Had an absolutely brilliant and festive time in town today. It was the day of the Banbury Christmas Lights Switch On and there was something for everyone, including the family pet.
- Food – including egg nog cupcakes, slow-cooked BBQ, bratwurst, grilled cheese, hot chocolate (I had mine with Baileys’, thank you very much), mulled wine, specialty beers and ales
- Music from a line-up of choirs (including the recently formed Save the Horton choir), performers from Banbury presents, a troupe from Cherwell Theatre company and a community sing-a-long (where Banburians acquitted themselves with great enthusiasm even if we aren’t going to win any Grammy awards any time soon
- Market stalls with local independent shops like The Artery, Flora Bella and Fancy That Jean weer side by side with regional vendors of all sorts – speaking of which, I sampled some outstanding chili jam from Simply Seasonal and a warming Aloe vera gel from the Aloe Depot. There was also a gift wrap stall!
- Santa in his grotto – of course, because it was a Christmas kickoff, after all
- Arts & Crafts workshops where kiddies made candles, ornaments and essentially covered their projects and themselves in glitter (and kudos to Emma who oversaw the gluey, glittery fun without getting any of the sparkly dust on her coat!)
- Face painting by Banbury’s own Pierangela who regularly turns local children into tigers, flowers, butterflies and an occasional Santa
- Fairground with rides and games, fire eaters and stilt walkers
- And of course, the lights themselves.
What Banbury did NOT have this year was a celebrity (I use that word loosely) to switch on the lights. Since the definition of celebrity is now more watered down than the rum and cokes my grandfather used to make, you wouldn’t think going for a deserving member of the public instead of a former soap star or runner up in a televised song contest would be so shocking – but apparently, some were shocked.
The announcement that Banbury would be going ‘celebrity free’ attracted a lot of notice, including a piece in the Times where the author was rather snide about it. I have no idea what the holidays are like in her home but the holidays in Banbury got off to a festive and illuminating start thanks to the light switch skills of a Kath Davis, tireless community fundraiser and champion of local causes such as Katharine House and Horton Hospital. She was an absolute star, thrilled to bits to be there and moved more than one member of the audience to tears.
You other towns keep your soap stars and pop-up pop-stars. I’ll take people like Kath any day of the week. With so much on offer throughout the day, you might assume (quite rightly) that a lot of people put in a lot of work to make it happen. Especially hard working and deserving of praise are the town council events team (who are behind the impressive calendar of events Banbury has on offer practically all year round) and the super talented entertainment group Banbury Presents, who regularly provide the soundtrack and rhythm for some of the best weekend festivities in the Costwolds and beyond.
A full album of the day can be found thanks to the camera skills of Modern Parlance photos: