Sunday, November 12, 2006

REVIEW: Leeds Christmas Lights 2006

On Thursday 9th November 2006, Leeds Christmas lights were switched on by the band McFly who headlined a mixed cast of celebrities from the worlds of theatre, television, radio and music, these included the choir singers Angelis, Gaynor Faye, Jane Tomlinson, Santa and friends and the cast of the Wizard of Oz from West Yorkshire Play House. Once again Leeds City Council opted to hold this annual event in Victoria Gardens.

We (two adults, two children) arrived at 7:15am and struggled to get anywhere near the front without risking harm to the kids, so had to stand to the left of the stage as one faces it. As adults we could see the large screen, but not the stage due to its distance, and obstruction by a number of objects including lamp posts, traffic lights and trees. The childrens' entertainment was all well and good for those children that could see it, but for those children who couldn’t, it was all a bit of a waste of time. Children who were hoisted onto parents shoulders then blocked the view for adults standing behind them, which resulted in ‘pools’ of space and several choice words directed at parents - from those spectators whose views had been blocked.

The distant stage

WHY Leeds City Council still continue to use this venue when there is a purpose built and sloping spectator arena 100 metres away in Millennium Square is simply beyond me, but one suspects that it may be pressure from shop owners who use the night as their first official night of late night opening in the run up to Christmas (Millennium Square is just that little bit further away from the shops).

The Headrow around Victoria Gardens had been closed off meaning that people were standing in the road and on the pavement – unfortunately this meant that a number of people trying to get through crowds were tripping up and down kerbs – I have no idea what medical mishaps were reported that night, but the risk of sprained or broken ankles was a dangerous possibility.

Mcfly played three songs (That Girl, Please Please, and Sorry’s Not Good Enough) before leaving the stage and returning to press the button for the ten second countdown which culminated in strings of coloured bulbs being illuminated around the streets of Leeds City Centre. After the lights came on fireworks were launched from somewhere too distant for them to be properly viewed by half of the crowd due to the height of the surrounding buildings. In previous years this has never been a problem, but this time the fireworks were launched from much too far away – most likely due to health and safety restrictions, which are largely sterilising (and for me spoiling) what used to be good entertainment. Another recent example of this was at Leeds City Council’s bonfires which burned only wooden packing crates, and had barriers around them so that spectators were so far away, that the heat from the fire could not be felt – which is half of the novelty when the outside temperature is only 4 degrees Celsius.

The obstructed view of the fireworks

One of the presenters on stage stated that the crowd was 30,000 strong – please let me take this opportunity to say that this was a complete over-estimate. I have seen a crowd of 30,000 – and this fell way short of it, 20,000 maximum would have been a more honest and accurate assessment, and at least half of these people would not have been able to see the stage, or would have had an obstructed view.

The crowd - nearer 20,000 than 30,000

The next day I decided to have a walk around to take some photographs as the stage was dismantled, in order to better illustrate the inadequacy of Victoria Gardens as a venue, and how Millennium Square would have made a more suitable arena for this occasion and would do for future Christmas Light launches.

Victoria Gardens - the area if front of the stage with a good view is very limited in size

Trees provide an obstruction - hidden kerbs provide a hazard

Posts on the Headrow - more obstructions

Traffic lights on the headrow - more obstructions, and again the dangers of hidden kerbs in crowds.

Millennium Square - purpose built and sloping, this would have made a much more suitable venue, it could even feature a large illuminated Christmas tree at the bottom (like in City Square) as a focal point for when the lights are switched on.

Come on Leeds City Council, get it right for 2007 – you KNOW that it makes sense.


Anonymous said...

it was great for me and my friend because we managed to get into the vip side as the security is not very good, and mcfly were excellent. i hope they do it nxt year as well!!![but i think they should be more careful using tighter security as children were climbing over the fence and could have fallen off] anyway, rock on mcfly!!!

Anonymous said...

The entire set up is a disgrace for such a huge event. Why not millenium square? I am not surprised someone got into the vip area so easily. And what is going on with those awful lights? strings of lamps - half of which were not even working, come on leeds get some up to date lights with the technology available nowadays.

Anonymous said...

What is going on with those awful lights? Strings of bulbs - half of which aren't even working!
Come on Leeds get some up to date lights with the technology available today?

katie * said...

MCFLY were amazing as always and they all looked so hot (especialy dougie and danny) the whole event was great and well planned. hope McFLY do the switch on in 2007 too coz they rock. rock on mcfly ur amazing!!