Published: 09:00, 07 August 2018
| Updated: 09:02, 07 August 2018
A community group that raises money for Christmas lights in Whitstable has announced the town will not have a traditional festive display this year.
Last December the usual display across Whitstable and Tankerton was almost cancelled after a problematic three-year contract with Millennium Quest – which provided lights at an annual cost of £15,000 – led to mounting debt.
A last-minute crowdfunder raised more than £20,000 to ensure the illuminations went ahead as planned. But shortly after Christmas, the Chamber of Commerce - still facing thousands of pounds of debt - stepped down from its role as lights organiser.
Community group Whitsparkle, which formed amid the uncertainty with the ambition of throwing a Christmas celebration for the town, took over responsibility for the display this year as the Millenium Quest contract came to an end.
But this week, the group announced it will not enter into a new contract.
Whitsparkle has discussed options for the lights with local residents, businesses, authorities and lighting companies.
“The prime concerns were cost, and value for money,” said spokesman Alison Clarke. “We all agree in these austere times £20,000 spent purely on lights alone was not acceptable.
“Sadly, for us to have lighting in the style of previous years, that is the cost we would be looking at – along with an unknown quantity for light fixtures and repairs.”
Instead of forking out thousands to adorn the streets with traditional fixtures, the group has hatched a plan for an alternative, community-based way to make the town sparkle this Christmas.
Businesses and residents will be encouraged to light up their own windows and homes, to a theme. Firms may take part in a best dressed shop window competition, and Whitsparkle will help negotiate discounts with lighting suppliers.
The group will also fund large, lit Christmas trees which will be placed throughout the town.
“Hopefully we can get local children to help us make sparkly things to decorate them,” added Ms Clarke.
The group aims to help light up areas such as empty buildings, and those that “need a little help” financially.
After the success of the first Whitsparkle Christmas Celebration in December last year, the group is planning another this year.
“We are going to bring the community together on Saturday, December 1 with lots of fun and sparkles throughout the town,” confirmed Ms Clarke.
“We will not be able to co-ordinate a Christmas launch event without volunteers, both on the day and beforehand.
“Please do help us with your time.
“We simply can’t do this without your generosity.”
The group is holding events throughout the year to raise money, including a summer ball at the Marine Hotel on Saturday, September 15.
Those interested in getting involved with Whitsparkle are asked to get in touch through its Facebook page.