Do They Know It’s Christmas?

Posted on December 13, 2011 by


Since 2001, Heeley Green has seen locals gather to mark the beginning of Christmas with a Lantern Parade. Children make lanterns at school, then on the first Friday of December they are lit, the Christmas lights are switched on, and a swarm of Heeley-ites process towards Heeley Parish Church for a carol service. But not this year.

The cost of this Heeley tradition exceeds £3000 with most of this coming from the South Community Assembly. Martin Hughes, Assembly Manager, explained:

“The Councillors of the South Community Assembly allocated the majority of their budget for 2011/12 in March, and the remainder in October… they chose to allocate resources to other priorities, meaning there was no capacity to allocate a specific amount for community events and festivals.”

Likewise, Heeley Development Trust’s Heeley Events & Activities Team (HEAT), the other key player in organising the Lantern Parade, are similarly squeezed.  Maxine Bowler outlined their position:

‘The event costs a minimum of £2800 just to put up the lights on Heeley Green.  There are further costs, roughly £500, for artists working with local children to make the lanterns; money for a brass band; PA system and publicity.  The cost of the lights has traditionally been covered by the Area Assembly and Area Panel before that.  The Trust would have been able to raise the usual £500, but to secure the main funding was not possible.  It’s a real shame it’s not a priority’.

Father Christmas pays an early visit to Heeley Green, 2009.

Local shopkeepers, too, were disappointed to hear that 2011’s festivities had been cancelled.  Mrs C Smith of Premier Grocers felt “we’re a forgotten community at Heeley”, and Sam of Bradley’s Cafe told the Voice, “all the shopkeepers used to chip in…. I can’t put down what I really want to say!”.

Other residents also expressed regret, such as Sarah Blandy: “the lantern procession is a lovely community occasion and it’s a shame to lose it.”.  Judith Thompson from Heeley Parish Church said ‘we’ve had lots of people asking when the light switch-on is happening, and they’re disappointed when we tell them it’s not. The carol service at the end is a great occasion for the Church-  it will be really missed’.  However, local people are also aware of the current funding crisis with Robert Bond of Bob & Stewart’s Butchers saying, “if they haven’t got the money, they haven’t got the money…. it’s going to be difficult unless someone will put themselves out to do the fundraising.”

So, what are the prospects for a return of seasonal cheer to Heeley Green in December 2012?  Our local Development Trust and its HEAT team are working to capacity, but there is a willingness among local people to contribute, and some new ideas to consider: “Maybe a Christmas tree instead?” suggested one local, Bardy McNair.  Martin Hughes offered some hope, saying, “Councillors may choose to set aside a budget for community festivals in 2012/13.  I also intend to work with groups and shopkeepers in Heeley to explore options for storing the lights locally, looking for cheaper installation options, contributions from shopkeepers, etc.”.

Get in touch with Heeley Development Trust, to make your opinions known

(0114 250 0613 or

Or to offer help, contact the HEAT Team (0114 250 0613 or