Connaught@Christmas team on recce to Connaught Gardens

Connaught@Christmas team recce as plans firm up for illuminated event

Sue Cade
Authored by Sue Cade
Posted Friday, October 15, 2021 - 12:30pm

Three people key to the creation of the new illuminated walk at Connaught Gardens in Sidmouth this Christmas met onsite recently to make final plans for the lit event.

Event manager John Radford, designer Robin Shephard-Blandy and technical manager Greg Howell visited the gardens to discuss zones, lighting styles and plans for the ‘big finish’.

During the recce the team deliberated the creation of nine specific zones within the gardens, making use of the existing architecture, trees, flora, structures and flower beds to create very different looks for the enjoyment of visitors. These will use a combination of spotlights, light curtains, uplighters and tree lighting, all with energy efficient LED lamps to minimise energy usage, contributing to the event’s green credentials.

The team also firmed up their plans for a big vista at the end of the trail - a projection on to the cliffs and hillside above Jacob’s Ladder which is set to be a real talking point.

John explained: “We had the idea early on but we needed to be sure that it would work. Now we can reveal that visitors will be able to enjoy the intimacy of the displays in the gardens, before being stunned by the drama of the cliff scene. It’s bound to be a real crowd-pleaser.”

Between them, the trio have years of experience in working together on events such as the Folk Festival, Stonehenge Summer Solstice, and Ottery St Mary Tar Barrels. Greg’s business, Limegreen Electrical is based in Ottery; covering practical elements such as installation, power and electrics, his team has worked on projects for cruise ship theatres, outdoor cinemas as well as several previous illuminated events around the country.

Robin’s business is Illuminate Design which has an office in North Devon. His expertise in design and creative processes has been seen in projects encompassing the E-Luminate Festival, Butlins Igloo and the Christmas Glow at Wisley. For Connaught@Christmas, event manager John who was brought up in Sidmouth, is acting as overall production manager.

Whilst on site, the team also discussed a development with the charitable aspect of the event, as an earlier agreement with Sidmouth Lifeboat changed when the much-loved coastal charity generously offered to divert fundraising to another organisation. Instead, Connaught@Christmas has now put in place a charity partnership with Sidmouth College and Sidmouth Primary School. It means that a percentage of profits from the exciting new event will be used to support disadvantaged students with Art and Music opportunities.

The schools are already working together to be able to showcase some of their talent on the bandstand with a band and choir, whilst the Art department is chomping at the bit to help decorate the marquee and Christmas trees for the Christmas Craft & Food Village in Manor Road car park where over 30 stalls will be showcasing gift ideas and selling delicious street food.

“While the illuminated trail is designed to be more of a stylish experience, we’re not stinting on festive glitz in the Village – we are bringing in very high quality Christmas decorations for the marquee from London, so expect lots of dazzle and glitter!”

Connaught@Christmas runs from December 7 to 12 from 4.30 to 9.30pm, while the free-to-enter Christmas Craft & Food Village opens at 1pm each day. Tickets for the illuminations must be booked in advance and cost from £5 for a child to £22 for a family ticket, with a small booking fee.

For more information about the event and to book, please visit

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