The History of Selsey’s Christmas Lights

On the night of January 8th 1998 a 100 mph tornado hit Selsey and destroyed the moulded plastic Christmas illuminations. A local business made some new ones in the shape of two bells out of steel rods adorned with tinsel and light bulbs and there were enough at the time for the High Street, unfortunately we had to continually replace the bulbs during December due to the weather, they looked like a pair of coloured bloomers when lit.

The lights were plugged into some shops in the High Street which at times caused ill feeling between them over who was paying for the electricity. A voluntary group of four guys called Selsey Illuminations was set up to update the illumination and Selsey Town Council gave them annual community grants, a free workshop area and storage facilities.

In September 2000 the then town clerk Fred Robertson and Eddie Saunders obtained signed permission from the Selsey businesses to fix electric power box’s and wall brackets to their premises where needed thereby alleviating the in fighting amongst the shopkeeper’s. During the year’s since the group of four like minded volunteers have spent one Sunday morning every month with the aid of a counsel grant gradually replacing the old bell’s with new designs, then adding more designs and changing the bulbs to rope lighting to the LED today.

There’s been times at the workshop when their fingers were so cold they used a hairdryer to warm them up. A total of not less than 200 unpaid hours each year.

Then came the task of putting them up in November, usually wet days which they are now accustomed to, getting soaked and wet right through to the skin and that’s when you think why are they doing this. And then the same process in January taking them down In recent years they have also added a nativity scene in the grounds of St Peters church . Also adding lights at the East Beach shops ,St Wilfrid’s church and Comptons Farm Shop. Once the lights were in place they had to be re-tested to make sure they were connected and working properly. The same volunteers organised the switch on switch night to have all the lights come on at the same time on some annoyingly didn’t on the night .

Then next day manually reset each timer for them to come on when the children came out of school. On the switch on night they organised a procession with floats, majorettes and bands which started at East Beach Car Park stopping at the shops for their switch on and then meandering up to the High Street to the Parade for the High Street Lights switch on, where thousands gathered for the event. The event has seen over the years themed shop windows, lantern parades, ice rinks, giant slides, choirs, Hog roasts, Switch on’s by Guests from the Chichester/Bognor Theatre’s, Best decorated house competetions, Free roundabout rides for the little one’s, charity stalls to name just a few.

There has been times during November or December when a light fails due to the weather so out they go on a Sunday morning and replace the offenders.

Then in January they take all the lights down again before twelfth night.

They also put up the flags that adorned the High Street and East Beach during the summer

April 2016 Selsey Town Council decided to take over the lights and the volunteers of sixteen years were informed by letter that they were no longer required,

We presumed its because we did not attend their afternoon meetings as we were at work, so it's out with old and in with the new. Arguably the council has also now lost the respect of the local businesses. Who is going to volunteer as word gets around

For us who made a living from the town they stop us from putting something back in the community

Then they had the cheek to ask us for all our contacts that we had built up over the years (none given)