James Grundy MP: Saluting our community volunteers
It has been good to attend the earliest of the Christmas season events recently in my constituency of Leigh, given that most of those events were unable to go ahead last year due to Covid restrictions.
It is good to see civic life continue to return to normal with the return of such events.
Beyond the ability to visit family and friends, a freedom we only relatively recently regained when lockdown measures were lifted earlier this year, public events such as those we hold at Christmas time are incredibly important to the community, whether to us as individuals or collectively.
I should like to tell you the story of how one of these events, which has been going for a number of years now, came about.
At Lane Head in Lowton, the local residents’ association was wondering what to do about a perennially scruffy piece of land, an unkempt but large grass verge with a rut worn into it by people taking shortcuts across it, and persistently bedevilled by dog fouling.
One of the local residents suggested we erect a Christmas tree upon the land and sing carols around it at Christmas, given that the land was close to the centre of Lane Head, and thus, theoretically, the perfect location to hold such an event.
There was initially some scepticism over whether this problem packet of land could be transformed into something of community value, indeed, verging on incredulity from some quarters.
Nonetheless, a small group of dedicated volunteers from Lane Head residents’ association set out to cost the project and put it into action.
It turned out that to put a Christmas tree on site and put electric lights upon it during the festive season, you needed to secure the tree within a barrier and identify a nearby source of electricity (not merely an extension cord running from the house of a nearby helpful resident, health and safety, you see).
It also turned out you needed to make sure that you selected the correct type of Christmas tree if you were after putting in place a living specimen, so that in years to come you didn’t accidentally have the pine equivalent of a giant redwood on your hands.
To do all this required a lot of pieces of paper signing off by the council, but luckily, on hand was a helpful officer by the name of Andrew Sharrock, who was able to steer the local residents through the labyrinthine process of securing the various permissions from assorted functionaries at Wigan Metro.
Finally, the selected Christmas tree was planted, the nice ornamental railings installed around the tree, the decorations put in place and the lights plugged in to the box at the nearby modified streetlamp to provide power.
The first event was brilliant, with much mulled wine and mince pies consumed, and carols sung accompanied by the local brass band, with a large number of local residents turning up to take part.
I am pleased to say that the Christmas tree lighting ceremony and carol service at Lane Head has been going strong for a number of years now, only interrupted by the Covid restrictions last year, and I very much look forward to attending the event this year.
It is worth remembering though, that without the dedication of a handful of residents at Lane Head, that little piece of land where the Christmas tree stands would still be a scruffy eyesore and certainly, no one would be gathering round to sing carols there.
As we gather at the various Christmas events this year to eat and drink with friends and family, and celebrate with the members of the communities that we live in, it is important to remember the volunteers that keep the community events going may be small in number, like Santa’s elves, but just like the elves, they are indispensable when it comes to keeping these events going!
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