Residents across Malmesbury and its surrounding areas have joined together in lighting up their houses to spread some Christmas cheer.
As a response to what has been a torrid year, the community of Malmesbury, Wiltshire, and its neighbours have merged to create a Christmas trail of lights.
The idea came to local Councillor Julie Exton, 57, after a “very bad year health-wise” where she suffered a heart attack in January.
“Having to battle that and then with the Covid lockdown, depression and anxiety really got a hold of me this year,” she told Oh My Goodness.
“In October I thought what if everyone put up a few lights either in their front gardens or windows, or just a children’s picture about Christmas because when you drive by lights lit up at night it always looks so nice, it just makes you feel a little bit good.”
After posting on Facebook groups and creating polls for the locals to vote on, Julie says everyone got “really enthusiastic about it”.
The locals then agreed that the switch on would begin on December 1 for those who wanted to participate, and so it was born.
With the support of Junior Citizen of the Year Ben Thornbury, who we spoke to in May after he set up a website to enlist volunteers to help the vulnerable isolating from coronavirus, and local artist Phillip Kingsbury, a website with an interactive map was built so people could follow the houses that joined in.
The name for the trail, ‘Malmesbury and Villages Light Up for Christmas’ was chosen as a way to invite anyone and everyone in the surrounding areas to participate.
“Everyone could afford to maybe do something and be a part of it,” she said.
“If they didn’t have a garden at the front, then they’d decorate their windows, if they didn’t have any lights they could always put their children’s pictures in the window because a lot of people walk by and like to see pictures.”
The trail has so far seen over 150 Malmesbury households sign up, with outlying villages adding even more to that tally.
One Malmesbury resident, Julie’s son Chris, decided to go the extra mile by building a sleigh, that he regularly sanitises, outside his house that children can sit in, accompanied with reindeer.
“It’s just so all the children can go up there and sit on it and have a little play and [have] their photos taken because so many Christmas things are not really happening this year so it’s just trying to make children happy,” she added.
“He’s shown people that you don’t always have to have money to do decorations. He’s made them out of different things that are laying about and putting lights into them.”
For Julie, it was vitally important to make the trail accessible for everyone.
After working alongside Young Citizen of the Year George Davies, who offered to make a film of the lights, people are now able to enjoy them from the comfort of their own home.
“If people can’t get out, it’s great for them to be able to watch it on YouTube if they can. If you’re disabled and you can’t get out you can at least be part of it and see what people have done,” she said.
From what was a small idea, Malmesbury and Villages Light Up for Christmas turned into something far bigger and greater than Julie ever expected.
“People have really gone to town and joined in and they’ve all sort of had thoughts about different designs and all sorts and things.
“Some have gone quite wild with loads of stuff and some have lit up windows. I’m quite pleased it’s all started and I can have a bit of a rest now.”
With the lights trail following on from a Covid-friendly ‘Spooky Trail’ that took place in October, Julie does not want the community festivities to stop there.
“I am thinking of an Easter trail. Even if it’s like lockdown, you’re still allowed a walk, so I think it will be going on the Halloween theme a bit, like you draw pictures or do some sort of Easter thing.
“I try and make all the events as Covid-safe as you can. Walking around looking at things is family time or even if you’re on your own you can still wander around and go for a walk.”
Julie believes that as the lights trail has been such a success, it will continue for many years to come.
“It’s brought so much happiness to people. They’ve been taking pictures of doing it and they’re so excited about it all and you just think ‘these are all adults’, but they’ve really had fun in doing it and that’s what it’s all about.”
Below are just a few of the households who have taken part.
If you would like to learn more about the wonderful Malmesbury and Villages Light Up for Christmas trail you can visit their website.
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