What’s the future for Bude’s Christmas lights?

For the last couple of years, Bude has sparkled at Christmas, primarily due to the work of a group of volunteers calling themselves Light up Bude, who threw energy into making Bude look lovely for the festivities to benefit businesses and locals who no longer had to go to other towns for a Christmas lights experience. Last December, even the famous tunnel was lit up!

The Light Up Bude team of volunteers (including Jinny, Gordon, Trev, Louise, Martin, Robin and Graham, not in any specific order) have worked tirelessly  year-round to fundraise, organise, renovate and erect a growing collection of sparkling lights to make the main shopping streets of Bude look beautiful, welcoming and festive. They’ve raised over £10,000 in the past three years and even more impressively, clambered ladders, rode cherry-pickers and endured wind, rain and hail to bring Christmas cheer.

Led by the indomitable Jools Trotter, who has coaxed and cajoled her team of hard-working, Bude-loving volunteers to achieve their glittering goal while also producing a baby daughter, it has to be said that the team has had a massive impact on the town.

Jools wanted to do something about the woeful state of Bude’s festive face. Sick of hearing complaining and whining about how uninspiring the centre of town was for Christmas, she made a difference. But the time has come for a little break and Jools needs to focus on her own family’s festivities this year … with a toddler, two teens, a pair of dogs and a business to run with her chief ladder-climbing husband, Russ. It is time for Light Up Bude to move into its next phase.

Volunteer groups throw their heart and soul into things but then often burn out. The light has gone out for the volunteers but they want their previous efforts to continue to have an impact on Bude.

Light Up Bude says:

Nearby towns with enviable Christmas Light displays are supported, funded and organised by their town councils.  Research shows it is the case that most towns in Cornwall (of a similar size to Bude) allocate and spend between £10,000 to £15,000 per year on lights. Launceston spends £18,000. These funds are found within their town council budgets and staff are responsible for organising and delivering the annual displays. Now we all know that Bude and Stratton Town Council are vigorous and progressive in maintaining and developing the delightful floral displays which add colour and beauty to our town from springtime through to the autumn. Wouldn’t it be great if the festive season was treated with such regard? But our council don’t currently allocate any budget for the Christmas lights, as traditionally this was left to local business owners and the Chamber of Commerce.

Local feedback on the efforts of Light Up Bude has been broadly positive, as everyone seems to love a more glittery town at Christmas time and this upsurge in festive feeling has boosted relations between local retailers who now compete voraciously to have the best-dressed windows and shop fronts. The annual addition of real Christmas trees brings natural beauty to the display and then keeps on giving all year round once planted at Widemouth in January to help prevent dune erosion.

Light Up Bude managed to harness the enviable Bude community spirit and achieved a sea change in attitude within the local business community. They say:

Many local businesses have supported the purpose over the past few years and special thanks goes to Kim at Senara Photography, Paul at The Preston Gate, Tom at Rosie’s Kitchen and the huge generosity from Greenaways who have offered free storage for the lights at their facility in Stratton.

So the call goes out to Bude and Stratton Town Council to please step up and own the Christmas lights. Let’s not let this energy and sparkle fade away.

So, Bude and Beyond contacted the Council. Town Clerk, Keith Cornwell, responded:

Everyone is grateful for the efforts of Light up Bude over recent years; they did a great job in brightening up the town. The Town Council, while not allocating direct funds has been supportive of this community group and has supplied the cherry picker and manpower to help put up and take down the lights.

The Council also purchases and puts up four Christmas Trees in the Parish at – The Castle, The Triangle, Poughill and Stratton. We have recently become aware of the disbandment of Light up Bude and do need to talk with the ex-members to establish exactly what decorations they now have and their condition.

Officers will be working up options as to what may be done this year and will take this to Committee for consideration. While it might sound like a straightforward task, there will be a number of factors to consider in making sure any installations are compliant with the relevant regulations and proper permissions are in place. Ultimately, it will be for the Councillors to decide the extent of the Town Council’s involvement in any future arrangements and whether to commit taxpayers money.

So, my Bude & Beyond take on that is that the Council and Light Up Bude representatives need to talk to assess what lights are in storage, check they are compliant, and see whether the Council can make use of them in future. If the lights have already been purchased and the Council has already helped with cherry-picking and manpower, then some infrastructure is already in place.

That discussion and investigation work will be conducted by officers, and then the elected members have a chance to discuss and vote. For local voters, you have the option of contacting your councillor to make your views heard (whatever they are) and attending council meetings to hear any public discussions once they are on the agenda.

No bias here, by the way, as for the last few years I’ve been away on Late Night Shopping Day and I only rarely go to Bude at night. Let’s hope something is resolved to the benefit of all.


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