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Boston's Christmas event will 'Illuminate' the Pilgrims' story

The Pilgrim Fathers' Mayflower will set sail again... as part of this year's Christmas lights switch-on event in Boston.

A giant three-part model of the Mayflower - the ship which took the early settlers from England to America - will parade through the streets of Boston on the night of Thursday, November 26, as part of 'Illuminate' - a lantern procession, accompanied by music.

This year's event will build on the modest, but successful, lights switch-on event held last Christmas, organised by the council after Boston BID had been dissolved.

It will again include free entertainment in the Market Place and a Christmas market.

In addition to this, Illuminate will also be the launch pad for events culminating in 2020 for the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower's world-changing voyage to the New World. Illuminate is being organised in partnership with Transported, the Boston and South Holland arts organisation funded by Arts Council England to increase participation in the arts. Boston's part in the events which made history will be included in a celebration involving towns and cities in England, Holland and America.

The very earliest group of Separatists, as they were known, planned to leave England for Holland without the permission of the King, which was then a requirement. They were seeking freedom from persecution because of their religious leanings, and planned to sail across the North Sea from Scotia Creek, near Fishtoft.

But they were betrayed and the "pilgrims" - men, women and children from Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire, were arrested by the militia and marched to Boston where some were imprisoned in the Guildhall cells and others kept there under house arrest.

Eventually they did make their way to Holland, returned to England and then sailed for America in the Mayflower. The rest is history - the history of the development of what was to become the most powerful nation on earth.

Many more from Boston later joined those early Pilgrim Fathers - as much as ten per cent of the town's population - helping to establish the American Constitution. Teaching staff from Boston Grammar School were among those "Boston Men" and once in Massachusetts built a replica of the school they had left behind in Lincolnshire to establish the beginnings of state education in America.

This festive season in Boston the town Christmas tree will be erected, as normal, near the Ingram Memorial, to be decorated with enhanced lights thanks to the second year of sponsorship by Magnadata.

A stage will be put up near the Christmas tree, facing into the event area in the Market Place for song and dance entertainment from 5pm to 8pm. The Christmas market will be similar to last year's and include refreshments. There will also be Santa - this year in a grotto.

The highlight will be the twin lantern processions which will converge in the Market Place. These will include the giant model of the Mayflower, together with carried imagery such as waves and fish.

During the arrival of the procession the town Christmas lights will come on, followed later by those in Pescod Square where more festive events will take place.

Over the coming weeks residents will be able to be involved in construction of the models in Illuminate workshops run by artists Julie Willoughby and Ruth Pigott. Keep an eye on the Boston Bulletin and the Transported website for further details (www.transportedart.com).

The second annual Christmas shop window competition will also be held in the run up to the switch-on event. Details will be hand delivered to shops in the coming weeks.

BTAC (Boston Town Area Committee) has agreed to make a £2,500 contribution to the Christmas lights switch-on event.

New ways to maintain and improve festivities for future years in Boston are to be explored, including funding the town's Christmas lights from 2016.

Boston Borough Council now wants to hear from businesses, traders and community and voluntary groups who can help make the town a better Christmas destination for shoppers and visitors.

Cllr Paul Skinner, Boston Borough Council's portfolio holder for the town centre, said: "We are thinking way in advance so we can be in the best position possible for Christmas and New Year 2016/17. We want to start discussions at the earliest opportunity with anyone and everyone who can help support us in future Christmas lights provision for Boston.

"It is virtually unthinkable for Boston town centre not to be covered by Christmas lights. It is a commercial time of year for most town centre shops and businesses and we want to be sure the town appears welcoming and inviting."

"I am pleased that BTAC has already shown support for this. I hope that others, such as town centre traders, businesses, partners, agencies and community groups will also show support."

Arrangements are now being made for a meeting with business representatives and Boston's Town Team to discuss the future of the lights. Anyone interested in receiving more information about how they might help should call on 01205 314401 or email elaine.henton@boston.gov.uk or luisa.stanny@boston.gov.uk

Cllr Paul Skinner said provision of Christmas lights was not a statutory duty and said the council was facing difficult decisions about which services it continues to support and maintain.

He said now was the time for the council, businesses and the retail community to think about how the town could best secure festive lighting for 2016 and beyond at a cost each year of between £25,000 and £30,000. Including this coming Christmas, businesses in town have made a contribution towards the lights - £20,000 over the five years - through the now defunct Boston BID.