Work underway to turn Connaught Gardens into a winter wonderland

Connaught Gardens, Sidmouth

Christmas@connaught 2021

With just days to go before the opening night, the Connaught@Christmas team has started getting everything ready for this magical illuminated experience in Connaught Gardens, Sidmouth.

In Manor Road car park, a marquee is being erected. for the 30+ food and craft stalls manned by traders from Sidmouth and Devon. The team are busy decorating the marquee with glittering Christmas decorations, as well as lining up the 50 ten-foot-tall Christmas trees – all from Cotley Farm in Whimple – to create a stunning entrance to the event.

Across in Connaught Gardens, the lighting designers have begun dressing the trees, shrubs, flower beds, walls and pillars with spotlights, light curtains, up lighters and tree lighting, using 550 lighting units, 7km of cable, over 860 metres of fairy light strings and thousands of LED lamps to create a magnificent spectacle. They are also testing out the finale piece, a lighting projection adding colour and texture to the cliffs above Jacob’s Ladder beach.

Heading up the organisation is John Radford, who says “This is a more intimate experience than some illuminated events as we don’t have towering trees and ornamental lakes - but wow, what a location! On the clifftop overlooking Lyme Bay, with the sea air and the seagulls overhead. Everyone is feeling extremely excited about it.”

The event is focused on supporting local, from the traders and food vendors to the Christmas trees, and the musicians and choirs which include the town band and a group from Sidmouth schools. In the spirit of bringing on the next generation, one student is working with the event team to learn how to manage a professional PA system.

To be 'covid secure' the marquee will be well ventilated with an outdoor picnic area for anyone preferring to eat outdoors. Using timed slots for visits means that the gardens won’t be overcrowded, and the later 8.30pm slot will be sold at half capacity ensuring even more space.

Connaught at Christmas runs from December 7 to 12 from 4.30 to 9.30pm, while the free-to-enter Christmas Craft & Food Village opens at 1 pm each day.