Upset over Topsham Christmas lights

PUBLISHED: 14:58 10 December 2009 | UPDATED: 12:27 10 June 2010

A BUSINESSMAN who voluntarily installs Topsham s Christmas lights has hit back at critics who feel the town s decorations are not up to scratch. Geoff Bowen, who runs the Pebblebed Vineyard, has for around the past five years asked each trader for a £10 d

A BUSINESSMAN who voluntarily installs Topsham's Christmas lights has hit back at critics who feel the town's decorations are not up to scratch.

Geoff Bowen, who runs the Pebblebed Vineyard, has for around the past five years asked each trader for a £10 donation towards the cost of decorations.

Along with a small group of his friends, he installs overhanging street lights. And to enhance the festive appearance of the town, Mr Bowen then asks for businesses to fit their own tree.

He said a number of shops, however, have not as yet put up their trees - leaving just a small number of dangling lights on view to evoke a Christmas feel in the area.

Some disappointed residents have said the town's decorations are minimal.

Liz Hodges, owner of The Globe Hotel, believes by reintroducing a business forum organisation, its members would ensure the town was decorated well over the festive season.

Given the current lack of such an entity, Liz said it was disappointing many traders had not put up their own trees and lights.

She said: "Everybody needs to help themselves really. It just shows that there is a need for a Topsham business forum and people need to help and get that organised.

"There is nothing in place at the moment to take the reigns and instigate things like lights being put up."

Topsham has in the past had a forum, but it gradually phased out due to a lack of interest and regular participation from members of the public.

Mr Bowen said: "I've tried to move the decoration process away from the business forum idea and make it a community thing.

"We don't perhaps have the best decorations in the world but it is all done by volunteers which is the most positive thing."

He added: "We have gone to a low-key Christmas light route and what we need to do is encourage the traders to put up more lights rather than saying it's a poor show.

"If too many people come up to me and say that, I will just say 'well you do it then!

"It's all about encouraging people because it's not an easy job to achieve.

"There are two ways to go about it: you either pay £3500 to get a contractor to do the work. But, you try and get this money from traders who are having a tough time at the moment.

"Or, you do it like we have, by volunteering like me for the last fours - getting up a ladder with your friends and doing it. To me, that is more about encapsulating the spirit of Christmas.

"We have done the business forum thing before. They took a lot of money from people and didn't really deliver. Nobody wanted to do the work."

Andrew Leadbetter, the town's county councillor, plans to talk to businesspeople in the area early next year about reintroducing the forum.

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