UK Town Struggles to Celebrate Christmas

A campaign has been launched to rekindle the spirit of Christmas in Bristol.

David Long, who campaigned for a statue of Cary Grant in the city, is leading the drive to make Bristol one of the best cities in the country to visit during the festive season.

He and others feel that, over the years, the city has lost its sparkle at Christmas and is almost apologetic about the most important date in the Christian calendar.

Mr Long, 51, said: “When I first came to Bristol in 1982, the Christmas lights in Bristol went all the way down Blackboy Hill, Whiteladies Road and Park Street.

“Broadmead was lit up and there was a huge Christmas tree back then.

“There was an illuminated procession of boats in the harbour and an illuminated carnival.

“There were always great pantos at the Hippodrome and the Old Vic.

“Slowly but surely each of those has bitten the dust until we go to the position last year where we didn’t have a panto, there wasn’t a tree and there was very little sound of carols in the air.

“The situation has drawn a lot of negative comment and it occurred to me, after conversations with other people, that maybe we ought to do something about this, maybe even make Bristol the best place to come for Christmas.”

A 30-minute search of the internet revealed pictures of other UK towns and cities including Nottingham, Norwich, Glasgow, Leicester, Plymouth, Newcastle, Gloucester, Manchester and Portsmouth, with spectacular Christmas light displays and decorations.

Bristol’s display last year was disappointing by comparison, despite the best efforts of Broadmead manager John Hirst, who singlehandedly arranged for lights in four areas – Broadmead, the Centre, College Green and Park Street.

This December Cabot Circus alone will have twice the money spent on Christmas decor that the whole of Bristol had last year.

Mr Hirst said new health and safety regulations and a limited budget restricted what could be achieved.

He said: “Last year I kept meeting people who told me why things couldn’t be done. There were so many barriers. It’s a great idea but we have to address those barriers.”

Also involved in the campaign is the Reverend Canon Tim Higgins of Bristol Cathedral who said: “I think a lot of people of other faiths are very puzzled by our attitude.

“I think it is people who are not connected to any world faith who think it is their duty to clear away any symbols, that it’s really not safe and people are perplexed by this. It becomes a story with no significance.

“You take the story out of Christmas and it’s not good for business, it’s not good for families and it’s not good for people’s sense of belonging.”

As a first step, the campaigners will be setting up a Christmas in Bristol website which will detail all the events going on this December from carol services to pantos and processions. The ambition for Christmas 2009 – if there is enough support – is to give Bristol a spectacular Christmas, perhaps with a theme such as the iconic angels used in a series of art works and decorations in Swindon.

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