A RIFT is developing over St Annes Christmas lights switch-on after volunteers were forced out in a bid to make the ceremony more “local”.
St Annes Town Council wants to use performers from Lytham’s pantomime for this year’s celebrations - meaning the Fylde residents who have brought Preston Guild Theatre’s pantomime to the event free of charge for years could be forced out.
Arnold Sumner, co-ordinator of St Annes Chamber of Trade, has organised the annual event for 20 years, bringing in Chris Haylett, from St Annes, to provide a roadshow from Preston Guild Theatre, where he is general manager.
But this year, town councillors said they would like to see local talent involved in the switch-on and invited Lowther Pavilion in Lytham to take part instead.
Mr Sumner, co-ordinator of St Annes Chamber of Trade, said: “Chris Haylett thought he could make a contribution bringing the Guild’s roadshow and we did that successfully for five years.
“Each year it got better and better.
“But there was a little bit of a difference of opinion in that a Fylde councillor thought the Lowther pantomime should be doing the switch-on.
“I was asked to ask Preston Guild to stand down but because they have helped us out for so long, the best way for me to get out of an embarrassing situation was for me to stand down.”
The proposal could also put Ansdell and Lytham’s switch-ons - organised by the same people - in jeopardy.
However, St Annes town councillor Cheryl Little said: “No decision has been made yet, I have asked tentative questions to see if locals can turn on the lights.”
Tim Lince, acting chairman of Lowther Pavilion’s board of trustees, said he had been approached to take part in the event but nothing was definite yet.
He said: “A move was made to turn it back into a community event.
“It could be fantastic for young people in the area.”
John Moxham, chairman of St Annes Chamber of Trade, said he did not feel the chamber of trade had been treated courteously in being asked to no longer organise the switch-on.
He said: “I’m disappointed, we just do not feel this was the way to do things.”
Mr Moxham and Mr Sumner stressed they wished the new organisers all the best in their role and said they looked forward to the residents of St Annes enjoying another good event.