Winter wonderland plan for Skegness Christmas festival

A winter wonderland could be on the cards for future Christmas festivals in Skegness.

Christmas could shine even brighter in future years in Skegness - but at what cost to taxpayers? In spite of concerns taxpayers money should not be spent on a Christmas festival, there is much support for an upgrade of current events.

Skegness Town Council has voted to establish a budget of £10,000 per year to create an annual Christmas event weekend, incorporating the Christmas Illuminations switch-on.

A three-year Christmas Illuminations contract at a total value of £54,524 to be awarded to L.I.T.E Ltd has already was agreed by councillors at a previous meeting.

The winter wonderland idea was put forward in a motion by Coun Danny Brookes, which states: "After two years of disruption and the ever increasing work load of the switch-on event, Skegness Town Council works with the Hildreds Centre, Carnival Committee, other businesses and interested parties to establish an annual Christmas event weekend incorporating the Christmas Illuminations switch-on and other activities to try and bring the whole town together.

This year's Christmas Market takes place over the weekend of November 27-28.

"This would need the council to establish a budget of £10,000 per annum and to work with other interested parties to develop an appropriate organising committee together with mechanisms by which council can be assured its contributions are appropriately used and managed."

The motion which was passed was subject to the council agreeing the full budget and precept in January 2022 and future council approval of the constitution of the organising committee and subsequent appointment of council representative(s) once the constitution was known.

However, there was opposition to the motion - mainly from the Tory councillors.

The three councillors who voted against it were Dan Kirk, Carl Macey and Julie Sadler. Two others abstained - Couns Sid Dennis and Steve Kirk.

The Hildreds Centre has funded the Christmas Market for the past 32 years at a cost of around £12,000 per year.

Coun Sadler said she supports every event in Skegness but explained that at a time of rising costs for the community, as a councillor she couldn't vote for something that would cost taxpayers £10,000 when they could least afford it.

"At this moment in time I don't want £10,000 in the council budget for this. I don't disagree with the idea but believe other avenues should be explored first - such as support from the Visit Lincs Coast (BID).

"We should have lights, a switch-on event and there was talk of an ice rink in Tower Gardens - but residents should not have to pay - and that is why I voted against it."

Hearing there was opposition to his motion, Coun Brookes asked the public for their opinion on social media.

Many were in favour of it. Amanda Harrison said on facebook: "Upgrade. A winter wonderland would be amazing for the town … keep the magic alive for the little ones and the big ones too."

Callum Whitehead agreed: "Upgrade and save definitely without question. Every year thousands attend and businesses stay open longer as they know how busy the town will be. It helps local businesses as well as bringing people to the town. It's a no brainer for me."

Karen A King said: "I think we should put Skegness back on the map and have the biggest Christmas wonderland possible, bring Skegness back to what it use to be."

And Paul Spurr-Stone said: "Growing up Christmas in Skegness as a kid was awesome - Santa on a lorry throwing Fravigars sweets to the kids was awesome, the Sally Ann band playing around the tree was awesome, the roast chestnut sellers were awesome..... what happened???"

This year's Christmas Market takes place over the weekend of November 27-28. Visit Lincs Coast (BID) are promoting it as part of a Seaside and Sparkle Coastal Festival, promoting the area's festive events, and funding some street performers for the Sunday.

The Hildreds Centre has funded the event for the past 32 years at a cost of around £12,000 per year.

Steve Andrews, manager of the Hildreds Centre joined the discussion to point out East Lindsey District Council's place making team, along with the Welcome Back Fund, have helped with some funding to put on entertainment.

"We have applied for other funding so with their help and the money the Hildreds will invest this Christmas, it should be a great weekend," he said.

"The actual footfall for the Christmas switch-on event in 2019 between 5.30pm and 9pm was 12,562. A lot of people - more than half the population of Skegness turning out for one event?

"We also had 26,712 for the Saturday and Sunday the Christmas market was on."