Community loses its festive glow

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A SHEFFIELD community has lost some of its sparkle this Christmas.

Spending cutbacks have resulted in the dropping of the Heeley lights and lantern parade, ending a tradition that started ten years ago.

The events, which cost around £3,000, are seen as a way of not only brightening up the area, but bringing the community together.

But they have fallen victim to the squeeze on public spending, to the disappointment of the community and, it is argued, highlighting the type of price being paid by community organisations across Sheffield.

“There is not a community group in the city that is not in the position of having to make these choices,” said Andy Jackson, manager of Heeley Development Trust.

Heeley has lost out as a result of the council’s community assembly deciding against allocating money for community festivals and other events, opting for other priorities. The trust was unable to make up the shortfall.

In the past, children have made the lanterns at school, then joined a procession to Heeley Parish Church on the same night that the lights at Heeley Green are switched on.

Mr Jackson said: “We run a series of events through the year to do our bit for the community. The lantern procession was really good one in that it brought schools together with parents, artists and the church. Over time it has grown and it was lovely. The council got involved with the installation of the lights at Heeley Green.”

It comes as another blow for Heeley. “I think we are losing out. Our children’s centre has gone and the shopping centre was due to be refurbished but we lost out at the last minute. The Christmas lights are almost a trivial example.”

But Mr Jackson added: “We have suffered the same cutbacks as everybody. Everything we do, we have to scrape together and put in the volunteer time. Any type of community engagement we have to fund ourselves.”

He hopes the lights and the lantern parade may be restored next year, as a result of looking at different ways of providing them.

Yet there is the broader picture of the impact of the cuts. “We are all having to make difficult choices but I am not having a go at the council. They are our partners.

“It is something that needs to be thought about. If you lose the events, it will be a much duller place.”

At least the carol concert will go ahead, at Heeley Green on Saturday at 11am.