Last night’s ceremonial switching on of Penarth Christmas Lights attracted large crowds – mostly of families with young children.
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 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.
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 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 Town Council claimed in a tweeted reply that it had no recollection of the PODS conversation.
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.
Outside the St Fagans pub, a portable stage had been set up for live performances by a range of local artistes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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
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 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 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.
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 .