"The Story behind the lights..."

My Father is to blame for this....

Since my sister and myself were very small our Dad would decorate the house and garden with golden twinkling lights. We would want to help every year and every year we would get home from school frustrated that Dad would have them all put up, never in uniform and never completely straight. I remember the delight on his face and him asking Mum to come out and see what he had achieved, even though it was far from perfect mum would say ‘wow’ and look in awe. Every year Dad would add something else and the few lights we started out with started to become a display. A few years forward we had a really nice couple move in next to us that shared Dad’s enthusiasm and joined in decorating their bungalow. Their display consisted of bigger coloured bulbs and a large sleigh and reindeer on the ridge of their roof.

Our end of the cul-de-sac started to become the place to see. Within the first few years we started to get people from around our village walking nightly to see our displays. Over the next few years during my teens I became keen on the exterior illuminations. There was something contagious about people driving or walking around our entrance of the cul-de-sac and their faces lighting up and beaming at the lights. Our neighbours had moved so we were lighting up our corner alone. Our family would look forward to Saturday nights in September and sit and watch QVC’S Christmas hour, we would eagerly wait for any new rope light figures to be shown and would spend a small fortune on getting our display brighter and brighter. Due to the increasing numbers of viewers we thought it would be a good thing to raise money for a charity, the kids hospice was a brilliant choice. They do a wonderful job and bring comfort and joy to all that unfortunately have to go there. We contacted them and they sent someone around with a collection pot for us to put outside the display. I think the first year we raised around £50 and thought it was great that people would donate to see our lights.

Around my late teens myself and my mate Rich went to the annual village harvest festival in our local pub. We must have got very drunk as we signed up to help with the local village Christmas lights. Several people on the committee had my number and reminded me of my obligation the next week, so with a bit of convincing Rich went with me and we helped with the village lights. During this time my neighbour who decorated his house had moved back to the village and was also on the committee. A rivalry developed between us over who could accumulate the most lights. I remember several instances when we would be working late into the night prepping the villages rope light frames where he would get in a comment that he had gone to Liskard Trago that day and bought more icicle lights (Trago was the holy grail of Christmas light shops to us). So very much like the movie Deck the Halls we egged each other on more and more. I really wanted the best and brightest display. I started to look through forums online on how I could take the display to the next level and discovered a site called planet Christmas, this was for crazy people like me that would spend months decorating their houses, to be the biggest and brightest in their vicinity. The people and houses on this site were mainly based in the States, they sure were bigger and brighter but the main ‘wow factor’ was that they were synchronised to music. There is a company in New York that makes and distributes circuit boards and software that you can sequence your display too. I contacted them and had a custom made board ordered (in America they operate their electric items on a different voltage). Each circuit board allows you to control 16 different items and use any song you like. All you do is program when you want a particular light to come on at a certain point in the song. This really made the display one of a kind, I remember the first year we did this, everyone in our village gave great feedback and we started to get more and more people driving from outside the village to look at the lights. Donations were getting better too, we made over £100 that year. Every year from then I ordered another board to increase the amount of items I could control on the display. We were still increasing our light count and believe we were up to 20,000. The last year we did the display in Praze we had 4 boards controlling the show (64 different items), the amount of people coming to see the lights was getting crazy with some nights traffic being one in and one out at a time (apologises to my neighbours, who over the years were so supporting and really got into the spirit and even helped us and encouraged the craziness).

We had a few custom made items made from my good friend Nick Turner who ran the old forge in Praze at the time. One included a 14 foot high star that we bolted to the end gable of our house, one year I made so many holes in the wall that my poor Dad had to redecorate the front of the house. The last year we ran the display I think we got almost £400 in donations for the kids hospice. Check the video out below of our place in Praze.

So, a few years on Myself and Nick had started a gym business in Pool, our ethos was and is still to create a facility that isn’t just about equipment but based on community. Not only to help people with fitness goals but to do some good in the world. We soon realised we have a mass audience that could make a difference and help people in our local area. We have raised money for many local charities and helped several of our members that needed it in hard times since opening. Almost every Christmas for the last 15 years was chaos with getting the home display up and so it just didn’t feel right without it. We decided to move it to Bornefit. However back at home the amount of lights was sufficient and cables were practically over lapping, but this was a commercial building and the coverage was about 6 times greater. We needed more lights. With a bit of research we managed to import thousands of lights from China for a fraction of the cost, 100,000 more to be exact. We also needed more computer controlled boards. Over the last 3 years we have increased our boards to 22, this means we control 352 individual channels of light. A mammoth amount compared to the first board of 16 channels. It now takes myself up to 4 hours of programming per 1 minute of show (this year’s show is 12 minutes). Our new feature this year is our Mega tree, its 19 feet high with over 13,000 lights on totalling 1300 meters of light. It brings us great joy when our members come in and tell us how wonderful they think the lights are.

I would like to thank everyone that came to the switch on this year, our members have been amazing on showing support and tagging us on social media. I would like to take up a further moment of your time whilst reading this and just bring notice to the Children’s hospice and what a fantastic charity and service these people are. Many of the children going in there are very ill with little life expectancy and some do not come out. I think Christmas has become a very commercial time with emphasis being put on over indulging in food and presents and less of what we can do to help others. Christmas in particular is about the kids and if we can do something to help suffering and make last moments special ones, this is what Christmas is about. So please when you come up and see the display try to remember the purpose and place a few coins in our donation box (located by the door on the left side). I hope our display brings joy and tradition to you and your family, please donate what you can.

Merry Christmas.
Chris and everyone at Bornefit.