Everything Okehampton, the organisation driven by town councillor and former mayor Christine Marsh, is delighted to announce that they have now covered the cost of the town’s new Christmas lights which has amounted to £24,000 excluding VAT, through a series of successful fund-raising initiatives and donations.
Unable to recoup the VAT element of the bill which amounted to some £4,800, Everything Okehampton invited the town council, who are able to reclaim VAT, to purchase the new displays on their behalf instead and effectively assume responsibility for ownership while Everything Okehampton covered the cost of the lights by way of a grant to the town council. Mrs Marsh said: “We have been working together with Okehampton Town Council to deliver the new lights and I believe we have achieved a result that benefits everyone.”
While many would question the need to replace the lights at all at a time when many local businesses and individuals are still struggling to recover financially from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the funds could be better spent elsewhere, Mrs Marsh is keen to emphasise the benefits of purchasing the new displays and that continuing to maintain and repair the impressive displays which have served the town so well these last few years has now become cost-prohibitive.
“There are just too many elements of the existing lights which now need replacing for safety reasons”, she said, “and frankly it is throwing good money after bad.
‘If you break down the £24,000 capital expenditure over the ten-year life expectancy of the new displays, it works out at just £2,500 per festive season or £400 per week during the six weeks they are spectacularly illuminating the streets of Okehampton and bringing delight to all. Let’s face it, after what we’ve all been through during the last 18 months, £400 a week is a small price to pay to put a smile back to people’s faces this Christmas!
‘The £24,000 outlay needed to replace the lights has been raised through various sources. These include a substantial grant of £17,000 from Okehampton United Charities; the Pink Ladies ‘Silent Auction’ raised over £5,000, from almost 80 items generously donated by local businesses and individuals of which £1,000 was donated towards the lights.
‘We received an overwhelming donation from Miller’s Town & Country estate agents which boosted the target while the Gala Dinner featuring Cornish comedian and entertainer Johnny Cowling saw 150 people pay £35 for an enjoyable black-tie dinner.”
For many years, Okehampton’s spectacular Christmas light displays have been amongst the most talked-about in Devon with visitors coming from all over the county for the annual switch-on at the Edwardian Evening which this year falls on Thursday, 2nd December.
Following the demise of the Chamber of Commerce three years ago, Everything Okehampton undertook responsibility for the town’s commercial activities including the Edwardian Evening and Christmas lights ‘switch-on’.
Although individual shops will not be displaying Christmas trees above their premises this year, again for health and safety reasons, Everything Okehampton has covered the cost of decorating St James Church and the enormous new Christmas tree that will be sited outside the church itself.
Further expenditure includes the erection and dismantling of the displays and appropriate insurance which Everything Okehampton will continue to absorb while working in partnership with Okehampton Town Council.