Loughborough’s Christmas Lights switch-on – but when?

5 December 2020

By my reckoning, last Sunday in a non-Covid-world would’ve seen Loughborough’s annual Christmas light-switch-on event, with some celebrity or important local person standing on the Town Hall balcony (do they still stand on the balcony?) and flicking the switch.

Do you know, I’ve only witnessed it once, and can remember next to nothing about it other than that I was squashed. Call myself a supportive citizen? Bah humbug!

A quick search reveals that in 2017, the event was hosted by Capital FM presenters Dino, Pete and Tyles, with the lights themselves switched on by the cast of the Town Hall’s ‘Robin Hood’ panto (and no, look, they don’t stand on the balcony, now – what a shame! Though the squashing of the crowds must’ve been unbearable when they did!)

In 2018, the town’s Christmas lighting had a revamp, costing £100,000 for 35 new installations. Nothing online mentions who switched them on, but I don’t think I need psychic powers to guess.  (And by the way, what happened to the old lights?  Were they sold on to another, less fussy town in the way that old theme park rides are sold on, do you think?)

2019 saw BBC Radio Leicester take over the hosting, with the lights switched on by the winner of a local competition who was supported by the cast of that year’s Town Hall pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk.

Going through a box of my dad’s old things the other day I came across some photos of Loughborough’s Christmas decorations from some time in the recent past.  I’m not sure when, exactly (or why he took them, to be honest!), but it was before Sock Man was installed, so pre-1998.  They certainly looked very different to those we have now.

A photo of the town centre’s Christmas decorations some time in the mid-’90s – but when?

I asked my writing group the other day (they’re very useful!) whether the town was decorated, much, in Christmas times’ past, and they said that it wasn’t, particularly.  Some towns had nativity scenes – one lady recalled visiting the life-size plaster figures in Nottingham’s Slab Square in her childhood – and her husband mentioned evergreen wreathes hung on the tall, ornate street lamps which once stood in the Market Place (one of which, I think, now stands in Queen’s Park outside Charnwood Museum.)  But that was pretty much it.

I myself remember when some of the independent shops began displaying real Christmas trees fitted at an angle on their second floor walls – I remember how lovely I thought they looked.  That would’ve been the early 90s, maybe? 1995?

It would be interesting to know the history behind Loughborough’s tradition with decorating the Town Centre.  Feel free to email me if you know anything about it, or have memories of when Duncan Norvelle or Peppa Pig or whoever, came to the town to turn on the lights.

And in case you’re missing having seen the switch-on this year, Charnwood Borough Council released a film showing it happening, and here it is. If you’ve been into town at all you’ll know it does look very pretty and the lights definitely cheer up what is otherwise an empty, covid-weary space.

Light has been considered a symbol of hope for centuries.  Hang on to that hope, everyone, and maybe this time next year we can stand together in the Market Place and watch the cast of the panto switch Loughborough’s Christmas lights on again.

Alison Mott

Loughborough Market Place, 1st December 2020 (Photo: A Mott)
Loughborough Market Place, 1st December 2020 (Photo: A Mott)
What once was Saxone’s is now Costa. Market Street and the corner of Market Place, Loughborough, 1st Dec 2020. (Photo A Mott)

Loughborough Echo online (article published 27 Nov 2017)
Leicester Mercury  online (article published 10th October 2018)
Leicester Mercury online (article published 24th Nov 2019)