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Walsall Illuminations 2005
Walsall Illuminations 2005

Walsall Illuminations 2005

Sixty thousand bulbs and year-round planning. We meet some of the people behind the Arboretums's bright lights.

We visited Walsall Arboretum and spoke to Malcolm, Tim, Bruno, Antonia and Jordon about the 2005 Walsall Illuminations. This is what they said...

Malcolm Pratt, electrician

Malcolm and Antonia
Malcolm and Antonia, working in the rain

"I left school in 1969 and was apprenticed to the local electricity board, and one of the first jobs I came on was Walsall Arboretum Illuminations.

"It’s changed dramatically, it’s massive now, compared to when it first started. There’s a lot more work to it, because it has grown, but over the years we’ve simplified the installation, so it’s quicker, now.

"We’re planning all year round, from November to when we start installing in August. There’s five companies involved with the installation, it’s always been Council policy to use local companies, plus it’s such a big job, it’s not really viable for one company to do the whole thing. We use seven electricians and seven apprentices.

Walsall Illuminations 2005
Walsall Illuminations 2005

"Because of the standby duties, I’m down here, twice a week at night. Every night there’s two electricians on standby.

"All the lights in the park couldn’t go out at once, but we could have a section of it go out, if there was a power cut. It was planned in the early years, that if there was a power cut, there would be some light in the park.

"It’s a great show this year, one of the best we’ve ever done."

Tim Challans, assistant director for culture and leisure

Walsall Illuminations 2005
Walsall Illuminations 2005

"I’m in charge of the people who organise everything. The Illuminations get better every year, for example this year we’ve got a Ferris wheel, which means another 35,000 lights, so there’s now about 60,000 lights in the Arboretum, You can see it from space, I should think!

"There's lots for young people, cartoons, Dino Den, Wide Eyed and a feature based around a book, called Creepy Castles, as well as the more traditional lights, and a whole new laser display.

Click the audio link on the top right, to hear from Colin Hawkins, one of the authors of 'Creepy Castle' >>

Tim: "It’s a huge effort, an annual event. Once one’s finished, there’s the clearing up and doing the accounts and everything and then it all starts again. It rolls on, year on year. It’s a huge amount of effort, and everyone’s frantic by the end of the preparation period.

"It’s important because it’s part of the Walsall tradition. This is its 50th year, I think. It is one of those things that Walsall is famous for. Coach trips come from all over the Midlands and beyond, to the Illuminations. It puts Walsall on the map.

Colin Hawkins, Creepy Castle author
Colin Hawkins, Creepy Castle author

"About 200,000 people turned up last year, we hope to have more this year. It depends on the weather, of course.

"Walsall Council don’t make a profit out of the Illuminations, but it does cover its costs. This event is important to Walsall Council, and it doesn’t cost the public purse a huge amount of money.

"The illuminations are better than ever, if you’ve never come before, it’s a great experience. If you’ve been before it’s going to be a better night out than the last time you came, because there’s more going on."

Bruno Edwards, technical adviser

Walsall Illuminations 2005
Bruno Edwards

"There’s a three-four minute video sequence of animals, called Animal Magic. There’s swans taking off, they’re all white animals, there’s a horse galloping, there’s a bunny rabbit that runs towards you and then hops about. They’re projected as high as the trees, about 50-60 metres, something like that! It’s a very powerful video projector; 14,000 lumens, your average office projector is 1600 lumens.

"The projectors are new pieces of kit that we’ve bought for Walsall as part of the Gateways initiative, using the idea of corridors of light, regenerating the town. Part of that money is being used to improve the street lighting around the park, right down to the town centre. We’ve got two projectors which can be used for different events. We used them for the Walsall’s War show. At the moment they’re being used for the Illuminations, but they’ll also be available for hire.

"There’s a DVD player in the little hut, and a cable that runs to the projector. The artist who’s done it is called Jonathon Lee, his brief was to produce something called animal magic. So he’s looked for ghostly magical images of animals. He made it especially for this year’s Illuminations.

"We’re trying to make use of the trees, as part of the experience, to make it a little bit different, to constantly re-invent the Illuminations."

Antonia Pompa, events and festivals co-ordinator.

Walsall Illuminations 2005
Walsall Illuminations 2005

"I’m responsible for the hardworking team of people who put together things like the Illuminations, but also all our other outdoor events in the Borough.

"It is an huge job, a year-round job, really. There’s two sides to the organisation, there’s the actual design and creation of the Illuminations; we have a workshop team of three people who work year-round doing that – an electrician, a designer and a carpenter, Les Willetts, Malcolm Pratt and Bob Slatter. They’re the creative team, if you like.

"But then there’s an awful lot of other aspects of the organisation; you know, we run live entertainment here, every night, there’s children’s rides, there’s a ferris wheel, there’s all those aspects of it, together with food, and all of those things go together to make this event, as big and as special as it is.

Walsall Illuminations 2005
The ferris wheel!

"There must be 45-50 illuminated scenes, but it’s not just about looking at illuminations, there’s things to do. We have a marquee where you can do creative art activities, there’s another marquee where there’s entertainment all evening. On the bandstand, we’ve got Jack and the Beanstalk. There’s laser shows… there’s lots of different aspects of the illuminations for people to enjoy.

"Why a ferris wheel? It’s the spectacle of it, it fits very well into the Illuminations, when you actually see the fairground lights lit up, it looks stunning. The arboretum is a big venue, it’s 35 acres of parkland, which we need to fill with exciting things for people to see. It’s the first year we’ve had a ferris wheel, but I’m guessing that the views from the top, looking down on the Illuminations, will be stunning. I’ve been up in the daytime, and you could see a long way. It’s very special, you get a different perspective, all in all – a great attraction.

Walsall Illuminations 2005
Walsall Illuminations 2005

"I started working here in 1989, although I haven’t always been involved as I am now. I don’t want to pick out individual scenes, it’s the overall atmosphere that I like. I like the walkways that are illuminated, the trees, the soundtracks that you get as you are going around; it’s that that makes the event special; it’s going round with your friends and family and just having a really good time.

"Is it difficult to keep it exciting in the computer age? It is difficult, that’s why you need attractions like the ferris wheel. But, I also think it’s a real experience, and that’s the important thing about the illuminations, y’know you’re going out on a autumnal evening, you’ve got your family and your friends with you, you’re going to have a really good time, I think that makes it special."

Jordan, age five, Illuminations visitor

Walsall Illuminations 2005
Jordan at the Illuminations

"Young people should visit the Illuminations; it’s real good. I like the Jack and the Beanstalk bit!"


Times and tickets

The Illuminations will be shining until the 30 Oct 2005 at Walsall Arboretum, Lichfield Street, Walsall.

For details, tel: 0845 111 2900

Or visit

last updated: 05/10/05
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Jenny Darter
I visit the walsall illuminations every October with my son Joshua and boyfriend David. The lights are amazing.

very good

D Munn
The Lights were fantastic went last night for the first time in years very busy but a good atmosphere very impressed

harry sadler
i loved walsall lights i think it was great i will definitly be going next year again :) harry aged 4

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