Many local authorities, including Comhaire nan Eilean Siar, have decided their well-known financial constraints mean they could not fund the usual Christmas lights and switching-on ceremonies. That disappointing news has prompted a great community effort to put on an alternative event organised by island volunteers and artistes.
Local fiddle player Jane Hepburn was very disappointed to learn the event was not happening. She suggested on social media sites that volunteers could perhaps get together and put on a show instead. She said: “I was very surprised to see the reaction. Within a day, hundreds had pledged they would support it.”
When event organisers Kyle Smith and Iain Macphail of Syber Promotions offered their services, Jane realised it was something that could be done and has been busy ever since.
The result is that, with less than a week to go, it has been announced that a switching-on ceremony and street ceilidh will now go ahead at Perceval Square in Stornoway on Thursday after all and Stornoway Amenity Trust are joint organisers.
The ceremony will begin at 6.55pm with the lights being turned on at 7pm. Details of that will follow. After an address by Councillor Charlie Nicolson, who is also chairman of Stornoway Trust, a local minister will then tell about the very first Christmas by relating the Nativity Story. The musical group Faram will then take to the stage from 7.30pm.
Song sheets will be handed out before the carol service begins at 8pm. It will feature many local singers including Colin Macleod, Willie Campbell, Josie Rose Duncan, Eleanor Nicolson, Sophie Davies, Tim Durbin and many more. The vintage dance troupe Candy Canes will do their stuff around 8.25pm before the street party gets under way.
A lit Christmas tree will be in Perceval Square part-funded by Stornoway area councillors’ ward funds. Some shops will stay open late and some of the members of the Lewis Pipe Band will be along to help make it a Caledonian Christmas too.
Santa Claus will be in his grotto in the former Wee W store in Cromwell Street where the Lewis and Harris Youth Clubs’ Association has arranged for the bodach from Lapland to be in attendance. Some of Mr Claus’s relations have also promised to turn up on Segway powered scooters.
Anyone who plays an instrument is invited along to join in to show what a talented community we have. Let’s celebrate it. The ceilidh and party will wind up by 9.30pm.
Joint organisers Stornoway Amenity Trust will look after many of the practicalities of such an event like the light installation, traffic management, insurance, and Red Cross cover, as it has done previously. It will also look after the window prizes to the shops and attend to the logistics of the running event.
Tony Robson said: “The amenity trust is delighted to be involved in partnership with everyone working to make the event possible.”
The Perceval Square car park will be closed to traffic from 6pm.
Meanwhile, Jane Hepburn is playing down suggestions that, in Stornoway at least, she is the girl who saved Christmas. Now wouldn’t that be a good title for a fiddle tune?