Garstang gets set for a twinkling community Christmas
- Credit: Kate Pollard
From becoming the world's first Fairtrade town back in 2000 to running a packed seasonal events calendar, Garstang marks itself out as a Lancashire town built on community spirit.
While last year's festivities may have been a little quieter due to lockdown, this December they are back with a bang, and a twinkle, thanks in part to thousands of lights strung across the streets
Kate Pollard is part of the team putting together the town's illuminations.
'In the early 1980s Garstang became one of the first towns in the area to have their own Christmas lights - a tradition that has remained ever since', she explains. 'After another challenging year, our community once again needs the dark days of November and December to be lit up and help bring a welcome uplift and sense of cheer to Garstang over the festive period.'
The lights are a big fixture - but cost more than £12,000 to run each year. With support from Wyre Council, Garstang Town Council and the Garstang Town Trust, the team still has to find £6000 each year towards them.
'The biggest challenges we've had to overcome are the fundraising and funding opportunities which have been limited due to covid,' says Kate. 'We've had to cancel a number of our regular events and been forced to think outside the box to find ways to fund the lights. We've also been very conscious of the fact that local businesses, who usually contribute, have had a hard time over the last nearly two years, with forced closures and restrictions placed on them.'
Lockdown did spark some ideas though, with a virtual lights switch-on proving popular for the second year in a row. And GoFundMe campaign for community fundraising was also a big success.
Kate is also an admin for Your Garstang, a facebook group celebrating the local area. She founded the group in 2014 as part of a community campaign to try and save the council offices and community hall.
'It was a platform for the community to share supportive ideas and campaigns to try and get our voices heard,' she says. 'Over the years the group has changed, developed, and grown. It is now the biggest community Facebook page for Garstang.
'We have a dedicated Your Garstang Christmas Shopping 2021 group where we invite local businesses to share what they are selling in the lead up to Christmas, so that members of the community can easily be inspired by local gift ideas. We will also be running our A to Z of Christmas in Garstang, showcasing all that Garstang has to offer, and will be launching our Reverse Advent Calendar campaign, aimed at gathering needed items for our local community foodbank in the lead up to Christmas.
'We'll also be working closely with the Garstang Events Team to support their Festive events in Garstang. Working together is key.'
Mary Randles is a member of the Garstang Events Team, putting on fun things to do all year round, with some extra special seasonal activities, including a festive trail throughout the town.
'The idea behind this was that it could still go ahead even with covid restrictions as it will be outside, and it will run from December 6 until Christmas Eve, so hopefully, there will be plenty of time for people to walk through at their leisure and without crowds,' she explains.
'We have also teamed up with St Thomas’s church to hold a Christmas Tree Festival in the church. Businesses and community groups are being invited to put a tree in the display which showcases what they do.'
The team began the hugely successful Ice Cream Festival, and they hope to hold the Ice Cream Festival again in 2022.
'I think we are most looking forward to a semblance of normality. Even if there are some restrictions still in place our events will still go ahead, and we hope people will enjoy them,' says Mary. 'We're already looking forward and planning some exciting events for 2022.'
One of the local businesses taking part in the Christmas Tree Festival is
which runs sessions getting children out into the wilds around Garstang. They have been running a Santa's Grotto in a bell tent at the meadow in St.Micheals-on-Wyre, teaching children how to make Christmas tree decorations out of things they find in the forest.
'The tree has been handmade and the children have made the decorations,' says Lisa Jones, one of the school's leaders. 'I love the spirit of Christmas in the town, the lights are beautiful and the shops are all beautifully decorated. There is a lovely ambiance to it. I love a trip to Barton Grange to look at the amazing Christmas displays and I'm excited about the Garstang Christmas tree trail, with lots of local businesses coming together to make it really special.'
Fundraising is key to the success of the town's events, and groups across the area are all doing their bit to help. Emma Davis runs burlesque dance classes at Catterall Memorial Hall and Catterall Village Hall, with participants ranging in age from their early 20s to mid-60s. Last month they raised more than £600 for Garstang Christmas lights with a six-hour Burlesque-A-Thon.
'The girls learned six routines back to back,' says Emma. 'It was brutal but so much fun. I love helping out as much as I can and all of my girls are the same. We are all looking forward to the Christmas lights, it's honestly my favourite time of the year, and I love shopping locally and supporting local businesses.'
The classes bring together women from across the town.
'We are as inclusive as we can be and offer alternatives for those trickier moves that some people struggle with,' says Emma. 'Anyone above 55 we call our beautiful queenagers. We are inclusive of the lgbt+ community, and our classes are a safe fun space for anyone to come and enjoy themselves for an hour, and get their heads out of their busy lives.'
They aren't the only performers in town. Husband and wife Chris and Lucy Metcalf-Stewart are busily putting the final touches to Jack and the Beanstalk, Garstang Theatre Group's annual pantomime, which will be on at Garstang Community Academy Arts Theatre from December 8-11.
'After last year's restrictions, there's a definite sense that everyone is very keen to make sure this is a big Christmas,' says Chris. 'Garstang has such a strong community spirit, everyone has pitched in to make sure the panto can go ahead this year. We have some extra measures in place - this time we have understudies for all the roles in case anyone has to isolate for the week of the show.
'We have 14 principal roles and a similar number in the chorus, plus five or 10 crew and there's a great atmosphere of everyone pulling together to make sure it can happen.'
Chris, who works as a postman by day, first got involved with the theatre group in 2014.
'I was Buttons in Cinderella, and I ended up marrying Prince Charming,' he laughs.
'Garstang is a brilliant place to live. Everyone knows everyone, I cover various post rounds and people stop and say hello. It's such a friendly town, and everyone does their bit to help each other. We feel very lucky to live here.'
- 1 Is this the cosiest pub in Essex?
- 2 Amazing Devon events in the second half of 2022
- 3 5 of the best sustainable places to eat in Yorkshire
- 4 How to find out about your seafearing Dorset ancestors
- 5 Win a tropical trip for two to Mauritius
- 6 The Kent woman who turned her passion into a 1940s living museum
- 7 Everything you need to know about Sarah Beeny's move to Somerset
- 8 Win a unique candles and country house prize
- 9 3 pretty walks with farmer's markets in Derbyshire
- 10 Essex staycation: sleep in this quirky refurbished train carriage