If you decorate the outside of your home this Christmas, you could win a prize. Shaftesbury’s Mayor, Piers Brown, has launched a Town Council competition to reward the people responsible for the best display.
A donation will be made to the winners’ favourite charity, too. “It’s just to encourage people to give a little bit extra to brighten up the town for the festive season,” said Piers.
Cllr Brown believes it’s the first time the Council has rewarded residents for their decorating efforts. “It’s an idea that I was hoping to champion as Mayor, because I work within the Christmas industry, so it’s my love and passion. I know other communities do this around the area so I thought we should do the same,” he said.
Piers is employed by a commercial Christmas decoration company. And while most Shaftesbury residents only start to think about their domestic decorations in November or December, Piers is holding meetings to discuss the festive season throughout the year. His company works with some major retailers across the region and around the country. “Notable examples are places like Dike & Sons in Stalbridge, Poole Audi and also Harrods, The Ritz and The Shard,” he said.
The job can provide quite a challenge during the height of summer. “It can be a difficult sell in the middle of July but you have to plan ahead when you’re talking about dressing entire city centres and shopping malls. There is a lot of effort that goes into an install, which can take five nights and hundreds or even thousands of hours of work.”
Piers has studied the latest decoration trends and he offered an insight into this year’s ‘look’. “Colour schemes seem to come and go but this year it’s gold and silver and a little bit of white. It’s quite a modern, contemporary take on traditional garlands and trees. That would be my prediction for the upcoming festive season,” he said.
Although Piers is used to expansive, impressive commercial decorations he doesn’t expect competition entrants to recreate Regent Street on Rifles Lane. “Not unless they want to,” Piers responded. “I’m looking for creativity and personality. Do what you love, something that represents you and your household.”
Putting together a large display can be expensive. Piers says that having access to a big budget won’t guarantee a win. “We want everyone to get involved. Big, small, ice white, warm white, we don’t mind. You don’t need to spend tens of thousands of pounds on having an American ‘Home Alone’ dancing house, although if you want to do that, good luck. We’re going to judge everybody fairly, based on how much effort they put in, not necessarily how much money they spent.”
Shaftesbury lies adjacent to the Cranborne Chase Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The AONB has launched a campaign to reduce light pollution but Piers says that Christmas lights are more environmentally friendly these days and decorations aren’t up for long. “It’s a couple of weeks leading up to Christmas. It’s all about the children and making people feel warm and happy at a dark and dingy time of year,” said Piers.
“With modern LED technology, the power usage of most Christmas decorations is very little. Compared to the big, bright streetlights I don’t think you’re going to be releasing much more light pollution than you normally would. It is a valid concern though, and I know that the AONB are putting a lot of effort into dark sky status.”
Piers says Shaftesbury’s independent businesses have been generous in offering prizes. “Prime Cuts have offered a joint. Shaftesbury Wine have given a bottle of bubbly. Cranborne’s and Box Of Allsorts have offered gift cards for last minute Christmas shopping, too. A lot of the prizes are linked to Christmas and I understand that most people will have done their shopping by then, unless they are like me,” Piers smiled. “They’ll be able to take advantage of the prizes in the New Year,” he added.
There’s also a charitable side to the contest. “Shaftesbury Town Council will give a £100 donation to a charity of the winner’s choice. If you can’t think of anything, we’re more than happy to suggest my mayoral charity, which is Young Enterprise,” said Piers. “They try to help young people gain employability and entrepreneurial skills to give them the confidence to make the most of future career or educational decisions. They help people get into running their own business. I’m really passionate about what they do.”
Piers will be one of the judges. “I volunteered myself along with a few members of the Town Council. The closing date is 16th December and we will announce the winners on 21st December, just in time for the big day.”
You’ll be able to enter, via email, at firstname.lastname@example.org.