The big Christmas switch-on: Runton Road residents get ready to light up their homes again for charity (From Bournemouth Echo)
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The big Christmas switch-on: Runton Road residents get ready to light up their homes again for charity
The nights may be drawing in, but the December evenings will be brighter than ever in Runton Road, Branksome.
Residents in the street will be covering their homes and gardens in festive lights – just as they have done for the past 22 years.
The spectacle, which was even featured on BBC’s The One Show last year, has become gradually bigger and better, with more and more neighbours joining in the friendly competition.
It is now so widely known that busloads of OAPs along with families from Weymouth and Southampton, as well as locals, now visit every year.
Michael Philips, one of the event’s main organisers, said: “It’s not the whole road, but it’s a lot of us.
“We are at the bulbous end of a cul-de-sac, so there are half a dozen houses that light up like a Belisha beacon.
“It started when my old next door neighbour put some lights up, then the opposite neighbour tried to out-do him.”
Michael, 59, is confronted by the age-old frustration of finding the lights don’t always work when unpacked after a year in storage and admits it “costs a fortune” when his wife is sent out to buy replacements.
He said: “Every year you need a couple of new ones, so it’s £40 or £50 on lights and if my wife sees something else she likes it goes up by another £60 or £70.
“But the electricity is only about £40 for the month, so it’s worth it.”
The Runton Road residents have taken advantage of the wealth of visitors during December – they average 100 to 200 on weeknights, 800 to 1,000 a weekends and around 2,000 people on Christmas Eve – by taking donations for charity.
Last year two cheques for £1,200 were presented to Forest Holme hospice and the Youth Cancer Trust.
Michael, who works as a taxi driver, added: “Christmas Eve we’re all out there and we hand out mulled wine and mince pies. We’ve got a snow machine as well, with a remote control inside, so when we see loads of kids outside we can make it snow on them, which they love.
“Some people can’t afford it, and it is an individual’s choice, but to the people who don’t decorate their houses, I say ‘bah humbug’!”
This year’s big switch on will take place on Saturday December 14. To find out more, visit the Runton Road Christmas Lights page on Facebook
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