In the early 1980’s Garstang became one of the first towns in our area to have their own Christmas lights. The then Chamber of Trade took it upon themselves to hire festoon lighting from Blackpool and with help from members and locals got ladders out on a Wednesday afternoon and put the lights up themselves. Several businesses had been putting up festive displays for many years before this, but this was the first time Garstang had its own display.
Over the years and after introductions of health and safely and electricity at work regulations (if you take a live cable over a highway without the necessary licences you may go to jail) Garstang could no longer ‘do it themselves’. By this time most other towns throughout the country had some form of festive lighting and the Borough Council, seeing the benefits, decided to help. Their lighting department organised the festive lighting throughout the borough and arranged ‘match funding’ for the lights and the Chamber took on the responsibility to fund the other half by collections from businesses and fundraising. This arrangement worked very well until 2006 when the lighting department moved from Wyre to Lancashire County Council and therefore Wyre Borough was no longer able to procure the lights for Garstang.
Instead Wyre Council granted money to those parts of the Borough who had festive lighting to organise it for themselves (saving the council significant organisational costs) and a committee of volunteers (self help group) was established in the Borough who now meet twice yearly.
Garstang Chamber of Trade (Independent Garstang Traders) in partnership with Garstang Town Council took on the organisation of festive lighting in Garstang which has worked successfully since then.
Currently installation is contracted to a Lancashire firm who follow a successful display scheme we have built up over the years. This firm also put lights up in Preston, Chorley and other local towns.
Putting up the lights involves heavy machinery to put up the 21 temporary support poles required where there isn’t a building we can use, install the catenary wire and festoon, replace the broken Led bulbs (led bulbs have brought electricity costs down from approximately £750.00 to nearer £70.00!) put up lighting in both weinds, put up the display feature, collect, put up and dress the Christmas tree, load test the wall bolts dress the tree at the North end of High Street and so on… then take it all down again! As with any job there is always more involved than may at first be obvious.
This year Wyre Council have changed the funding criteria and we now have to apply for a grant that is no longer guaranteed (we have applied for Garstang) hopefully we will be successful and be able to continue to have Christmas lights!
In 2015 the lights cost over £10,500 + VAT (approximately £12,500) we got generous grants from Wyre Council and Garstang Town Council and after VAT reclaim the Christmas group fundraised and collected from businesses over £4,000.00 to pay the balance.
We are a small group of volunteers who give our time voluntarily, we feel Garstang is a great place and the community benefits so much from having festive lighting through the darkest month of the year and it’s wonderful to have lights to celebrate Christmas! It’s great to hear all the positive comments people say about the lights, the kids love them!
Of course we are always looking for ways to improve; after all we’re not lighting engineers, just ordinary folk trying to do their best for Garstangs’ community. The lights also provide a wonderful atmosphere for the Christmas Festival held in the town.
If you’re approached for a donation, please ‘give generously’ if you can, we wouldn’t have the lights without the many generous businesses, organisations and individuals who give, it is really appreciated! And we would like to thank all those who give.