Lindsay Lohan and the Kettering Christmas lights conundrum

Lindsay Lohan and her tweet Image copyright Getty/Twitter
Image caption Actress Lindsay Lohan appeared to imply in a tweet no-one had heard of the Northamptonshire market town

Lindsay Lohan and Kettering: an unlikely pairing, thrown together by her "offensive" tweet about the town's Brexit vote and again when she apparently agreed to switch on the Christmas lights to make amends. On the day of the big event, the Mean Girls star apologised to say she would not be able to make it. But what do residents make of the saga?

In the onslaught of EU referendum stories in late June, there was one that seemed more unexpected than most.

Lindsay Lohan, the US actress famed for her roles in Parent Trap and Freaky Friday, weighed in on Twitter with her own form of punditry by asking: "Sorry, but #KETTERING where are you?" as 61% of its residents voted Leave.

Before long, the tweet gained traction - to the point where it was discussed in the House of Commons.

"Everyone knows where Kettering is," the town's MP, Philip Hollobone, told fellow politicians a few days after the now infamous tweet.

"It's famous as the home of Weetabix breakfast cereal, Cheaney and Loakes shoes.

"And Kettering Town Football club has scored more goals in the history of the FA Cup than any other football team in the country."

Image caption The Northamptonshire market town has a population of 67,635, according to the borough council
Image caption The town's MP is very proud his constituency is home to Weetabix breakfast cereal

Mr Hollobone's zeal to defend his town did not stop there - he then invited the actress to switch on the town's Christmas lights as a gesture of goodwill.

Much to the delight of the MP, she seemed to accept: "Would be happy to light the Christmas tree," she tweeted.

But subsequent efforts to track her down and hold her to her promise were met with a wall of silence, leaving former EastEnders actress Cheryl Fergison, who is appearing in a pantomime in the town, to do the honours instead.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Actress Lindsay Lohan is known for roles in Mean Girls, Freaky Friday and Herbie: Fully Loaded

The council said on Tuesday Lohan's manager was checking her schedule and "may still turn up" to the event, but the actress later posted a video apologising for not being able to make it.

Certainly, Mr Hollobone said he believed it was a mistake for the 30-year-old actress to give the event a swerve.

But what do shoppers on Kettering's autumnal streets think of the switch-on U-turn?

Image caption Kettering is getting ready to welcome former EastEnders star Cheryl Fergison to turn on its lights

"I think she should have kept her promise, but I didn't really expect her to," said shop worker Anna Sye, 55.

"I think she's had her own problems in her life so she probably said it and didn't really mean it.

"I can think of many more interesting celebrities we could have had. I think George Clooney would have kept his promise."

Image copyright Twitter
Image caption Lindsay Lohan said she would be happy to turn on the Christmas lights in Kettering

Chris Hamilton, 24, says Lohan would have been made welcome by residents.

"It would have been nice for her to come - we don't really get big celebrities coming here. We had Jake Wood last year, but I wouldn't mind meeting her."

Image copyright AP / Kettering Borough Council
Image caption Geroge Clooney (left) would be a welcome attendee at the switch-on, which was done by EastEnders star Jake Wood (right) last year

Council worker Talitha Reynolds, 16, was rather understanding about the travel involved.

"I think she should have kept her promise, but I didn't really see her doing it - it's quite a way to come to turn the lights on."

Image caption Tom Cridland has sold clothes to celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Craig after founding his fashion business in Kettering

However, sustainable fashion business owner Tom Cridland is rather more critical of the actress's flip-flopping.

Asked if he had a message for Lohan, he replied: "Next time you want to tweet something incredibly rude about somewhere and imply its citizens who have a different political opinion to you are irrelevant, I suggest you Google the place you haven't heard of on your gold-plated iPhone and you could perhaps be better informed."

Mr Cridland, 26, grew up in a village just outside the Northamptonshire town and is proud of his Kettering connections.

He founded his business there and now splits his time between his parents' home and London.

Image copyright Conservative Party / Getty
Image caption Kettering's MP Philip Hollobone said it would be a "mistake" for Lohan to snub the event

"I couldn't really care less about people who see places like Kettering as irrelevant," he said.

"I think there's more to life than that and I'm certainly at my most happy, productive, peaceful when I'm in this area."

Kettering's credentials

  • Nestled in Northamptonshire, Kettering shares a history with the rest of the county of boot and shoemaking
  • William Timpson opened his first workshop in Kettering in 1884, a decade after opening his shoe shops, signalling a move into manufacturing
  • Kettering Town FC counts Paul Gascoigne among its former managers. The former England player was at the helm for just 39 days in 2005
  • Wicksteed Park is the second-oldest theme park in the UK, and has one of the world's first water-based rides, Waterchute - opened in 1926 - among its attractions

Mr Hollobone is disappointed and feels attending the event would have helped "redeem her political reputation".

"I think we always assume celebrities live in a different world, and we all expect she wouldn't come," he said.

"But a big bit of me thought she might see it as a great opportunity, and loads of publicity. It could have been the Lindsay Lohan event of the year.

"For the sake of a £40 return on the train from London, she would have generated a huge amount of goodwill - this is a real missed opportunity for her."

More on this story