Lights switch on fails to sparkle in Dunstable

The switch on last month
The switch on last month

Plummeting numbers of children are attending the switch on of the Christmas lights, according to Dunstable Town Council.

As children attending the event on December 5 dwindled to less than half from five years previously, the matter will be discussed at a meeting of the community services committee this evening.

In a document by town clerk David Ashlee, it was stated: “Declining numbers indicate a lack of interest from the schools and the community.”

It added that just nine schools took part in the carol service, compared to 14 from the previous year.

But councillors argue that the event held last month was one of the best in years – despite the absence of celebrity guest Frank Bruno who had booked to appear but did not show up on the night.

Cllr Pat Staples, chairman of the committee, told the Gazette: “We are disappointed that we aren’t getting as many as we’d like, but I do think people’s ideas change over Christmas.”

Cllr Staples cited alternative events, such as a tour of the town by the cast of the Grove Theatre’s Cinderella on the same day, as one of the reasons why numbers of children were low.

She said: “A couple of years ago when we started having the pantomime, Magic Beans [who run the panto] asked if we could move the carol service to Grove House Gardens.

“I thought this wouldn’t be a good idea because the centre of the town has always been The Square.”

Cllr Staples added that in spite of low numbers of children, the event was well-organised with more attendees overall.

The council’s own document raised concerns about the limited impact of the switch on to the town centre.

It stated: “A switch on event signals the beginning of the festive season, which brings additional footfall and spend into the town.

“This event’s current format has very little impact on the regeneration of the town.”