Lights switch-on in Skegness fails to impress

The illuminations in Compass Gardens, Skegness. ANL-170808-091521001
The illuminations in Compass Gardens, Skegness. ANL-170808-091521001

Skegness illuminations were switched on at the weekend amidst disappointment it wasn’t the crowd-pulling celebrity celebration of past years - and claims many people didn’t even realise it had happened.

The plug was pulled on the festive event last year.

Skegness Clock Tower lit up as part of the illuminations. ANL-170808-090614001

Skegness Clock Tower lit up as part of the illuminations. ANL-170808-090614001

In the past, the August switch-on has been one of the main events of the year.

Celebrities who have drawn the crowds since the event was first launched in 1953 include Bobby Charlton, Wendy Richard, William Roache, Bob Monkhouse and one of the most popular, Mr Blobby.

The last attempt to make the switch-on a big event was by Skegness Partnership in 2015. However, the event which featured X Factor finalist Jake Quickendon came in for some criticism regarding the standard of the lights.

That same year, nearly 200 items from the famous illuminations were sold at auction for more than £30,000 to be replaced by displays owned by a private contractor. East Lindsey District Council said it would cut the £100,000 costs by half.

The celebrity attraction was replaced with a ‘soft switch-on’ in May 2016 as part of a £6,250 pilot scheme by East Lindsey District Council (ELDC) to ‘extend the season’.

ELDC at the time said it hoped businesses would ‘support it in the future through a new Business Improvement District levy’.

Whether that will happen is yet to be seen but recruitment of the team who will work with partners to deliver new events is currently taking place and is expected to be in place by early autumn.

However, after reports of last month’s sparkling event up the coast at Mablethorpe – organised by Magna Vitae, ELDC and the town council – the question is still being asked if they can do it, why can’t Skegness?

When the Standard went to have a look at the lights on Monday night, apart from the Clock Tower, they didn’t come on until after 10pm – an hour after darkness fell when there were few families still in town.

Barry Robinson, who owns Lite Bites on Roman Bank, said: “People are coming in the cafe all the time asking when the switch-on will be and I have to tell them we don’t have one any more. People used to book their holidays around it when it was a big event with celebrities.”

A spokesman for ELDC said Saturday’s soft switch-on saw 38 hanging features along the seafront, seven areas with light displays in Compass Gardens, an animated feature near the waterway; light curtains near the Boating Lake on Tower Esplanade; about 1500m of festoon lights, 155 flood lights; and recessed lighting under the colonnade on the South Bowling Green. They will stay on until November.

When we asked readers on Facebook what they thought, Shell Marsden said: “Embarrassing! Looks like they ordered a job lot of the same thing in two colours on from the Pier down to North Parade. Even Mablethorpe managed a good night for switch-on.”

And Sarah Lou Grunnill asked: “How can they turn street lights off but turn these on? They are just another waste of money.”

However, Skegness will get its big summer event on Sunday with a circus themed carnival parade. See this week’s Skegness Standard for full details.