Big switch-on event could be left in dark

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The lights could go out on a popular festive event in Kelso if nobody comes forward to help keep it going.

The town’s Christmas lights switch-on draws crowds of hundreds of Borderers each year, but it will cease to exist unless volunteers step into the breach after its lead organiser steps down next month, townsfolk have been warned.

Peter Fry, chairman and secretary of Kelso Community Events, the switch-on’s organiser, is set to stand down for health reasons at an extraordinary general meeting in May.

He said: “I have done the Christmas lights as chair for the last five years, but I have been involved with the event since 2008.

“The situation at the moment is that, for health reasons, I’m standing down. I had a heart attack last year, and I am trying to de-stress my life.

“If people come forward to replace me, I’d be happy to support them, but at the moment I’m doing about 80% of it, and it’s too much for me.”

Mr Fry explained that the organising group currently consists of himself, the Kelso Pottery’s Liz Hird, in charge of Santa’s grotto, treasurer Claire Fletcher, from Seasons cafe, and two ladies in their eighties “who help out where they can”.

“Kelso Community Events committee members have been active participants for the past 15 years and are likely to propose an end to the group,” he said.

“Part of the problem is the young people – the mums and dads in their 20s to 40s – don’t come forward. They should be taking this on.

“We really need some of the younger generation to get involved.”

Mr Fry has put a call for volunteers out on social media but to little avail.

“Facebook tells me the message has reached 2,500 people, but I’ve only had two responses,” he said.

“It would be a great pity if this event should stop as it involves so many children in and about Kelso.”

Last year, around 900 people gathered in the square for the big switch-on, with a children’s fair, Santa’s grotto, entertainments and refreshments also drawing crowds.

“It’s a great event,” Mr Fry added. “We can have 120 dancers performing, and we have as many as we can on the stage for the countdown.

“I always say ‘do you want to do it next year?’ and even if it’s been raining and -20C, they always say yes.

“If you feel it should continue and are willing to take on a role to organise the event or can offer technical, PR or logistical skills, let us know.”