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‘Big business should support our lights’ says Highgate Christmas Lights organiser

PUBLISHED: 08:10 26 November 2018

The band plays at the Highgate Lights switch-on in 2016. Picture: Chris Underhill

The band plays at the Highgate Lights switch-on in 2016. Picture: Chris Underhill

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The man behind the Highgate Christmas Lights, once part-funded by pop icon George Michael, has bemoaned the lack of support from national chains in the village High Street.

The lights used to be part-sponsored by George Michael in previous years. Picture: Chris UnderhillThe lights used to be part-sponsored by George Michael in previous years. Picture: Chris Underhill

Chris Underhill, an consultant with Prickett and Ellis estate agents, has been organising the lights for 20 years. They are currently up and turned on, but he says he needs to raise £3,000 in order for them to be taken down after Christmas, and stored in preparation for next year.

Chris also says that as the village’s high street has changed, larger brands have replaced smaller ones who used to donate.

“When I first started there were many more independent shops and there was much more community support. It was easier to raise money.

“As the profile of the retail has changed, it has become much more difficult to get them to donate. All the pubs and restaurants benefit when we switch the lights on, their business goes up, but they don’t give us a penny.”

Chris UnderhillChris Underhill

On Twitter in recent days, Highgate councillor Liz Morris has been “naming and shaming” chains who don’t contribute, says Chris. Since then, Gail’s Bakery has agreed to put money towards it.

Among the groups already supporting the lights are Channing School, and Haringey Council. However Chris wants to see more coming forward.

“I’m a great believer in small donations. I’m not looking for them to give much, but every little bit counts.”

The majority of contributions towards the £10,000 cost are from locals in the area, who chip in a small amount each. “At this time of year I become a social pariah because I’m asking people for money,” joked Chris. “But there is an old lady who comes into the office every year, and puts £2 on my desk because she likes to see them so much. That’s the donation that means so much to me.

He also looks to Highgate’s well-known residents to play their part. “We have a number of local celebrities, such as Jamie Oliver and Jude Law, and I’m sure they enjoy the lights. It would be great if they could step up to help us.”

Due to a lack of funds, a “switch-on” event hasn’t taken place this year. However there will be a Carols in the Square event on December 12, at 6.30pm in Pond Square.

Highgate School’s Symphonic Band and Concert Choir will be performing, and people will get the chance to sing along to some of their favourite carols.

You can donate towards the lights at: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/highgatechristmaslights2018

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