Anger and disappointment at decision to scrap this year's town centre Christmas lights switch on in Burnley

Shoppers and traders in Burnley town centre have hit out at the decision not to hold the annual traditional Christmas lights switch on event this year.

By Susan Plunkett
Monday, 29th November 2021, 10:09 pm

Seen by many as the official start of the festive season, the day long event pulled thousands of people into the town centre and included a host of attractions including a live stage show, stalls, rides and a grand finale of the light switch on and a firework display.

Businessman Ian Walker, who owns several properties across Burnley, said an event like this was needed this year 'more than ever' after the pandemic.

He said: "Towns across Lancashire have been pulling out all the stops to stage a traditional Christmas light switch on, even smaller towns like Brierfield and Padiha ,so why couldn't Burnley have one?

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Crowds flocked to the Christmas light switch on show held in Burnley Market Hall on Saturday, November 20th

"We are supposed to be regenerating the town and this was the ideal chance to do it.

"Over the years the big Christmas light switch on has heralded the start of the festive season, drawing thousands of people to the town centre in Burnley.

"It was a fantastic way to really bring people together."

Annette Shuttleworth, who owns Jack Jones barbers on St James Street said she was 'extremely disappointed' the event had been shelved for 2021 adding: "I am stunned it has been pulled for this year. The town is supposed to be on the up and re-generated yet the one event that would have showcased all that is not even taking place.

"Padiham held its light switch on at the weekend and it was fantastic, they did a great job."

David Black, who runs Ambiance hair salon with business partner Frances Coyne said they usually timed unveiling their own festive decorations with the town centre light switch on.

David said: "It is a shame they have decided not to hold the event andt no-one has informed us it wouldn't be taking place this year."

A mum of three who shops regularly in Burnley town centre said she was 'dismayed' at the decision to pull the Christmas lights switch on.

The mum, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "The event was a real family day out for us and something we could look forward to as a family.

"There was always such a happy atmosphere to the day aswell, the children loved it and it was a chance to meet up with friends too. If ever we all needed an event like this it was this year."

The decision was made by the Burnley BID ( Burnley town centre Business Improvement District) team which is a group of private sector led organisations working to make Burnley a destination of choice for customers, shoppers, residents and visitors.

Andrew Dean, who is the Burnley BID project manager, said: "Earlier this year, when we were planning for Christmas with our partners, Charter Walk and Burnley Borough Council, there were strong messages across all forms of media that coronavirus cases would increase during the winter months and there was a lot of uncertainty about what the future would hold.

"Collectively it was decided to err on the side of caution while still planning activities that would help bring footfall into Burnley in a safe and responsible manner.

"We’re all aware that people have had a difficult last 18 months and traditional light switch on events do create a buzz, but health and safety was at the forefront of our thinking which is why we took the decisions we did."

Instead of one big event Burnley BID has organised a series of attractions to take place on Saturday leading up to Christmas. These include artisan and festive markets and children's attractions including Toy Soldier stilt walkers, story time with the Snow Queen and visits by Anna and Elsa from the hit film Frozen.

Mr Dean added: "We committed much more budget and resources to this year’s festivities in comparison with the 2019 Switch On show as we wanted to go all out for the town.

"By holding an event each Saturday in the run up to Christmas it will ensure a steady stream of visitors, which our businesses will hopefully benefit from, rather than the running of a single event day which doesn’t build traction throughout December.

"We are truly saddened to hear that some people feel let down by this year’s lack of a town centre stage show, however we hope they understand the rationale behind our decisions and will still visit the town over the festive period to shop local and support our wonderful businesses.

"We appreciate that this year’s Christmas event programme differs from previous years and, as always, we will take the feedback from shoppers and visitors on-board which will form part of our thinking for 2022."

As the traditional lights switch on was scrapped for this year Raynor Pepper, who is the assistant manager of Burnley Markets, organised and hosted a day long festive extravaganza last Saturday, November 20th, coinciding with the unveiling of the Christmas decorations and lights in town.

Hosted in Burnley Market Hall, the event attracted around 7,000 people who enjoyed a live stage show and a host other attractions.