Lanterns light up the night but next year’s parade is in doubt

Lanterns light up the night but next year's parade is in doubt
Tunbridge Wells Lantern Parade

Nearly 400 homemade lanterns lit up the town centre and snaked their way down Camden Road on Saturday [February 22]. The parade was rescheduled after being postponed earlier this month.

It was originally meant to take place on February 8, but Storm Ciara caused organisers to postpone the event, and despite the wind, cold and drizzle on Saturday, the parade was hailed a huge success.

“It went really, really well this year,” said Nell Price from the Camden Road Education, Arts & Theatre Enterprise [CREATE], which puts on the parade.

“We had at least a thousand people turn up, and there were somewhere between 300 to 400 homemade lanterns, which is more than last year.”

Paddock Wood-based samba band, Bloco Fogo, led the proceedings at 5.30pm outside Royal Victoria Place, and they were joined by hundreds of homemade lanterns that illuminated the sky as night fell.

This year’s theme was ‘a night of magic’ and lanterns ranged from a 12 ft wizard and an equally tall Rapunzel ‘tower’, both built by members of the community with help from the CREATE team. There were also smaller lanterns made at home.

“We provide kits for people to make their own lanterns, but there were people who completely went their own way – and the imagination behind some of the lanterns was just amazing,” added Ms Price, who has been organising the event for the last three years.

But she warned that while the Winter Lantern Parade is hugely popular and businesses in the area have demanded it returns every year, funding issues means it may have to skip 2021.

“It was our twelfth year, and we have had to miss a year in the past, and there’s a chance it will now have to go biennial – but if it doesn’t happen next year it will definitely be back in 2022,” promised Ms Price.

She added that this year’s event was secured by funding from BID [Business Improvement District] but CREATE needed to find a more ‘sustainable’ form of funding.

She continued: “The feedback from business owners is that they want it to happen every year. It brings people into the town in what is normally a dark, dank and miserable month, but next year’s event is really going to depend on funding.

“What we really would like is for somebody like RTW Together to raise the money for a fundraiser for the parade, so it has a more sustainable future.”

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