So Nell, please can you tell us a little bit about the Winter Lantern Parade?
It is the culmination of a series of public and community workshops helping people make their own lanterns to join in the parade from the town centre. This year the parade’s theme is ‘Magic’ and it leaves from Calverley Road precinct on Saturday [February 8] at 5.30pm. We will be heading down Mount Pleasant, then on to Monson Road, continuing down Camden Road and finishing in Grosvenor & Hilbert Park, where there will be a chance to see the bigger lanterns up close and have refreshments. It really is an event for everyone to get together.
How did it start?
Local artistic collective CREATE had already performed Camden Road the Musical in 2009 and so were familiar with the businesses and characters of Camden Road. It was noted that the council did not put up Christmas lights along the second half of Camden Road, so CREATE decided to put on an ‘Electric Lantern Parade’, bringing in the community from across the Tunbridge Wells borough to the town centre to light up the town at such a dark and dismal time of year.
How did you become involved in it?
I was brought on board by Veronica Dorset, who has been an instrumental member of not only the Winter Lanterns, but also CREATE. I have been the Project Manager for two years now and love being involved in such an impactful community event. There are actually only about five of us who put the whole thing together, but we are then supported by a lot of volunteers, without whom this event would not happen.
Has its popularity grown over the years?
Very much so! I was asked to be Project Manager after CREATE took a break for a year. It had become too big, and the numerous workshops where people can make their lanterns in particular were too busy. So we now have a much better system where people book a place on one. This ensures a nicer experience for everyone as at the parade we could have anywhere between 800 and 1,500 people attend!
Tell us about the workshops
Last year we had just over 600 people attend them, making just over 500 lanterns. Then we have about 50 volunteers all taking on different roles. There are the shopkeepers who sell the lantern kits for us, charity groups who hold community workshops, the Tunbridge Wells Round Table and the Rotary Club, who support us with road closures, and everyone who watches the parade. The workshops are such an amazing part of it. So many families have said how nice it is to be together creating something rather than rushing about or sitting in front of the TV. One participant told us their favourite part was getting messy with glue then peeling it back off their hands! The youngest to attend a workshop last year was two, and the oldest 72.
Are there any particular challenges to putting on an event such as this?
The sheer manpower needed and the amount of funding to put the parade on are two obvious ones. At the end of the parade in 2019 we were set on only putting this event on every two years, but then Royal Tunbridge Wells Together came to us with the full funding for the workshops and that made putting on another Winter Lanterns parade possible for 2020. We’ll always need manpower, though, so volunteers, let me know!
For more information on the Winter Lantern Parade and how you can get involved, visit winterlanterns.org
If you can volunteer, please email Nell at: email@example.com