Simon’s story: Anyone can step up

I’m proud of a place where I don’t live. 

In the past Heckmondwike Christmas lights were ‘done’ to the community. People would come to watch and then go home. 

There used to be a real crush to see the lights. Heckmondwike Christmas lights is the oldest switch on in the country, starting in 1868. The event used to be run by the community and the Council stopped doing the lights in 1974. The community weren’t involved in planning the event more recently and those who wanted to be involved faced resistance. This doesn’t empower people. So, I stamped my feet.

Heckmondwike lightsFor whatever reason I ended up running the next year’s event. I spoke to people and changed it. 

We set up a steering group to co-create with the community. We created a safe space at the event for people who use wheelchairs and those who have pushchairs. We made it a whole day event rather than just an evening switch on.

It used to be great when I was a kid and I wanted to recapture that sense of awe kids have.

For Christmas 2020 there weren’t going to be any lights but I’m proud to say we had them. I thought I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t going to do it but we can do it safely and in a short space of time. We got everything in place, such as insurance and social distancing.

It brought joy at a naff time. We made it happen as a community not as an organisation.

I’ve learned that there are two types of leaders, those who are already leaders, and those who’ve not yet become leaders. You just need the right set of circumstances and anyone can step up.

Heckmondwike lightsIf you don’t put people in a situation where they think they can do something – they won’t.

Volunteers have an opportunity to work alongside someone else like technicians, planners, and people making applications so that we can make informed decisions and develop skills. It doesn’t then fall on one person. It creates longevity. I’m proud of these people.


illustrations from our workshopsThank you to Simon for sharing this story after participating in one of our “How can more people come together to make local places better?” online workshops for Kirklees citizens.

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