30 May 2024

Lights switch-on: what can be done?

The festive period is here again, and with it comes the annual debate over Withernsea’s Christmas lights, or lack of them, as some might argue.

There have been quite a lot of comments on social media, many fairly derogatory, about the Christmas in the Valley event last weekend, and it seems people are more divided than ever over the future of the town’s lights switch-on.

As it turned out, there wasn’t really a big switch-on, as such. As Withernsea Town Council had already pointed out, the existing lights infrastructure is decades old and is being phased out, and there is likely to be a bit of a gap before the town can match the displays of others in the region.

Cottingham lights, on the other side of Hull, for instance, are amazing, and they seem to nail it every year. What are they doing right that Withernsea is not?

Hornsea is the obvious comparison, though. The town was absolutely rammed for its switch- on, which took place in the main streets well away from the bitter wind whipping off the seafront, which cannot be said for the Valley Gardens location, unfortunately. The weather didn’t help Withernsea either, as it was quite a warm night on November 25, when Hornsea’s event took place.

But why is there such a huge chasm between Hornsea and Withernsea? How have we got
to this situation? There appears to be far more support in Hornsea from the local community and businesses, whereas in Withernsea there is a degree of apathy and even mistrust that seems to have been festering for years.

The town council has its reasons for not wanting to return to the original location of Queen Street, including safety of visitors and the fact that not many shops stay open. It has also cautioned against social media keyboard warriors who moan but never do anything constructive. (Last year, after the switch-on was cancelled at short notice, the council pointed out that, despite the deluge of bile on Facebook, not one person had contacted them to complain – and they are still saying this, claiming it’s the “usual half-dozen negative people” commenting.)

I agree with the latter, up to a point – but, whether you like it or not, social media is where people talk about things nowadays, and I do think the council could do more to engage residents there.

Some have suggested there is a need for more active fundraising activities by the town council. We are of course in very troubled times, but I think people would dip into their pockets and contribute a few quid if they knew it was going towards a big event that attracted hundreds of people to the town.

Maybe it doesn’t even have to cost thousands of pounds – it’s all about getting people onside, getting people together and having a dedicated and united committee of people planning the event for months in advance.

So, I would urge residents to get in touch with the council if they have suggestions. There does seem to be a lack of people willing to step up to the plate and help, instead of criticising from afar. Perhaps an official poll on the location could be carried out too?

Please let me know what you think – email [email protected].