Switch-on brings to life a wonderland of light in Exmouth

PUBLISHED: 15:57 28 November 2013 | UPDATED: 16:14 28 November 2013

Andrew Stoneman, general manager of Exmouth's Devoncourt Hotel, with some of the hotel's Christmas lights. Photo: Paul Strange

Andrew Stoneman, general manager of Exmouth's Devoncourt Hotel, with some of the hotel's Christmas lights. Photo: Paul Strange

Archant

TOMORROW night sees the switch-on of a great Exmouth institution.

With the town's mayor John Humphreys doing the honours, and the town crier, young singers from Centre Stage and hand bell ringers from the Boys' Brigade doing their bit, it's a fitting start to the town's annual festive celebrations. And what an extraordinary spectacle it promises to be...

"A wonderland of light": the Christmas lights at Exmouth's Devoncourt Hotel."A wonderland of light": the Christmas lights at Exmouth's Devoncourt Hotel.

With 6,000 light bulbs, two Nativity scenes, Santa’s, reindeer, teddy bears, soldiers, angels, candles, wise men and snowmen, nearly anything is possible in this wonderland of light.

Best of all, there’s free admission to the magical Christmas illuminations at Exmouth’s Devoncourt Hotel every night throughout December and into the first week of January.

No one’s quite sure when the hotel’s festive lights began.

“I’ve been here for 11 years and it’s been running every Christmas that I’ve been here, but prior to that it’s been at least another five before that, maybe more,” says Andrew Stoneman, the Devoncourt Hotel’s general manager.

Sid Lalani, the hotel’s owner, came up with the bright idea for the lights.

“He used to have a property in America,” says Andrew. “He went over there to keep an eye on it, and he would buy lots of figurines and bulbs from the States.

“Mr Lalani’s son, Philip, was the Devoncourt’s general manager at the time. Phil was one of the main instigators of the illuminations, along with Bob, the maintenance man.”

Current hotel gardener Phil Cowan and maintenance man Adam Zrolko have taken on the huge task for 2013.

It takes around a month to do, from putting up the hotel’s internal decorations to taking the figurines out of storage, checking them for damage, giving them some TLC, altering some of the arrangements, placing them around the hotel’s gardens, wiring them up and testing them.

The display varies slightly from year to year.

“We change some of the designs, but there’s always a nativity scene on the garden lawn,” says Andrew.

“There’s another nativity scene on top of the swimming pool roof, which is what people see when they’re dining in the restaurant..

“And a few years ago we had these Father Christmas faces – we call them the smiley Christmas faces – and they’re up on all the balconies. You can see them from the seafront.”

Andrew won’t be drawn on how much power all the lights consume.

“You know the meters that whirl around that show you your electricity usage? Well I’ve got one in the office, and we use it as a fan during December! For one month of the year I think we become a reference point for British Airways as they fly over Exmouth!”

This year’s switch-on has added extras, with festive tunes from DJ Stuart Preestley and World of Country Life mascot ’Appy Angus on hand to meet and greet the children.

“It’s a shame when the lights come down after the first week of January,” says Andrew. “There’s something about it… a lovely warm glow and a fuzzy feeling you get because it is Christmas.”

n The Devoncourt Hotel’s Christmas Lights switch-on is on Friday (November 29), 6.30pm for 7pm, at 16 Douglas Avenue, Exmouth. Tel: 01395 272277. Free admission.

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