We are the Central St Leonards Town Team and in 2015 we won the Revive and Thrive Blachere Christmas Lights Competition.
We decided we would enter the Competition in the summer and after much research and many drafts put together round tables we submitted our entry. Our hope was to be in the final, of course, but we were surprised when we received the news we would be going to Blackpool along with five other towns. One of those towns happened to be Hastings, our neighbour!!! We had a few weeks to put together our presentation and we pondered on how we would do it. It was decided that four of us would travel to Blackpool and with input from the team we started work. We divided the tasks up and again spent many evenings around tables writing, revising and changing bits. We also went out and made a short video in the town, talking to traders and residents as well as our local MP.
So September came and our rag tag group boarded the train at St Leonards to our trip to Blackpool. Three trains later we arrived in Blackpool and caught a cab to our accommodation. We had booked a holiday flat for two nights. It was like going back in time, with 80’s wallpaper and furniture. On the way we had received a call from local radio asking for an interview in the morning. After a wander through Blackpool and a meal we spent the rest of the evening going over our presentation. In the morning after speaking to the Local Radio station we jumped into a cab and travelled to Lightworks. We were nervous and excited about the day, but none of us thought we had a hope of winning, after all most of the other finalists were Town Councils with lots of experience of this type of thing. The morning was taken up with a tour of Lightworks, showing us how they produced and put together the Blackpool Lights. It was really interesting, but our minds were on the Competition. We all had a buffet lunch and then had to wait; we were the last to give our presentation and got more and more nervous as the afternoon went on. Finally we were called in and presented our bid and then waited in trepidation for the results. I think we all nearly collapsed when we were announced as winners!!! We had a really good evening in Blackpool.
When we got back to St Leonards on the train the following day we were met at the station by a group from the Town Team with Champagne. That was a lovely surprise. Then the hard work started. Ronnie from Blachere came down and discussed our choice of lights. They were delivered a few weeks later and stored waiting for installation. We decided we would have a turning on ceremony at the end of November at our Christmas/Winter fair. We found electrical contractors to install the lights and gradually our beautiful lights went up. Finally the day before the switch on the last few lights were put up and tested, they looked beautiful. The Frost Fair dawned the weather forecast was dreadful, but the morning was dry. We had arranged for Ronnie to come down to turn the lights on at 4.00p.m. As the day progressed with our Frost Parade, music, drummers and a market the weather just got worse and worse, by three it was pouring with rain and blasting a gale so reluctantly we decided to bring forward to switch on. We ran around looking for all the people needed, the Mayor, Ronnie and the person who had won a competition to help switch on the lights and the deed was done. Despite the weather we had a wonderful day and celebrated in the evening at the local pub.
The lights were the talk of the whole area and people came into St Leonards to see them from far and wide. All the traders felt the footfall had risen and their sales had improved. It was sad when we had to take them down in January and the streets went back to their normal selves. They are stored away now ready for next Christmas and will be a lasting reminder of our day in Blackpool.
Suzy Rann, St Leonards Town team
Find out how to enter Blachere’s 2016 Christmas Light Competition here