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Record crowds pack Bideford for Christmas lights switch on

By NDJPeter  |  Posted: December 01, 2013

Comments (6)

Huge crowds packed The Quay in Bideford this evening to celebrate the most successful Christmas lights switch on in the town’s history.

Hordes of people descended upon the town throughout the day for this year’s festive event, which was hosted by The Voice’s Hopps and Chapple.

Numerous local acts took to the event’s main stage across the afternoon to entertain the crowds, including choirs from Kingsley and St Mary’s schools.

Dozens of fun-fair rides and carnival games added to the entertainment, with many families staying throughout the day for the switch on at 5pm.

Darren Sparrey, who has organised the event for the past seven years, said he had been left speechless by the turnout.

He said: “It was the biggest crowd I have seen by far. I don’t even want to hazard a guess at just how many people were here. It has completely blown me away.

“My phone hasn’t stopped ringing. People are stopping me on the street saying what a marvellous spectacle it has been.

“I’m absolutely thrilled. The lights look phenomenal. It’s testament to the people who have worked hard to get the event to this point.”

The honour of turning on the Christmas lights fell to a family from Northam, who recently lost a child to cancer.

Darren said: “We always try to give it to someone who will appreciate it. After what they have been through, the family just needed a bit of a lift.

“The children said they were so excited. It’s something they will remember for ever.”

Town mayor Simon Inch praised the entire team behind the event, who spent more than three weeks setting up the lights across the town.

He said: “Of course this wouldn’t be possible without the hard work and enthusiasm of Darren and all the staff at DS Electricals.

“They have worked extremely hard to make this happen each year. It’s always a great success. This is the best ever I would say. I really can’t thank them enough.”

Following the switch-on, the crowds were treated to the traditional reindeer procession through the streets of the town.

A spectacular fireworks display rounded off the night, which saw people line the banks of River Torridge for the ten minute finale.

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6 comments

  • Fatalist  |  December 02 2013, 11:03PM

    There's a factual article about the law and disturbing the UK's protected bat species on the link below, and a fireworks display that recklessly endangers them would be classed as unlawful interference. I believe there are also bats in St Marys church, which would also have been affected. The RSPCA are well aware that some people think a right to party is more important than animal rights; unfortunately the law doesn't support that though. http://tinyurl.com/6bz9xu

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  • endgame  |  December 02 2013, 10:42PM

    I am with fatalist here, I have witnessed the starlings distress crashing into buildings in panic, it is disgusting and distressing to see, not to mention unacceptable and unnecessary. As has already been stated it is a crime to knowingly disturb bats at roost so I hope the bat trust becomes involved here because something needs to be done. Every single bat is protected by law so not even ignorant uncaring councils can ignore it once it has been brought to their attention. As for the pointless comment about the message on Facebook, how is that supposed to help? I realise fireworks are enjoyed by many but surely there has to be a bit more thought about where the display is and the consequence of it.

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  • Fatalist  |  December 02 2013, 5:28PM

    Were they apologising for breaking the law? And if so, was that mitigation? Do the y think everyone on this planet to be affiliated to Facebook? I'm certainly not! I'd be more tempted to think about the legal implications which are six month custodial terms per bat that was disturbed, and/or the fines which can be £5,000 per creature. At this time of year waking bats from hibernation will very likely also kill them. Ignorance is no excuse, and Diana Lewis who is well known and well respected locally has been lobbying the local authority for some years over the issue. I enjoyed the display, but I will say it was way too loud. The organisers are now aware of the legal position, let's see where it leads.

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  • amybeer  |  December 02 2013, 3:27PM

    Fatalist, a public apology was issued by the organisers on Facebook on Friday apologising for the fact that there would be fireworks, the time they would be going off and apologising for any distress this could cause pets or animals. I am sorry if you were unaware of this beforehand, but warning was given. https://http://tinyurl.com/pkh3bkk

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  • Fatalist  |  December 02 2013, 11:33AM

    Having tried also telephoning the Journal, where nobody was available to take a call, I've let the Gazette know about what happened last night and note that the law says that "intentionally or recklessly disturb a bat in its roost" is an illegal act. Let's see the organisers in the dock. Simple. There are other sites for these fireworks.

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  • Fatalist  |  December 02 2013, 10:41AM

    Why oh why does Bideford have to have deafening fireworks close to the habitat of local wildlife when the deafening noise terrifies the animals? Last night I stood outside my home when the fireworks were let off and watched in abject horror as it began "raining bats" who were terrified and disorientated by the horrific noise. They were falling from flight, and tumbling from the eaves where they nest, in such numbers it was impossible to count. I had a few clinging to me in terror, so frightened they were pooping and shaking as if in palsy. My son telephone environmental health this morning, and was surprised to hear that Torridge District Council were "unconcerned" and thought that this "did not constitute disturbing the nest sites of protected species" which is an illegal act. I say it does, because when you see them falling from on high in droves it's horrible to witness. This morning my son also phoned Diana Lewis (Animal Ambulance) and was astonished to hear Diana has been campaigning at Torridge District Couincil for years to get the fireworks site shifted, away from the nest sites of local wildlife - to no avail whatsoever! I live about 700 yards from the wharf where the fireworks are set off, I'm not "right next door" and if it has that effect on bats at that distance just what is it doing to the colony of starlings that roost under Bideford's long-bridge? It's time that the organisers are taken to court and prosecuted for this outrage. There are so many other more suitable sites where they could let off fireworks that it beggars belief this is actually happening. I would have thought Simon Inch ought to be ashamed to put his name to something of this despicable nature and should immediately resign as mayor. I hope Diana comes along to endorse what I've said here. There is no placed for barbarism of this nature in the winter calender and I hope to God that the council act and do not repeat this at New Year because I, and others, will be recording what happens and using it as evidence to force a prosecution if not. The fireworks are lovely, but the dramatic suffering they cause wildlife, and no doubt domestic animals too, is unacceptable.

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