Lights out for Sunderland Illuminations

Sunderland Illuminations are over for another year and more than 200,000 people from across the country have been to see the attraction – but some people weren’t so impressed.

Image: North News

Last year the event brought in more than 300,000 visitors. This year there was a difference in turnout and opinion of the attraction. Dozens of people that have visited and revisited the attraction have left one star reviews on the Facebook page, questioning the organisation of the park.

Louise Faghy, 35, from Washington, who left a one star review, said: “Nothing flowed, it was all about profits rather than giving the public a great experience.”

This was only one of 57 one star reviews left on the page. Another visitor, Chantelle McGrath, 27, from Middlesbrough, left a review saying: “I travelled to see them and won’t be doing it again! More of a money maker than for enjoyment.”

As well as these complaints, street vendors who were taken out of the park and replaced with council vendors have made their own complaints of a drastic drop in trade.

Dean Phillips, local business owner of D’Vine Catering, who had numerous stands situated outside of the attraction, said: “Our trade is three quarters down in comparison to last year.

“We’ve gone from having 13 staff to two.

“There have been multiple complaints made to us and the council about the attraction, but I don’t think anything will be done about it.”

Many other vendors were left in the same situation after being taken out of the park, some taking not even a quarter of last year’s earnings.

Councillor Kelly, portfolio holder of public health, wellness and culture responded: “I’d say that’s not true. To be perfectly honest, the businesses I have talked to have all had a significant increase in their trade.”

Despite these bad reviews, the introduction of the £1 entry to the park has raised enough money for the illuminations to be held again next year.

Councillor Kelly, said: “It’s been difficult, it’s a tight budget anyway and it must be covered in cost terms. The introduction of a fee into Roker Park has significantly helped us to be able to create more attractions, more activities and starting to get more lighting back onto the seafront.

“It’s brought more trade in, the bars and food venues have had a really good year. Martino’s and the Fat Buddha on the seafront have done really well. They’ve seen a significant increase in business. The seafront trade in that context has done well.”

The attraction has brought in a significant amount of trade for the city, local business and has created jobs for local people over the past four years, which despite the bad reviews, still puts Sunderland back on the map as a local tourist spot for the festive months for the attraction returning in 2017.

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