The plug has been pulled on a celebrity switch-on for Skegness illuminations which in the past has attracted thousands of visitors to the resort.
Lights along the sea front will be turned on this Friday night in a ‘soft switch-on to extend the season’, but there will be no ceremony with a big star to push the famous button.
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 launch of the event in 1953 include Bobby Charlton, Wendy Richard, William Roache, Bob Monkhouse and one of the most popular, Mr Blobby.
Last year Skegness Partnership stepped in to save the switch-on when it seemed there wouldn’t be one. However, the event which featured X Factor finalist Jake Quickendon, came in for some criticism regarding the standard of the lights and the Illuminations Working Group has been holding meetings since then to discuss the way forward.
East Lindsey District Council in an executive decision notice on its website states switching on the lights from May is ‘to create a more vibrant and open for business resort throughout the summer season’. The district council has allocated £6,250 for this, although ‘no other local contributions have been forthcoming for the current season’.
The extension of the illuminations will run as a ‘pilot initiative’ this year, but it is hoped businesses will support it in the future, possibly through a Business Improvement District levy.
A spokesman for East Lindsey District Council said: “For the 2016 season as a pilot initiative, the district council has agreed the illuminations in Skegness will be turned on from Friday. The lights will be turned on at 9pm.
“They will remain on through to the AMCA event (Skegness beach race) on November 5-6 and turned off on November 7. The motifs will be taken down at this time. The festoon will then be turned back on again for the Christmas period from November 25 and turned off on January 3, 2017 as in previous years.”
Steve Larner, clerk to Skegness Town Council, said: “I attended a meeting of the illuminations group chaired by ELDC that was looking at the illuminations following criticism of last year’s lights. ELDC are clear that they have no more money to invest into additional lights, but if the businesses wanted to sponsor extra lights they would support this. Once the businesses understood the total extent of the costs involved, there was not really any enthusiasm to move forward with additional lights. However, the group did also consider the possibility of extending the season by having a ‘soft’ switch-on earlier in the year rather than wait for a large event in August.”
John Chappell, chairman of Skegness Partnership, said: “We think the decision to have the lights on for a longer period is a good one. More people will see them rather than the peak week visitors. We think it’s more important to extend the season.”
Tony Tye, chairman of Skegness and District Chamber of Commerce, said: “We are very disappointed the switch-on will not be the big event it has been in previous years. It brought in a lot of people who spent money in the town.
“Once again something has been taken away from the town. The switch-on is an event people have come to know and supported.”