Sun, 02 Aug 2020
LET there be lights!
That was the message from Hungerford Town Council as the highways and transport committee voted to press ahead with the renowned seasonal display this year. And there are plans for residents to be able to participate in an online switch-on ceremony.
Town mayor Helen Simpson told a virtual committee meeting on Monday night: “We could all do with a bit of brightening up.
“Let’s put the trees up – we need as much light in our lives as we can get, frankly.
“It will cheer us up no end and it will bring people back to our shops and High Street, which has to be a bonus.”
Nevertheless, the committee agreed that the switch-on ceremony, which regularly attracts around 2,000, would have to be very different this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Mrs Simpson said: “My view is that we shouldn’t get a celebrity.
“We’ll be guided by the Government, but I can’t think we’ll be allowed to have 2,000 people gathering in the High Street by Christmas.
“I don’t think that’s realistic and I wouldn’t be comfortable with that.”
Instead, she suggested conducting a lower-key ceremony with civic dignitaries and this year’s Freedom of the Town awardees “to say thank you to our community for being so supportive of the town and for seeing us through such unprecedented times and uncharted waters”.
Deputy mayor Keith Knight said the town chamber of commerce would be making a decision in September on whether to proceed with the Christmas Extravaganza this year.
He added: “But we definitely should have the lights and trees in the town. It brings cheer to everyone.
“We could do it low key; it makes more sense.”
Councillor Sally Hawkins suggested live streaming the event online.
Mrs Simpson was enthusiastic about the idea and suggested: “People could be having mince pies and a glass of mulled wine while watching it on a live stream – I think it’s a brilliant idea.
“We could invite people to send pictures of them watching it – it would be a fun thing to do.”
On a more sombre note it was decided to ask the public for donations towards the cost of the trees and lights – popularly considered to be the best in the region – but to acknowledge that traders have had a difficult time during the coronavirus lockdown.
Mr Knight said: “We could say ‘We understand what a tough year you’ve had... we’re not asking, but just giving you the opportunity to donate if you would like to’.”