Sleek & Chic at the junction of Whitecliff Mill and Salisbury Streets took on a festive appearance early in November

 

The Corn Exchange – resplendent in red, white and blue for Remembrance – will be turning to its Yuletide colour in December and be red, white and blue again on December 20 for Teddy 20.

 

 

 

CHRISTMAS has already come early to Blandford town centre with the installation by contractors to the town council of the Christmas tree in the Market Place only a few days after Remembrance Sunday.

This was quickly followed by the arrival of 21 column lights and small Christmas trees in the main streets, creating an early festive atmosphere for the first Christmas after lockdown robbed the country of many of the celebrations in 2020.

And even before the poppies for Remembrance left the streets, some premises had been decorated ready for the festive season.

Shops and businesses have once again been invited to contribute to the cost of the decorations, on which the council spends thousands of pounds each year, and its annual Christmas window competition has encouraged shops and businesses to add to the festive mood by decorating their premises.

But a question mark hangs over the colourful lighting of Blandford’s Corn Exchange which was a resplendent red, white and blue for Remembrance.

The colours are changed in accordance with an agreed plan to celebrate special days and events throughout the year, but town clerk Linda Scott-Giles told town councillors at their planning committee meeting that the fittings used varied from those approved when listed building consent was given. A report was awaited from Dorset Council’s conservation officer on whether they are acceptable on the Grade I listed building.

It is due to turn red and green for the Yuletide Festival at the beginning of December, and red, white and blue again for Teddy 20 on December 20, the anniversary of the birth of Ted Newton, whose death at the age of 10 led to the foundation of the children’s cancer charity.

The tree in the Market Place will be formally lit on December 3 after the children’s lantern parade opens the early Yuletide Festival, and followed by the usual community carol singing in the Market Place led from the church lawn. Santa’s Grotto will be in the Corn Exchange, with market stalls and festive entertainment concluding with a full laser light show at 8.30pm.

The Festival is once again running a ‘shop local and shop safe’ campaign on its website, where businesses have been invited to promote themselves free of charge.

Hopes of extending the festival over the weekend were dampened by a shortage of stall holders and artist for a Saturday evening concert, but Santa will be back in his grotto in the Corn Exchange from 10am to 1pm on Saturday, and the Bournemouth Sinfonietta Choir presenting A Baroque Christmas in the Parish Church at 3.30pm on Sunday.

In the Woodhouse Gardens there will again be lights and decorations in the early evening from early December until early January, following the success of last year’s festive display which added a welcome splash of colour to lockdown.

The Lions’ Christmas Fair, usually held on the Saturday after tree lighting at the beginning of December, will this year be opening in the Corn Exchange at 9.30am on Saturday December 11.

News that the scaffolding will not be erected in and around the Parish Church until the new year at the start of the next phase of its restoration has meant that the Civic Carol Service with Town Mayor Lee Hitchings, originally scheduled for Blandford Evangelical Church, can go ahead there on Wednesday December 15.

The Mayor’s Quiz Night in the Corn Exchange on Saturday December 18 will support his charity for the year, the Blandford Forum Gymnastic Club.

And a bigger and better Parish Church Christmas Tree Trail running until Christmas Eve features trees decorated by the members of local clubs and societies displayed as last year in shop windows throughout the town, with those decorated by schools displayed in The Old Bath House on Church Walk.

The theme this year is the carol ‘Love Came Down at Christmas’, and invitation to create an abundance of stars and angels.

A video of the trail has been planned so that people can vote online or by physical voting slip from far and wide for the winning school and ‘People’s Choice’, which will be announced, together with the Mayor’s Choice, on Christmas Eve.

Dotted around the town centre from lunchtime on Saturday December 11 will be the lovingly hand-knitted angels which last year decorated the Church tree at Blandford Methodist Church for the Christmas Tree Trail Competition, and this year carry details of services at which all are welcome.