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Tuesday, 16 September 2014

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Town centre boss quits

Carla Arrighi

THE chairman of Whitehaven’s Town Centre Group quit yesterday in a row over the 2005 Christmas lights.

Carla Arrighi was outraged at remarks by the Chamber of Trade which described the lights and festivities as “tasteless” and a “flop.”

She has also resigned from the chamber of trade, which she accused of “muck-slinging” and called for it to apologise to Gerard Richardson and Sherrie Lewthwaite of the Whitehaven Maritime Festival committee, who organised the activities, on a volunteer basis, in just six weeks.

The row broke out after the chamber published the minutes of last Monday’s meeting which said: “Christmas lights and festivities (or lack of them) and the costs involved were discussed. The general consensus of opinion was that the lights were tasteless and many did not work, even at the ‘switch on’ and the ‘events’ were a complete ‘flop’ particularly after the success and buzz of the last two years (reindeer and camels).”

“Even shops had not been encouraged to make their windows festive and Dixon’s, particularly, on Lowther Street had been a disgrace!

“There had been many disappointed people in Whitehaven this year and many negative comments from the public had been heard.”

Dedicated

Ms Arrighi said: “I’m raging.

“The chamber did not hold an open debate and if they are not capable of doing so, it’s time to consider the future.

“The Christmas lights were the result of a lot of hard work by myself, Gerard and Sherrie, who dedicated a huge number of free man-hours at the busiest retail time of the year to help fill a one-year gap.”

Organisers spent £11,500 of a £14,500 funding package from Copeland council and the county council, British Nuclear Group and the Town Centre Group on the switch-on event, which included carol singing, stilt-walkers, jugglers, children’s lantern displays, a three-beamed searchlight from the top of St Nicholas Tower, a laser light projection, CFM roadshow with DJ Robbie Dee and live music from The Marratimes and Cory Spedding.

Mr Richardson has called for chamber chairman Steve Phillips to resign for allowing “shocking” and “hurtful” comments to go out.

He also said it was wrong for people to compare the switch-on with previous years, which had much time and money spent on them.

There was no parade because the insurance had run out and there was no money to pay for new cover.

Copeland council leader Elaine Woodburn was angered by the chamber’s “unfair” criticism. She wants Ms Arrighi to reconsider her resignation.

“If you speak to the majority of people who attended the lights switch-on you will find that they really enjoyed it. The organisers only had weeks to pull it together and they did a fantastic job.

“They should be congratulated not criticised, especially when nobody else came forward to take it on.”

Chamber of trade treasurer Craig Kershaw, who is also on the town centre group, apologised for any offence.

He said the remarks were second-hand comments from customers that had been passed on and he had made a mistake in allowing them to be minuted.

“We have apologised to the people we have offended. I am absolutely gobsmacked that Carla has resigned,” he said.

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