It’s been confirmed that Lucy Owen – one of the main presenters of the BBC’s nightly television news programme Wales Today – is to compere the ceremonial switching-on of Penarth’s Christmas Lights on Sunday November 18th.
Penarth Town Councillors were informed last night that this time the outdoor stage for the event will be erected “side-on” across Windsor Road – between Barclays Bank and Lloyds Bank – the first time such a layout has been implemented.
Nicholas McDonald, Penarth Town Council’s principal officer for communications and events informed councillors that the event – staged with the involvement of the commercial events company Genero – will begin at 15:00 hours and will continue later than in previous years until 19:00 hours. The climax – the actual switching-on of the Christmas Lights – will take place at 17: 30.
Mr McDonald said that the youth organisation Penarth Youth Action would be “more involved” this year and would be assisting with the stewarding of the event.
Once again three individual Christmas Trees will be installed on the Clock Roundabout around the new Town Clock which – unlike its precedessor – now lights up at night.
A number of “free craft workshops” taking place at West House during weekends following the Christmas Lights switch-on which have been set up with the aid of additional grant funding obtained by the council . These – it is hoped – will “extend the Christmas season” .
Mr McDonald said it had also been confirmed that Father Christmas would be visiting Penarth for the Switch On.
Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell) – with perhaps an eye to equal opportunities legislation – asked whether there would be a “Mother Christmas” as well? It was confirmed that indeed there will be a “Mother Christmas” present.
Cllr Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward) provoked laughter when he enquired whether there would be a “transgendered” Christmas personage present.
Referring to the booking of Lucy Owen as the host of the occasion, Cllr Turner said it was good to hear that the council had obtained a “good name there switching the lights on”.
[There has been controversy in previous years over the costs of engaging high-profile presenters for the Penarth Christmas Lights Switch-On – specifically a large fee paid to BBC Wales Today weatherman Derek Brockway in 2013 . Other comperes have included BBC Sports presenter Frances Donovan and the broadcaster/comedian Owen Money – who performed the task voluntarily.]
Cllr Mike Cuddy (Labour St Auguistines) said there had been concerns last year of “crowding near the stage” and asked whether the new location of the stage at this year’s event would “mitigate” this problem. Officer McDonald said there was no ideal location for the stage in the town centre but said the proposed new site between Lloyds Bank and Barclays Bank appeared to be the best one.
Cllr Ben Gray (Conservative Plymouth Ward) enquired about certain areas being designated as “quiet areas” or “pushchair areas” .
Mr McDonald said “The areas were certainly there last year but perhaps awareness of that was not really got out there” and said that the revised stage positioning would help.
No estimate was given in the meeting of the number of people expected to attend the event. There was no mention either of what happens in the weeks after the formal switch on. In the past the lights have not been turned on until 16:00 – whereas some traders have pressed for the lights to be on all afternoon to brighten-up the look of the town on gloomy December days.