Covid-19 has scuppered many a plan this year and it almost ruined the city’s Christmas tree display.
But thanks to the grit, determination and bulging contacts book of Liverpool City Council’s Streetscene Manager Kenny Brew, Church Street will have that festive feeling once again.
Hear all about it from the man himself:
A really nice part of our role in Streetscene is to lead on the festive lighting programme in the city centre, although this year has been a bit different.
The city’s annual Christmas festivities usually includes things like the Ice Village on Pier Head, the Christmas market at St George’s Hall Plateau and interactive displays provided by the Business Improvement District.
Due to Covid, all these were cancelled as the city entered Tier 3 restrictions. So this year, we felt it was especially important to install lights and create an illuminated trail, to bring a little cheer on dark nights.
Planning for Christmas is usually all done and dusted by July. This year, however, with the various restrictions throughout 2020, it was delayed and threw up a few challenges too.
One of the biggest challenges was sourcing the real Christmas tree that takes centre stage on Church Street. Even in years gone by, it’s not been easy to find a 50ft tree.
For the last ten years, we have selected a tree from the Forestry Commission in Kielder, Northumberland and that was the plan again this year.
Then, in September, a couple of days before our trip, we received a call to say the forest was closed due to Covid and they could not supply our tree. Disaster!
Where else could we get a 50ft real tree? That was the daunting challenge we now had to face, with time now running out and the knowledge that many other town and city centres would have the same issue.
Out came my contact book and I tried them all with no avail. Then I found a number in Solihull in the West Midlands (didn’t think they had any forests there!). I gave them a call and made an appointment to visit.
I headed down the M6 with the help of my Sat Nav and two hours later I pulled up outside of a private plantation that had grown trees for town centres for 50 years. Now in all my years of going to Northumberland the weather has always been wet and the ground conditions muddy. This year I was blessed with perfect blue skies and it was sound underfoot – a good sign maybe, I thought to myself.
My fear of not finding a tree (and explaining that when I got back to Cunard that all options had been exhausted) were quickly dispelled when my eyes caught sight of a stunning 48ft Norway Spruce tree which was quickly reserved and labelled for Liverpool. Result!
The tree was delivered and installed on Sunday night and will be dressed over the next three days with 14,000 lights and baubles. It will once again be the centrepiece in Church Street when it is switched (on without fanfare) on Thursday 26November.
Our traditional nativity will be placed underneath the tree again this year. As usual, my colleague Wes Hartless has overseen the design and installation of the nativity scene. We are really excited as our nativity figures – which are nearly 40 years old – have been given a new lease of life after being refurbished and hand painted by the original makers E Carrara and Sons. The company has been making religious figures for the world for the last 99 years, from their base in Elm Vale in Kensington – another great local success story!
To go with our tree and nativity scene, we have dusted off some of our old lighting features from storage and installed them, after our lighting engineers gave them a thorough once over, to create a trail all the way from China Town to Old Hall Street.
And, for the first time ever, we have new lighting features along Hope Street between the two cathedrals, a fitting display of angels playing trumpets, in the direction of the cathedrals and the Philharmonic Hall.
We have also once again installed light curtains on the front of St George’s Hall and provided a tree and some lights to complement our fantastic Town Hall.
It’s been a really challenging and stressful year for us all and we hope that the lights, tree and nativity will bring you and your families joy as you walk through the city centre this year.
Our lights, coupled with those from Liverpool ONE and Royal Albert Dock Liverpool, add some much-needed sparkle to our city centre on those cold, damp and dark nights. All of us in Streetscene hope you enjoy them.
Kenny Brew, City Centre Streetscene Manager