Sheffield's bright idea for alternative to Halloween displays spreads across the world

With spooky season upon us, a Sheffield woman’s idea for an alternative to haunting house decor has spread across the country and is even going international.

Monday, 1st November 2021, 8:18 am
Updated Monday, 1st November 2021, 8:19 am
One of the window displays using the word 'love' in the design

Lots of people love Halloween, for one thing it’s an excuse to elaborately decorate your home, put up lights, butcher a root vegetable, and most likely tape a bloody ‘do not enter sign’ across your door.

However, there are some who want to be a part of the festive season which is rising in popularity and get creative without adhering to the grizzly, morbid, or satanic aesthetic.

Five years ago a Sheffield woman came up with an idea for people to produce more wholesome window displays over the Halloween period, and now it has spread through the city and beyond – as far away as Africa.

Window displays have spread across Sheffield and throughout the country.

Helen Ward, church leader at St Thomas Church in Crookes, and organiser of the Street of Lights project, started the initiative in 2017 as a way to engage the community to spread positivity over the Halloween season.

Helen told the Telegraph: “The idea comes from a variety of different reflections - lots of people decorate their houses for Halloween, but not all the images are particularly positive, like seeing the grim reaper in a window.

“We know that a number of residents don’t like Halloween - it used to be called Fright Night - the idea of people knocking on your door and children playing trick or treat can be can be scary.

“Streets of Light is a positive event which gives people the option of doing something a bit different.

Helen Ward organised the first Streets of Light event in 2016 and it has grown in popularity over the years.

"On the first event there were fewer than 100 houses that took part, they were mainly in Crookes, and a few were in Walkley.

"Now the trail covers 15 postcode areas in Sheffield.”

The project has also spread across the country over the years with trails as far north as Bridlington and as south as Cornwall.

In Sheffield, the trail ran from October 25-31, ended at the weekend, with the houses taking part having their windows lit up from 4.30pm-9.30pm each evening.

The Streets of Light event was organised as an alternative to Halloween decoration.

There is no specific theme, but in an effort to spread positivity, one of the words ‘light’, ‘love’, or ‘hope’ should be included in the window display.

Helen added: “Schools have got involved, one of the wards in the Royal Hallamshire Hospital are taking part, shops are getting involved, as is a doctor’s surgery in Greystones.

“We have seen it is spreading all across Sheffield and the country.

"We have trails in Manchester, Liverpool, the West Midlands.

"Last weekend someone said that next year they want to get it out across Birmingham.

"There is also a trail in Leigh on Sea (a district of Southend on Sea where MP David Amess was killed this month).

"They asked for an extension to the deadline to sign up - and they have quite a large trail.

"They have got youth centres involved. Following the death of Amess they said that the words ‘light’, ‘love’ and ‘hope’ resonated with them.

“I am humbled that something that started in Crookes is spreading across the UK as well.”

Over 360 homes were involved this year.

Window designs created by families have included artistic homages to The Incredibles and Mickey Mouse, as well as cityscapes and messages of love and hope.

The project has also seen tentative growth internationally, as last year a house in Germany got involved, and now one in India and another in South Africa are also taking part, meaning that the project will this year have spanned three continents.

Helen said: “It felt slightly crazy that there is one in South Africa, I am totally blown away by it.

"Friends of those involved in the UK have heard about it and got involved themselves.

"You might think that you are a small person with a slightly crazy idea but you don’t know how it might grow.

“Last year during the first Covid-19 lockdown we did a mini trail in response.

“Everyone involved had the word ‘hope’ in the window.

"We want people to know that light overcomes darkness, people are loved and there is hope.”

Aidan Melville, from Lower Walkley, started taking part in the event two years ago and his children have really taken to it.

He said: “I wanted to do something to get involved in the festivities without getting involved in Halloween.

"It’s good to get our children involved - I have two children aged five and three - it’s a creative thing for them to do and be part of.

“Last year we did a rainbow and this year we were thinking what else is light - my son loves cars so we went with traffic lights as it’s a bit different.

"My children keep going out to look at the window, they really engaged with it. The window needs to include the words light, love or hope, we used all three.

“It started as a church based event but it is not exclusive - it is accessible for people of any faith or none.”

All those who submitted their involvement have their street recorded on a printed and online map so that others could follow the trail and view many of the displays. The online interactive map can be viewed online and the link is included in the online version of this story at http://umap.openstreetmap.fr/en/map/streets-of-light-2021_668047#12/53.3939/-1.5426