Festival delights light up Sleaford after long winter - column by Cllr Richard Wright, county councillor for North Kesteven

It’s such a pleasure to look around currently and see the arrival of spring (albeit with a snowy interlude).

The spectacularly illuminated New Street footbridge, part of the RiverLight Festival.
The spectacularly illuminated New Street footbridge, part of the RiverLight Festival.

Trees and plants are awakening again, encouraged by the extra sunshine and warmth after withstanding months of darkness. I imagine the same is true for lots of us, as we turn to face the sun and think of summer days ahead after a long winter with Covid and other stresses.

I was so pleased to see many people turning out to enjoy our RiverLight Festival and the welcome warmth and fun it cast across Sleaford town centre and the River Slea. It was a real community celebration, with over 120 people and partners involved in its making.

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A week of fringe events saw a range of activities, from craft sessions and a tea dance to heritage walks celebrating the rich history of Sleaford.

It all led to a finale of activities and performances on Saturday, March 19, spread across the town centre, from the headline performance of aerial dance in the Market Place to light and sound installations at Eastgate Green, and unforgettable street theatre including two human-sized pigeons creating mischief along the high street, and a time machine travelling at Bristol Arcade.

There was also art, singing, dance and music, heritage displays, food, shopping and more, all brought to life through shared vision. It was wrapped up along the Slea at Eastgate Green with an evening celebration of light soundtracked by a string quartet, and then a community litter pick on Sunday.

It was an incredible community undertaking, co-ordinated by the excellent team at the Hub. I can’t thank enough everyone who made RiverLight Festival happen with us through the Government’s Welcome Back Fund. They really did make this a celebration of and for Sleaford and if you came along – thank you.

There is always something happening in Sleaford and across our district, so please do keep looking locally and rediscover all there is. Keep an eye on heartoflincs.com too for events at our venues, including over Easter.

While RiverLight was a welcome celebration, we’re not losing sight of all else there is at the moment.

We’re preparing to distribute the Government’s £150 energy rebate, starting from late April onwards. If you pay council tax by direct debit we’ll have your details already and will make the payment when the rebate is ready for you. If we don’t hold these we’ll need to contact you for them, which may take time. We also keep in our minds the intensifying situation for people in Ukraine, for whom there is freezing cold, suffering and fear currently rather than any spring warmth or sunshine.

Lincolnshire is receiving its first Ukrainian evacuees after hundreds of families reached out to offer sanctuary, safety and a warm welcome under the new Homes for Ukraine programme.

In tandem with the preparations being made in homes across the county, a network of local councils, other public bodies, charities and community groups is continuing to develop, in partnership, a range of services and mechanisms to underpin the response.

In the first stages, the Lincolnshire Resettlement Partnership is anticipating an initial allocation of guests to around 200 sponsors in the next couple of weeks, with between 25 and 35 expected within North Kesteven to begin with. This follows the approval of initial visa applications. As more visas are approved, we anticipate the number of hosted arrivals to increase in the coming weeks.

In advance of the arrivals, various checks are being made by the local authorities to ensure the suitability of the accommodation. If you have offered accommodation but have not yet been matched with anyone from Ukraine, please be assured your kindness is appreciated and do keep an eye out for any updates as things progress. Alongside this, the Ukraine Families Scheme enables family members to join Ukraine relatives already resident in the UK. This scheme operates differently, for example no payments are made, and no checks are required. A further process for community sponsorship is being developed nationally. Where people can’t offer accommodation, but still want to contribute, the Sleaford-based Lincolnshire Community Foundation has set up a fund at totalgiving.co.uk/appeal/LincolnshireCF-Ukraine which will help to finance those little extra things in life beyond the extent of government, council and charitable support – such as toys and new clothes, toiletries and tickets for leisure activities. It’s a first of its kind in the country and offers a mechanism for everyone to extend a warm Lincolnshire welcome. And through the partnership of councils, the Wellbeing Lincs service is ready to offer advice and signpost arrivals to services. For details of this and other considerations see www.Lincolnshire.gov.uk/ukraine