A SPECTACULAR firework display crowned a day of entertainment to mark the Taunton Christmas lights switch-on yesterday - but the events didn't please everyone.

The town centre was packed to watch Father Christmas, carnival royalty and special guests press the plunger to switch on this year's display.

The fireworks, launched from the roof of Debenhams, were the culmiunation of a day of entertainment staged in several locations around the town centre.

Attractions included concerts hosted by the Perfect 5th, dance displays, a Continental market, Taunton Vale Farmers' Market, the Blackdown Hills Market, stalls, refreshments, fairground rides and singing.

Children could also try a range of arts and crafts in ‘make-and-do’ tents, as well as juggling and plate spinning in the circus-skills workshop.

The town centre was also closed to traffic for the day.

Father Christmas led a procession from the Brewhouse Theatre to the town centre before a dazzling fire show by Cirque Bijou wowed the crowds on a specially-constructed stage around the the Burma memorial outside the Market House.

Your County Gazette promotions team was also there offering goodie bags to shoppers.

This year's Christmas lights switch-on day was boosted by sponsors orchard - formerly the Old Market Centre - which hosted a carousel and other attractions during the day.

But some visitors left disappointed with proceedings.

Readers of somersetcountygazette.co.uk have criticised the events, listing a number of problems including:

  • A delay to the switch-on schedule
  • Poor visibiliy of the main stage and the fire show
  • Problems with the sound system from the main stage
  • A scramble for the free carousel in orchard
  • Complaints about Santa and the procession
  • For a photo gallery, click on the Related Links below, and for a video news report, keep checking this website today. For a full round-up of events, don't miss Thursday's County Gazette.

Town centre bosses have hailed the event a success and have moved to address the complaints by visitors.

Here’s what town centre manager Graham Love said:

On the delay to the schedule: “It is clear there was some misinformation with regard to the events, particularly around the timing of the finale which was widely pre-promoted as taking place from 4-5pm.

“Work on the event build-up began around 6.30am and the finale concluded by 5.15pm. Those following the event programme will not have been disappointed.”

On the Burma Memorial: “We used a professional firm of scaffolders who put up the stage around the monument. The performers provided a comprehensive risk assessment for their activities and were adequately insured for the performance they gave.

“We worked closely with local authorities and the police on public safety and we ensured we left Taunton as we found it.

“Part of the switch-on is a celebration of life and community and it was a good use of a town centre space.

“It was exciting and vibrant and something different for Taunton.”

On limited visibility of the main stage and the fire show: “Where events are free, they are likely to be crowded and it is important to get there early to avoid disappointment.

“The platform for the fire show was at a height that the performers and authorities felt was acceptable.”

On sound problems: “If sound was an issue, there are ways that can be overcome but there’s a cost attached to that and we have to find significantly more budget to do more than we did this year.”

On Santa: “Santa was a character from When Santa Fell to Earth, playing at the Brewhouse – perhaps people need to get along and find out why he was tall, skinny and dressed in the colours he was.”

Meanwhile, Paul Blyth, of Kirkstone Real Estate, owners of orchard – formerly The Old Market Centre – said: “Many thousands came to take a look at the newly refurbished centre over the weekend and they were entertained by a variety of live music, children’s face-painting, a Punch and Judy show and other free attractions.

On queues at the free carousel: “The children’s carousel was a big success and operated smoothly all weekend. We experienced a particularly high volume of people towards the end of Sunday’s activities before the start of the parade. In response to this, the operator stopped the carousel whilst the centre’s management team brought out some safety barriers to make queuing more orderly.

On the centre closing time: “The centre closed at the normal time and people were still able to access the car park via other entrances. We are sorry if some people had a slightly longer walk back to their cars.”

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Somerset County Gazette: Christmas Logo Gazette