Traditional Christmas lighting festivities cancelled in Aldeburgh, as 'the everyday population gets smaller and smaller'
PUBLISHED: 08:15 05 December 2018
There is disappointment over how the traditional Christmas celebrations have been called off in one of Suffolk's most exclusive seaside towns for the first time in at least 18 years.
Aldeburgh is renowned for its pretty coloured houses and independent shops, but this year, it appears to some to be lacking in festive cheer.
In previous years, local celebrities including Lenny Henry, Bill Nighy and Emma Freud have turned up to turn on the town’s Christmas lights in the first weekend of December, with the event market by carol singing, greetings from Santa, games and market stalls. But this year, the annual event was called off.
The reason for the cancellation was not a shortage of funds - Aldeburgh was named Britain’s third most expensive seaside town for the second year running in June, with an average property price tag of £535,872, so it is not lacking in wealthy residents. The decision was more down to a lack of willingness to put in the considerable efforts involved in organising the event.
Aldeburgh does have some Christmas lighting on its High Street road lights, and the Facebook page Aldeburgh Christmas Lights thanked members of the community who had this year donated to the “considerable expense” of these lights. But it went on: “Due to committee member commitments, the ABA (Aldeburgh Business Association) will not be organising a community Christmas Lights event this year. If you would like to take it on - message us here.”
Although one lady responded to the post to say what “a shame” it was, there were no offers to take up the job.
Lisa Newrick-Meades has run Aldeburgh Flower Shop a& Homestyle by Looma for the last 18 years, and explained that she has never known there not to be a lighting up celebration at this time of year. “It’s such a shame,” she said. “We haven’t got any Santa this year for the children. There’s no special Christmas Saturday like Southwold does, and Leiston are doing this weekend, they’ve got the ice skating rink. We’re not doing anything.”
Last Christmas was a very different affair in Aldeburgh. Ms Newrick-Meades recalls the festivities in the Jubilee Hall, the many stallholders, Santa, and the Aldeburgh Primary School singing carols on stage, a maze, and even a Christmas treasure hunt. “The Carnival Queen switched the lights on,” she recalled. “But we haven’t got any of that this year.
“I think it reflects changes in Aldeburgh, with the house prices being so high and so many second home owners. I am not blaming the second home owners for this, because they come at Christmas and they bring a lot to the town. But the problem is that the everyday population is just getting smaller and smaller.
“We make a big effort for carnival, so I don’t know why we’re not making a big effort for Christmas. Its a special time in the town and it should be celebrated.”
Ms Newrick-Meades says she is concerned what the knock-on affect through the years will be. “Will people donate to the lights in the future?” she asked. “A lot of my customers have commented, they say ‘when are the Christmas lights going up? We normally come here for that.’ They are a little bit disappointed - people with second homes come up especially for that weekend to enjoy the street life.
“There is an underlying feeling that we should be doing a bit more in the town.”
Ms Newrick-Meades decided that although Aldeburgh would not be coming together to mark Christmas in the traditional way, she would take matters into her own hands. “We decided that on the weekend of December 15 and 16, we’ll do some mulled wine and mince pies, we’re just going to make an effort ourselves,” she said.
“I’ve put up my own Christmas decorations up in the window - I love Christmas and as a florist, you have to be creative at this time of year.”
Another High Street shop owner, who didn’t want his name mentioned, said he thought it was a shame not to have the usual Christmas lighting ceremony, but understood the reasons why. “It’s a thankless task,” he said.
Julie Rowlatt, who works in Baggott & Son newsagents, also lamented the lack of volunteers. “It is disappointing that there is no one who wants to do it,” she said.