Trio of council workers who shed light on Christmas cheer in Mansfield

Photo of the council Christmas lights team working on a giant snowman

Many people probably moan Christmas comes too early as shops start selling festive gifts no sooner than the summer sand between your toes becomes a memory.

But spare a thought for the trio of Mansfield District Council workers who spend the best part of a year lighting up the district to spread the seasonal cheer.

Headed by the appropriately named Andy Powers, the Town Centre Management team start planning for a Christmas display only weeks after the decorations were taken down in January after the previous year's installation.

Ideas meetings are usually held in March or April when the team devises what the display will include that year. The council has a large stock of decorations and it rotates what is included so that it looks different each year.

It also replaces a certain number of decorations annually due to age, uneconomical damage, and to improve the displays.

The council ensures its displays are as energy efficient as possible by using only LED bulbs and limiting the time they are switched on to save power. In Mansfield they are switched on between 6am and 8am and come on again between 2pm and 2am. In other parts of the district they are on only between 3pm and midnight.

The next job for the installation team is to plan a timetable to decide how and when to execute the installation. One of the first jobs is to order any new lights and equipment to ensure they arrive in time for the installation.

In May, a Christmas Lighting Licence has to be sought, including a traffic management plan, risk assessments, and installation plans with specifications and drawings. This can take several weeks to put together depending on how many changes there are from the previous year.

The whole of August involves two workers using a hoist to test all the existing infrastructure, including checking and testing existing electrical installations and fittings, brackets and 300 eyebolts, from which the wires to fix the cross street decorations are hung.

Then in September, the team bring out the decorations from storage and start testing them to see which are still working and are electrically and structurally safe to install. This process can take four or five weeks, depending on how many decorations fail and what is required to repair them.

And if you think untangling your own set of fairy lights for your tree is the Christmas chore from hell, these guys have several kilometres of cable and lights to sort out!

Andy says: "Finding any faults on rope lights and string lights is quite a technical, fiddly and time consuming job.

"But it has to be done - we all know that feeling when you untangle your fairy lights, put them on the tree, switch them on and then ... nothing!  It would be the same for us - only on a grander scale - if we didn't check them all first." 

The installation of the decorations begins in October and takes three people and one hoist eight weeks to complete across Mansfield, Mansfield Woodhouse, Forest Town, Warsop, Ladybrook and Garibaldi.

Andy says: "It takes months to plan and execute the Christmas lights installation in the district. When people see us putting up the decorations in October, it can result in some abuse from some members of the public who object to the idea of seeing Christmas decorations going up in autumn.

"But we have to start so early because we're only a small team and we have to keep on top of our day-to-day duties, including the electrical maintenance of all the council's offices and depots.

"We also have to keep 1,200 street light columns in working order at the council's car parks, housing estates and parks."

To keep the traffic disruption to a minimum, and to keep members of the public safe, the team starts work very early some mornings during the installation period.

"We work in all weathers and often on Sundays to get all the decorations up safely," says Andy. "Working at these quieter times means we can carry out the installation more quickly and ensure we get everything installed in time for the various switch-on events around the district.

"And once the lights are up, we then have to be on hand to respond to any decorations that stop working due to problems such as water ingress, equipment failure, and vandalism."

Once Christmas is over, the decorations are then carefully taken down in January and put back into storage until they are needed again later the same year for that year's display.

Cllr Stuart Richardson, Portfolio Holder for Regeneration and Growth, said: "I would like to congratulate the team in advance for doing a grand job at lighting up Christmas in Mansfield.

"It can be a thankless task and they are out in all weathers to get it done in time so credit to them and we look forward to seeing our district in all its festive glory." 

Installations cross the district include:

24 cross street decorations

105 column decorations

43 wall decorations

230 mini trees

14 living trees, covered with a total of over 500 sets of lights

7 cone trees

5 main trees, decorate with a total of up to 50 sets of lights

3 curtain of light displays

2 reindeers

1 cross street ball display

1 light tunnel

1 illuminated snowman.

Annual infrastructure tests are carried out on:

300 eyebolts

100 catenary wires

230 mini tree brackets

90 wall Brackets

More than 150 timers, sockets and radio receivers

Several kilometres of electrical cable.

Published: November 22nd 2022