SWITCHED ON: Ian Kirkbride during the event
SWITCHED ON: Ian Kirkbride during the event

A VIRTUAL switch on of Barnard Castle’s Christmas lights has reached “cult status” after going viral in Japan.
The revelation was made by Phil Creighton, of the Christmas lights group, when
addressing the council’s partnerships committee this month. The switch on, which usually attracts a large crowd, was streamed to the group’s website last year because of Covid-19 restrictions.
Mr Creighton said: “We just can’t believe it went the way it did in the end, given within ten days of the event we still didn’t clearly understand how we were going to do it.
“I am probably giving the game away because it looked so accomplished.”
He confirmed that there had been about 1,200 views on the website, and it had probably been copied on to YouTube as well.
He added: “We have got [views] coming in from all over the globe. My son has contacts in Japan and it already has a cult status over there – comments like ‘oh, is Barnard Castle where Harry Potter lives?’.”
In contrast to the success of the event, there had been difficulties taking down the display, much of which is still in place, he admitted.
Mr Creighton said: “Dismantling the display is going to be a long and drawn out thing – there is still bits and pieces of it being taken down on an ad hoc basis by the contractor, purely and simply because he is having difficulty organising his programme with the restrictions that we are all struggling with.”
He added that this would delay the annual inspection of the equipment so it was not known what had passed its sell-by date and what would need replacing because of failure.
Another issue faced by the Christmas lights group, he said, was the restrictions in fundraising and he thanked the town council for increasing its contribution for this year’s display. The group’s website was also attracting “modest but regular” donations, he said. He added: “For everybody’s reassurance we will be able to cover the bills for this year, which is excellent news. We just have to work at that to ensure we can do that next year as well.
“These are the things that help us get through these difficult phases and it will help enormously. I think the frustration with my committee is, yes, we want to deliver the main display, but we want something additional and extra every year to ring the changes – and that’s what costs on top of the basic running costs.”
Partnerships committee chairman Ian Kirkbride responded: “The lights always do look stupendous and they do look very attractive these days.”