Christmas switch-onThe countdown is on to Sunday’s Christmas lights switch-on – when the centre of Tamworth will be transformed into a winter wonderland.

Thousands of visitors are expected to flock to Tamworth this Sunday for the switch-on, which will also feature a festive market.

More than 20 festive stalls will be set up in St Editha’s Square and along George Street, selling a range of Christmas gifts and novelties, local produce and festive food. Tamworth Lions will also have a charity chocolate tombola and lollipop lucky stall.

Live music, dance performances, fairground rides, living Nativity, Christmas treasure hunt and a Dickensian street performer are just some of the attractions at this year’s switch-on.

The fun will start at 11am, with dozens of events taking place throughout the town centre during the afternoon.

This year, there will be a stage in St Editha’s Square, sponsored by Touch FM. The stage will feature performances from X-Factor contestants The Joys, Rotary Search For a Star runner-up George Radcliffe, Urban Fusion Dance Company, Tamworth Pantomime Company, Two Gates Primary School choir and Tamworth Voices.

The Community Café will be running free arts and crafts activities, St Editha’s Church will be packed with more than 100 decorated Christmas trees and the ever-popular walkabout characters will be mingling with the crowds.

Worshippers from St Francis Church in Leyfields will be staging a live Nativity under the Town Hall – complete with a real donkey. Just down the road in Market Street, Fergus & Fogg Toy Emporium will have a snow machine and carol singers outside the shop.

Dozens of Santas will be taking part in the Rotary Club Santa Stroll, which starts in St Editha’s Square at 3.30pm and aims to raise as much money as possible for the Rotary Santa Charity. There will be walks for able-bodied people, dog walkers, pushchairs and wheelchair users and registration will be open from 2pm on the day.

The festive fun will build to a climax at 5pm, when the town’s Christmas light will be switched on by Unwrap Tamworth at Christmas art competition winner Bethany Khan, Father Christmas and Mayor of Tamworth, Cllr Richard Kingstone.

The choir from St Editha’s Church will then lead the crowd in a Christmas carol sing-along.

Last year’s Christmas lights switch-on attracted more than 8,000 visitors, and organisers are hoping that this year’s event will be even bigger and better with the addition of the Christmas market and new festivities.

So come along and join in the festive fun!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Residents and community groups in Belgrave turned out in force for two bulb planting sessions – with 3,500 bulbs being planted along the banks on Field Farm Road.

More than 3,500 bulbs were planted by volunteers during two sessions last Thursday and Sunday. The bulbs were bought by Belgrave Residents Association, with the help of a grant from County Councillor Brian Jenkins’s Community Fund.

The bulbs have been specially chosen to attract bees and butterflies, and will flower at different times. The flowers will not only cheer up the area but will also provide an early food source to insects.

The planting was led by Belgrave Community Development Officer Stuart Etheridge, who said around 20 volunteers turned out across the two days to take part in the planting, including Cllr Joy Goodall and Cllr Brian Jenkins.

There will be a final planting day to finish off the project, at a date to be confirmed. Any volunteers who would be interested in taking part should keep an eye on the community notice boards outside Tamworth Community Fire Station and the Exley Centre, where the date and time will be advertised once it has been confirmed.

Layout 1Council tenants in Tamworth are being reminded to make sure they pay their rent on time over the Christmas period.

And they are being warned that they could lose their homes if they fail to pay and fall into arrears.

Tamworth Borough Council has launched its ‘Rent First’ campaign, offering help and advice to people who may be facing difficulties paying their rent over the festive period and encouraging them to make payment of their rent their top priority.

A Christmas card reminding tenants about the Rent First message is being sent to tenants who are in arrears with their rent. It was designed by pupils from Two Gates Primary School and carries the message “Pay the rent, then enjoy Christmas.”

The message is also being displayed inside and on the back of buses running in Tamworth, where it will be seen by thousands of people.

The main aim of the Rent First campaign is to make sure tenants are aware of all the ways they can pay their rent and to ensure that it is paid up to date over the Christmas period. It forms part of a larger campaign by Tamworth Borough Council and the CAB to help people budget properly for Christmas, not overspend and to pay bills on time.

Tamworth Borough Council Leader, Cllr Daniel Cook, said: “We want people to enjoy Christmas and the New Year but it is vital that they put their ‘rent first’. We’re not telling tenants to stop buying presents for their families and friends, but to make sure they budget for their rent payments as well.

“So far this year, sadly 32 families in Tamworth have been evicted because they did not pay their rent.

“Help is available for anyone who might be having difficulty paying their rent and we have dedicated staff on hand to offer advice. I would urge anyone who is having difficulties to call the Tenancy Sustainment team – please do not stick your head in the sand and risk court action or eviction.”

Anyone who is having difficulty in paying the rent is being urged to call the Tenant Sustainment team on 01827 709709 or the Housing Advice team on 01827 709459.

The Citizens Advice Bureau can also help people who are in debt or struggling to budget. They can be contacted on 01827 305952.