hull Brass Band. A second Santa’s grotto was available in the indoor markets, giving children and their families chance to take photos.

Also, despite the festivities taking place in Valley Gardens, some businesses along Queen Street and Seaside Road stayed open throughout the event.

However, the cold and wet weather dampened the festivities, prompting some families to leave. Afterwards, some people took to social media to criticise the location and the entertainment available, saying there was a limited number of stalls, last-minute replacements and an overall lack of Christmas spirit. The proposed time of the lights switch-on also confused some people.

Withernsea resident Sam Lamb attended the event with her two young sons and was left disappointed.

She told the Gazette: “I was disappointed about the event as I was told the lights were going to be on at 4.15pm. When my boys and I got there they were already on. I thought, fair enough, so instead we walked around the little bit that was allocated to quite a few stalls. The boys went on the tombolas as they love them. They won a bin liner full of things, but when we got home the Santa lolly they won was dated as 2019.

“I also took them to see Santa, and the lady outside Santa’s Grotto in Valley Gardens who was taking the money was lovely and said it was 50p. Instead, I gave £2 – £1 for each child. Santa barely said a word to the kids – they were so shocked. They said they thought Santa was supposed to be happy and jolly.

“They were also supposed to get a book and a lolly but because they didn’t have a book with my son’s name on, as it’s unusual, my other child didn’t get one.”

Addressing the criticisms made on social media, Withernsea Town Council clerk Jayne Moxon said: “We don’t and can’t conduct our business on social media, and we haven’t had any complaints directly to us. Social media cannot address their complaints – they would be best contacting us directly. It is the usual half-dozen negative people, so no, I have no comment to make in that regard.

“On the night I spoke to all parents taking their children to see Santa and they were all happy. It was never meant to be, or advertised as, a switch-on, it was a new Christmas event in the gardens with a new lighting display. This was made very clear from the outset.

“We were hampered by the weather and lack of help on the day, but it was the first one and we will learn from this one and make the necessary adjustments for the next one.

“I understand that there was a comment regarding out-of-date sweets on a tombola stall – all of ours were date-checked before the event – these were not from the town council.”

Withernsea Town Council has previously said that it is actively working to secure more funding towards the repair of the electrical facilities along Queen Street. It is also responding to feedback to make next year’s event better.