Once again The Standard has sought to introduce a sour note to what most people have said was a great night out in Boston, resorting to social media as source material for its negativity.
First, the positives: Christmas is all about children, and literally hundreds of children had a brilliant time at the Christmas in Boston event.
If you were there, and I suspect some of the social media ‘keyboard warriors’ were not, the air was alive with their voices of sheer delight and the atmosphere was absolutely infectious.
The second annual Illuminate event was uniquely brilliant, especially in the way in which it involved so many, who were both willing and excited to be a part of it.
It has again added a special quality to an otherwise traditional Christmas launch event, and one not replicated in any of the neighbouring towns.
Others gave freely of their time, talents and energy to provide entertainment and there were all the necessary Christmas attractions – a Christmas market (the traders were satisfied), Santa’s grotto (free), face painting (hugely popular and free) and fairground rides.
Now the realities: There are traditional Christmas lights in West Street, High Street, Church Street, Church Lane, Dolphin Lane and Emery Lane and the Christmas tree near the Stump. There are new and modern lighting effects and projections at Cammacks, Vision Express, Timpsons and the Corporation Building opposite Boots.
The projection at Vision Express features Christmas card designs completed by children and the Corporation Building is especially good and purpose crafted for Boston. Various shops, such as Oldrids, have made an effort and Pescod Square has a good display. What’s not to like?
Now the facts: Notice was given as long ago as September, 2015, that the council would not be able to afford to fund the Christmas lights in 2016 in the same way it had done for previous years. The contract ended in December, 2015, and, because of austerity measures, there was not the money available to renew it.
The Standard reported this at that time. I did not say, as quoted in last week’s Standard that the lights from the previous contract were ‘unusable’ and ‘ready for the bin’.
I could not make that judgement as they were not the council’s lights.
The council decided a new contract should be explored, but with town centre traders, businesses, partners, agencies and community groups contributing significantly. An appeal by me for assistance and support from the business community for future lighting, including this year’s, was reported. There were no responses.
The Standard is a town business. It appears concerned now, but it did not respond. Provision of Christmas lighting is not a statutory duty for councils.
In other areas business groups, chambers of commerce, town and parish councils, commercial shopping centres, individuals and groups of businesses provide Christmas lights. Earlier this year BTAC (Boston Town Area Committee) made £35,000 available to the Chamber of Commerce Town Team to purchase a lighting scheme. Looking further ahead the purchase included the projection equipment which can be used for other events and beyond its use for this year’s Christmas period alone. This is a value-for-money and modern form of lighting only to be found in a few larger towns and cities.
It may not be to everyone’s taste, it may not be traditional, but it is a more affordable modern slant on the Christmas celebration. The lights in the trees around Memorial Garden and along Strait Bargate had to be removed because they were unsafe and the wiring was cutting into the trees and damaging them.
Finally: A great deal of effort was made by a great number of people who care, to make the Christmas in Boston event the best it could be within the finances available. Trawling social media for negative comments to publish is an insult to them.
I want them to know that their efforts are appreciated. Doors remain open for all who do have genuine concerns about future Christmas events to contact me; especially welcome will be any businesses, organisations, groups, individuals, who want to talk about ways in which they can support future events.
Coun Paul Skinner
Town Centre Portfolio Holder,
Boston Borough Council
EDITOR’S NOTE: At no point did The Standard look to introduce a sour note into our coverage of the Christmas lights in Boston - our story simply reflected the feeling of our readers.
And no-one would question the dedication of those who gave up their time freely to support the event - indeed we congratulate and thank them for their efforts.
Far from ‘trawling’ social media for comments, we simply used some of those people had posted to our immediate online coverage. Our reporter also went out into the town to speak to people and businesses.
Although The Standard was unable to financially support the event, we did promote the switch-on through all of our media streams - newspaper, website and social media.
Many people - rightly or wrongly - clearly felt it should be the council’s responsibility to find the money from somewhere to provide more lights. It is also a shame that some of the lights on trees had to be removed due to safety reasons.
We would like to apologise to Coun Skinner over one point; he is correct, we did miss-quote him. It was in fact Coun Nigel Welton who said last year’s lights were ‘unusable’ and ‘ready for the bin’.
However in a press release issued in September, last year, Coun Skinner did say: “It is virtually unthinkable for Boston town centre not to be covered by Christmas lights.”
We wholehearted agree.
Whether he and Boston Borough Council like it or not, anyone who puts themselves forward as a public figure can expect criticism should things not be what the people they serve want and expect. Just as The Standard too is accountable to our readers.
We will continue to reflect the opinions of our readers, even it does leave an unpalatable taste.