Penarth's 2016 Christmas Lights are switched on on stage by prizwe winning local shopkeepers before large crowds in the town centre

The ceremonial switch-on of Penarth’s 2016 Christmas Lights is performed on stage by prize-winning local retailers watched by a large crowd in the town centre

Last night’s ceremonial switching on of Penarth Christmas Lights attracted large crowds – mostly of families with  young children.

The lantern parade assembles at West House

The lantern parade assembles at West House

The celebrations had begun with a new feature – a “lantern parade”-  which assembled at the council HQ at West House before setting out in procession to the town centre with a brass band in the vanguard .

The colourful parade was led by Town Crier and partner Peter

The colourful parade was led by temporary town crier Peter Taunton and partner

The parade was led by Penarth’s temporary town crier Peter Taunton,  of the Loyal Company of Town Criers,  whose services along with those of his partner had been secured just for Christmas.

Many local families with small children joined in the parade - but not many lanterns were in evidence

Many local families with small children joined in the parade – but not many lanterns were in evidence

Actual lanterns in the procession seemed in somewhat short-supply as the parade – made up of costumed fairy-tale figures, biblical characters and scores of local families –  wound its way along Stanwell Road to the Town Centre accompanied by a brass band.

Father Christmas this year was notable for his absence from the parade – even though many children had lined the streets in the hope of seeing him.

The lantern parade arrives in a crowded town centre

The lantern parade arrives in a crowded town centre

The parade also did not include members of the Penarth Operatic and Dramatic Society . The society said it had offered its services to Penarth Town Council but officers had told them there was “no parade” and their services were not required. Having seen the parade, PODS  sent the following  tweet to Penarth Council.

Penarth Operatic and Dramatic Society said theitr offer to the council had been turned down because there would be no parade - and were "shocked" to find that there was one

Penarth Operatic and Dramatic Society said their offer to the council had been turned down because there would be “no parade” – and were “shocked” to find that there had been one – to which they were not invited

Penarth Town Council claimed in a tweeted reply that it had no recollection of the PODS conversation.

Some of the participants in the parade carried illuminated hula-hoops

Some of the participants in the parade carried illuminated hula-hoops

Councillors clad in distinctive hi-viz yellow jackets rattled charity collection buckets under the noses of spectators to gouge charitable donations from them as the procession made its way to Windsor Road.

The RNLI, for which one of the chairty collections was organised (on behalf of its appeal for a new lifeboat) – had an inshore lifeboat on display on a trailer. Penarth Coastguard maintained a supporting presence alongside.

A large crowd packed Windsor Road in front of a lower-than-usual event stage

A large crowd containing many small children packed Windsor Road in front of a lower-than-usual event stage

Outside the St Fagans pub, a portable stage had been set up for live performances by a range of local artistes.

Children who had the best view were those in the front

Children who had the best view were those in the front – but they had to endure the very loud music

The stage was much  lower than those used in previous years – making it difficult for children  – hemmed-in by the pressing crowds of adults –  to see what was going on.

The only way children could see what was - in essnce - a children's show - was by being hoisted onto the shoulders of their fathers

The only way children could see what was, in essence  a children’s show, was by being hoisted onto the shoulders of their fathers

Many dads (and mums) did their duty by hoisting their youngsters on their shoulders to try to give them a better view.

Some parents complained that the stage  amplification system was far louder than was  necessary –  or indeed advisable – for a crowd containing so many young children.

parents struggled to give their children a view of the stage

Parents struggled to give their children a view of the stage

Although some children enjoyed the music and clapped along with it, others found the sound was just too loud for comfort and covered their ears. One burst into tears.

Leaving early - some parents decided to make their way home before the finale

Leaving early – some parents decided to make their way home before the finale

At this stage it was beginning to get cold and some parents began the formidable task of finding a way out of the dense crowd in order to get away from the noise and the press of people and head for home early.

Penarth Town Council had announced in all the pre-publicity that the Christmas Lights switch on – the climax of the event – would take place at 5 pm. But  it was not to be.

The Rock Choir's performance ran over time

Christmas Lights switch-on time arrives – but the Rock Choir carried on its performance way past the deadline.

Any show which has as its climax the appearance of Father Christmas is clearly aimed at  small children – and many families with infants in the audience would have been banking on it finishing on time and not over-running.

However 5 pm  – the scheduled Christmas Lights Switch-on time  – came and went with no sign of any actual switch-on occurring – and no sign of Santa.

The Rock Choir singing - "Don't Stop Me Now"

The Rock Choir singing – “Don’t Stop Me Now”. Nobody did.

Some  parents in the crowd could be seen checking their watches and looking for a way out of the crowd and back to their cars  as the Rock Choir – which should have been hauled off the stage at the dot of 5pm, launched into numbers such as like “Don’t Stop Me Now” and went on – and on. Not until after 17.20 was the stage eventually cleared for the climax of the event.

Compere Shelley Norton introducing the Mayor of Penarth Cllr Mike Cuddy

Compere Shelley Norton introducing the Mayor of Penarth Cllr Mike Cuddy

Compere Shelly Norton told the audience that the show was about to reach the “highlight that you’ve all been waiting for in the freezing cold as soon as we possibly can”  and introduced the Mayor of Penarth Cllr Mike Cuddy .

Cllr Cuddy told the audience he hoped they had all enjoyed the afternoon and said he didn’t want to delay the crowd any longer.

The Mayor of Penarth Cllr Mike Cuddy

The Town Mayor of Penarth Cllr Mike Cuddy told the children there would be a count-down.

The Mayor thanked the town council staff for the work they had done in organising the event and said he was still “jumping inside” after  following the brass band and listening to the Rock Choir who had been “great”. He said he wanted all the children to have their fingers crossed as there was to be a count down to the switch-on

Compere Shelley Norton (right) introduces winning retaileers (left to right) Cathy Evans of Bojangles , Rebecca and Justin Horton of Funky Monkey - and the monkey himself "George"

Compere Shelley Norton (right) introduces winning retailers (left to right) Cathy Evans of Bojangles , Rebecca and Justin Horton of Funky Monkey – and the monkey himself “George”

Shelley Norton then introduced on stage the local retailers who had won the 2105 and the 2014 Christmas shop-window contests. Part of their prize is the honour of officiating at the Christmas Lights switch-on.

The distinction of carrying out the switch-on went to Cathy Evans from Bojangles and Gifts at 9, (2014 winner) and Justin and Rebecca Horton of Funky Monkey (2015 winners) accompanied by “George the Monkey”. [The 2016 winner has yet to be selected]

Shelley Norton announces the arrival of Mrs Christmas and her husband Santa who had arrived direct from "Lapland"

Shelley Norton said it was the highlight of her career to announce the arrival of “Mrs Claus and  Santa Claus” who had arrived direct from “Lapland”

Shelley then introduced Mrs Claus and Santa Claus onto the stage.  Had the stage been higher, small children would have been better able to see them.

Half an hour late the countdown to the finale finally began

Half an hour late the countdown to the switch-on finale finally began

Half an hour behind schedule, the winning retailers participated in a unified count down to the Christmas Lights Switch On to cheers and applause from the audience and “snow” from an artificial snow machine.

On Penarth's Clock roundabout the three new Christmas trees lit up on schedule - but the town clock was having a disagreement with itself about what time it really was

On Penarth’s Clock Roundabout the three new Christmas trees lit up on schedule – but the Town Clock was having a disagreement with itself about what time it really was

And meanwhile at Penarth’s Clock Roundabout it appeared that all three Christmas trees were not only lit up and working properly but were actually perpendicular …even though the Town Clock was claiming – on at least one  of its faces –  that it was still only 14:15 .

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  1. Fantastic to see so many people at the switch-on, Penarth was buzzing with excitement! We have a lot to be proud of in Penarth and we were honoured to help switch on the lights. George (our mascot monkey) would like to pass on his thanks to the many children who gave him lots of hugs and kisses! He’s pretty tired today, but nothing a banana sandwich won’t fix.

  2. Elizabeth McCarthy says:

    I happened to be walking around the area and I concur – what a badly organised, shabby looking event. Goodwill is not enough if you are going to cause toddlers to burst in to tears and damage their hearing. At one point a small group of people started singing ‘why are we waiting’ because they had already had to keep their toddlers out in the cold for long enough. The sound levels were dangerous…It is really out of order putting people through that when they are just trying to do the best for their kids. Then the lights went on half an hour late and they were so mediocre that people just turned on their heels and went. Debacle.

    They must get a proper events organiser to do this job – it was bad…

    • Jillabong says:

      Perhaps the Hamptons boys – who drag success from the jaws of failure.

      • RetailGuru says:

        Jill, putting on an ad-hoc event in an existing building is a little different from organising a large scale event in the town centre. No comparison at all.

    • RetailGuru says:

      Elizabeth McCarthy, do you realise that the council HAS a ‘proper’ events organiser who actually did a super job and improved this event from the dull, dreary goings-on of previous years (yawn)?

      Also, do you realise the impact of your comments on that person? They, and the council team, put on a huge amount of effort to bring you this and other events – and all you can do is tap-tap away insults which are personal and no doubt upsetting to the person concerned.

      Constructive criticism, yes. Your comments, no thank you.

      • Elizabeth McCarthy says:

        This person has made mistakes that need to be addressed. I have been responsible for putting on live events and some fundamental mistakes were made that could only have been made by an amateur. I’m sorry if that upsets them – but no professional organiser would have made those mistakes. The Vale of Glamorgan has a history of employing people who are hopeless at their job and yet are allowed to cling on it for dear life – regardless of the impact it has on the vale community. I’m not tolerating it anymore for the sake the sake of someones feelings. Presumably, they are paid very well for the mess they are making. It was a terrible event which could have had consequences. Fortunately, we are discussing it now rather than waiting for an accident to happen – so they should count themselves lucky. If they are that emotionally fragile then I would suggest that they are in the wrong job for that reason as well.

        Some of the parents would have every right to complain if you have damaged someones hearing. Grow up and act like a professional. I don’t care if they are delusional enough to think they have produced an event that went well.

  3. Ken Lee says:

    With small children in tow had to leave before switch on. Very disappointed.

  4. Michael Morgan says:

    Complete shambles of event. The stage, sound and compere (no one knows who she was) were so bad it was unreal. She had no idea what she was talking about. What has changed from previous great years?!

  5. Jane Foster says:

    Shame the stage was too low to see anything. Didn’t get the point of the “rock choir”, the kids were bored and would have liked something more Christmassy to sing along to. But the parade was excellent and would love to see it become an annual event. Kids just love dressing up and what a great way to participate.

    • Jillabong says:

      The Chtistmas parade has been an annual event for some years. Some more successful than others.

    • RetailGuru says:

      Agree that involving the local kids in a parade is a great idea and one to build on. Rock choir was, in my opinion, fab although (as you say) some more Christmassy songs would have been more appropriate.

  6. Aj says:

    Very disappointing sadly I will never attend again!
    Health & Safety disgusting

  7. Rachel Rees says:

    Shambles from start to finish. Sound was FAR too loud, the host was obviously related to someone with power as no one knew who she was to get that gig, as mentioned the stage was far too low and no one was wearing a watch as the lights came on so late it was unreal. Clearly shows no care about the public what so ever. I and my family will never come to an event in Penarth again!!!

  8. Jillabong says:

    And so it came to pass….. Penarth’s lauded lantern parade turned out – as predicted – to be a damp squib. Whilst the town centre was bustling with families waiting for the spectacular, the lantern parade set off – late. Don’t know why – some had assembled by 3pm. There was a smattering of lanterns, an assortment of parents/families/who knows who and their buggies following the very good band. There were people dressed in Nativity costumes, and a group of beautifully dressed panto performers. Upon investigation, I discovered that the performers were from the excellent Barry Billboard company. I have no problem with Barry companies, however, our own PODS have their panto next weekend, and they were told that there was no parade for them to take part in this year – it was just a lantern parade. Deceitful. And where were the Jane Clarke Dancers? They have led the parade with their jolly, upbeat performance since the inception of Penarth parades. Upon investigation I discovered that they were not needed either. Shame. The rock choir were excellent, but their repertoire was unsuited to the target audience. The volume of everything did not need to be ear shattering. Stage was too low so only people at the front could see. Santa and Mrs. Claus in a vintage convertible? Wrong on so many levels. I hate being negative, but this could have been so good. It wasn’t.

    • Leogurrrrl says:

      Did you attend the event Jillabong??

      • Jillabong says:

        I would not have given such a detailed review without attending the event. Felt it was a shame that organizations that had always been invited to take part were excluded this year – and I did check before writing. I have tried to be balanced in my critique. Having read other reviews, I see that I was not alone in my concerns.

    • RetailGuru says:

      Well, Jill, I fully expect that you wrote this post before the event. You seem to have a personal axe to grind on behalf of a number of fellow misery-makers…. I suggest that, by your tone, you’re probably a member of PODS because your posts are dramatic… “Deceitful”, “Ear Shattering” volume?

      Every person I spoke to had a great time yesterday evening – OK, not everything was perfect. The countdown delay, the stage sound was a bit too loud and yes, it was congested around the main stage. Hey, these things happen.

      I found the atmosphere to be electric and positive. Bring on next year!

      • Jillabong says:

        Well, Ret, I always speak only for myself – not on behalf of my ‘fellow misery makers’ – I don’t know any of them. I certainly was there well before the start, and beyond the end, then made a few enquiries with relevant organizations before posting. I wanted to know my subject before making a critique. You seem to agree that there were timing problems, high volume and congestion – all points I mentioned, and yet you neglected to note that I praised elements of yesterday’s festivities. I have read your comments to other fellow Penarthians who mentioned anything negative. Is there something personal going on here? It was not perfect. Hey. There were problems.

      • Elizabeth McCarthy says:

        No they don’t ‘just happen’. Professional event organisers don’t let that happen to the general public.That is exactly the attitude I expected was behind the problems. You must have been on the stage – because that was definitely not the atmosphere in the crowd and from that viewpoint you must have seen the people wedged up against barriers. You put the stage in the wrong place. Where did you think they would be standing to watch? They were crammed up against glass shopfronts at the back – there was never going to be enough room. How did you think the children were going to see if the stage was so low? It doesn’t take a genius to work out what was going to happen. You lot are caught up in your own fantasy based on how much you enjoyed organising the event – clearly. You have to know what you are doing. Most people can put on an event – it is doing it properly that counts. What training has this person had? Because they clearly don’t have any basic common sense to rely on. I don’t think you can be relied on to be safe enough. A parent here has called the health and safety ‘disgusting’ – don’t you think that is important?

  9. All it was really was organised chaos, at 5-10pm I found my way out of my brief visit , and on the way I joked to a few onlookers about the time for the lights to be switched on, and said its late because they cannot get the singers off the stage , that was meant as a joke but now I know that was the case, It was niche to see the singers enjoying themselves because few of the crowd did . Good job their wasn’t any donkeys this year as there would not have been room for the donkey rides. The movements of the crowd were restricted by young mothers coming out in force with pushchairs and standing around in groups this restricting movement , this forced the crowd into a more restricted area making movement difficult. The whole event itself was badly done , no wonder many left before the lights went on and I don’t blame them .

  10. Peter Church says:

    Lis Burnett’s twitter feed decided that a moan about UKIP is more important than anything to do with Penarth. Not a mention of the wonderful Christmas lights switch on in Penarth!
    Perhaps if it were in Barry then she might be interested, for a Penarth Councillor this is a disgrace.

  11. Emma Jones says:

    Yeah, I took a quick look at the our very own Councillors output on twitter. You are right nothing ’bout Penarth last night, instead a mix of lefty politics, re-tweets of food pictures and just general stream of consciousness ramblings. Isn’t this the deputy leader of the Vale of Glamorgan Council, I thought something more coherent than photos of cats and jewellery might be on offer.
    When are the next elections hen?

    • Emma Jones says:

      It’s a really slow day at the office and I googled Lis and found her entry in the Council’s register of members interests. She has only gone and put down MENSA in the section of private clubs operating in the Vale area, to the best of my knowledge they have a head office in Wolverhampton but nothing operating in the Vale, unless members meet up privately to discuss how clever they all are 🙂 cheered me up for the day. Now back to work related typing. 😦

  12. Lindsay says:

    For goodness sake, the spirit of Scrooge is alive and well in Penarth. It was a lovely family event enjoyed by hundreds of people of all ages. Well done to everyone involved for their hard work and willingness to give their time for the benefit of the community. Bah humbug to all the miseries who just can’t resist the opportunity to have a moan.

    • hopenotnasty says:

      I very much agree. Far to many professional moaners on this site. The trees and lights look great. Well done Penarth.

      • Keith Stevens says:

        Agree – Trees looked better than most years and some of the shops made an effort too – usual great display from Hamptons and a newcomer Peter Alan Estate Agents fantastic teddy bear display… magical

    • RetailGuru says:

      Well said, Lindsay. A huge amount of hard work and an electric atmosphere! Proud of our town.

  13. Mgg says:

    So what we are saying is that the kids were not wrapped up properly for the weather and people were looking to leave dead on five past five to be in bed by half past . I have never been to a switch on anywhere that didn’t run over a bit .

  14. Jillabong says:

    Shelley Norton? Me neither!

  15. John Stevens says:

    The Xmas lights event last night in Penarth was great, if a little packed for the young ones.
    Well done all involved.

    On the Lis Burnett twitter thingy, I as a UKIP voter find some of her tweets (as Deputy Leader of the Council) both rude and discourteous.
    The AMs is an elected representative, who is entitled to hold an event and to invite her as the Deputy Leader of the Council. If she chooses to respond publicity in this way then I have pity on her and her values, as these also show what she thinks of people who voted for that AM.
    Sneering at pictures of Donald Trump, also says more about her than him.


  16. Mgg says:

    Anyone who takes an interest in what goes on in Penarth will have seen Shely Norton’s name with her talent academy and with the soul club at The Legion. The people who havnt seen poster adverts with her name on must be the same people who say the Paget Room events are never advertised and miss posters in every coffe shop , pet shop, etcetera in town centre.

  17. RetailGuru says:

    The best lights switch-on since we’ve been in Penarth (7 years) – rock choir were inspirational, not their fault that it over-ran, and for that matter I don’t recall being to ANY live event that was exactly on time! I’m so sick of people running down our town and the people who try and make it such a fantastic place to live. IF YOU THINK YOU CAN DO A BETTER JOB, RUN FOR COUNCIL!!

    • Elizabeth McCarthy says:

      I don’t think anybody is ‘running down our town’. We just think that your mate is a rubbish/dangerous events organiser. Sorry.

  18. Elizabeth McCarthy says:

    I don’t think anybody is just moaning about this – obviously you didn’t attend the same event the rest of us did. The sound could have damaged the ears of children who were encouraged to pile in closer to glimpse a view of the stage. That is not a moan – I have known adults to experience hearing loss after one night at a loud event standing next to a speaker. The position of the stage also caused crowding in front of the shops opposite and people were struggling to get out. That is very serious and if this event goes ahead next year I hope they re-think it. We all know from terrible experience that accidents can be caused at events. It is not something that an unqualified or inexperienced person should be organising. Also – if the event is aimed at small children – as it clearly was – it is irresponsible to leave them out in the cold for any longer than necessary. Clearly there was concern about this from the mayor on the night and well done to him for cutting his speech in order to get the lights switched on.

    Also, apart from the health and safety concerns – it was a poorly run event. Many of the parents in the crowd were complaining and miserable. There was very little entertainment apart from a stage that couldn’t be seen, very few stalls or staff supervising the crowd. I’m sure the people organising the event did enjoy themselves – but that, surely, is not the only aim…

    • RetailGuru says:

      You’ve decided that I was part of the event organisation and actually you’re quite mistaken. I’m just putting my view across and defending the hard working organisers (none of whom are “my friend”) who aren’t allowed to say what they actually want to nasty, negative people like you.

      • Elizabeth McCarthy says:

        I’m neither nasty or negative – I’m just fed up with this is complacent attitude that says ‘poor rubbish is good enough because we’ve always done it like that round here’. You won’t get improvement with people like you praising things for the sake of it and who ‘didn’t notice any health and safety problems’ despite loads of us pointing them out to you. If you didn’t notice them and we did then you are clearly not equipped to comment.

  19. Lindsay can I have those rose coloured specs when you have done with them? the event was as I and others stated just organised chaos and I think I can say the worst for years!? . This forum is for people to voice their opinions , wether you agree or not does not really matter and I am not going to say a badly organised event is hunky dory just because some others want to look at the world in a certain way On this forum I praised the volunteers for giving up their time to clear rubbish from a well used footpath , I also praised the wonderful person who rescued the old lady with Dementia from walking on the motorway to almost certain death , he was wonderful . And as the old saying goes , ‘Praise Where Praise Is Due’ and in this case it wasn’t due and shouldn’t be expected As far as I could see at the event the only people seeming to have nice time were the singers .

    • Lindsay says:

      Andrew, do you not agree that, on most subjects, the tone of the majority of comments on here is negative? Good news stories attract very little feedback. I certainly have no rose tinted spectacles but I don’t wear blinkers either.

      • Peter Church says:

        Yes you do! yet another forum member has seen you as the pro-labour, pro-council spokesperson.
        Go on tell us which Councillor or AM or paid local offical your are, or are married to?

      • Lindsay says:

        Oh no I don’t! None of the aforementioned.

  20. 249ers says:

    After reading all these comments may I point out that a major change this year was that Santa was not part of the parade as it left West House. Over the years many small children, some in pushchairs would gather there just to see him. They were not there for the singers or the shopping, just to see HIM arrive. Some walked with the parade but many younger families went home with that lovely Christmasy feeling.
    Could it be that the organizers wanted to draw everyone into the center of Penarth to spend time and money before Santa arrived. In doing so the parents with their pushchairs, according to some became a health and safety hazard, when they should have had a front row view.
    I’m a Nana who has seen Santa arrive in Penarth every year since my grandchildren were born, but this year we saw the crowds and went home to wait until December 25th.

  21. Marie says:

    On the whole my children really enjoyed the night and I just wanted to say thank you very much to everyone involved. Yes, it was crowded but surely that’s a good thing? Full of people bringing their kids to see Father Christmas and getting into the spirit! I do agree with the comments stating that the music was a little too loud, I was getting a bit worried about my youngest’s ears so we ended up moving right to the back and missing Santa as the announcements were a bit vague. Just a couple of points for next year? Other than that, really good fun.

  22. Maz says:

    Where is the snowman ?

    • newsnet says:

      The snowman (or snowperson) has been relocated to the grounds of the council HQ at West House and has been officially named as “Sam”

  23. Jillabong says:

    I wonder whether that is Samuel or Samantha!

  24. Thank you Professor Church that is most enlightening , where would we be without people like yourself to put us on the right track , I stand in awe at your wise words, but then I don’t Google stuff that often.

    • Peter Church says:

      No problem Andrew, I know some parts of Penarth don’t have that good an internet service and are a bit deprived. I can arrange my young lad to cycle round to yours with his smart phone if ever you something looking up on google like!

  25. Frank Evans says:

    Will this thread beat the famous tattoo debate or why my bin has changed posts.

  26. You could not make this stuff up , the Christmas lights were only switched on , on Sunday night and here we are Tuesday night 48 hours later and guess what ? Half the lights are not working , ive counted the number there are 22 strings of lights in total beginning with those part way down to the public library , then we have the bottom of Glebe St, Ludlow Lane, and Windsor Rd, of the lights working there is 11 strings of lights not working, 11 strings working this only 2 days after the big switch on . And last year they failed about 2 weeks before Xmas and were never fixed , this time there are 4 weeks to go but I bet they don’t get fixed . I think Bill and Ben run this Council , as I say you couldn’t make this stuff up .

  27. Robert says:

    Just been up into Penarth to see the lights and thanks to Andrew I thought I needed new glasses. This is a disgrace. It’s not even December for crying out loud. Come Penarth council sort it out BEFORE Christmas 17. Surely they must have an agreement with the suppliers / installation team? If things go wrong?

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