Northern Lights: The great(ish) West Didsbury switch on

Y’alright tree! Boon army!

This wasn’t always the case, but I DO. LOVE. CHRISTMAS. Massively. Mainly because, since I have moved out from home, it means receiving a parcel with an advent calendar from my mum at the end of November, opening tiny numbered stockings every morning, going home shortly before Christmas, lots of snow, visiting the traditional Christmas markets in my home town, and finally sitting through a 5 hour food and presents marathon that is guaranteed to involve my family shouting (no concept of volume, none of them), me sneakily drinking one “special Christmas edition” beer after another, and the annual discussion “shall we go to church or stay in and have our pudding instead” with my uncle. Pudding always wins. Good Catholics wouldn’t let food go to waste, right?

Living in Manchester has added mince pies (yay), Christmas puddings (ok…), the Manchester Christmas markets (great if you enjoy full-on body contact with strangers and faux “authentic German Gluehwien”) and my flatmate making rather tasty mulled wine with Sainsbury’s own brand red (good Lord).

Thanks to the early snow and the Co-op’s 10 page leaflet with booze offers I was already feeling the “festive spirit”, and so I was delighted to hear about the Christmas tree switch on in West Didsbury*, which was organised by Didsbury Life and the West Didsbury Residents’ Association. I remembered that I had even donated some money for the tree in the form of a raffle ticket at this year’s West Fest!

When we arrived at 7pm, there were, well, us, two of the organisers, and 5 police officers, obviously waiting for ‘the great West Didsbury Christmas riots of 2010′ to kick off. Some fantastically tasty mini mince pies (from the Dish and Spoon cake shop. CAKE. SHOP.) and a cup of hot spiced cider later, a surprisingly large group of people had gathered on the other side of the road opposite the Christmas tree to listen to the carol singers. The fact that the traffic on the road hadn’t been stopped made for a hilarious and mildly bizarre experience – the children singing Christmas carols, with the odd noisy car going past, drowning out the (highly enthusiastic) singers and blocking the view every so often. Being the evil person I am, I had trouble not to die laughing as a double-deck Stagecoach went past.

Then, the great moment had finally arrived: Mr Clint Boon appeared out of nowhere, grabbed the megaphone and shouted his signature “Boon Army!” at the crowd. Through the power of the megaphone, he got the police to – finally – stop the traffic for his speech, which included gems such as

“Manchester is a suburb of West Didsbury” (whooping from the audience)

“…West Didsbury is a proper community…”

“…and our fantastic tree…where is it…ah here, on this side!”

“We’re going to count down from 10 and switch on the light now… where is the switch?”

“Have fun drinking, but don’t get drunk!” (more whooping from the audience)

And then the tree was lit. After seeing a bus driven by Father Christmas and covered in tinsels the other day, the minimalist decoration (lights and… well, that’s it.) of the tree was a tiny bit disappointing – can we all chip in for some shiny baubles and glittery tinsels next year please?

That was fun. Of course, it was a bit chaotic. Of course, you can’t expect to hand a megaphone to Clint Boon and have him deliver a grand speech. And of course, our West Didsbury Christmas tree is more “tree” than “Christmas”. But after the bonfire night at Platt Fields I have come to realise: things just are a little bit different here in Manchester – and everyone involved gets full marks for effort. As odd an event as it was, I loved it!

* YAWN! Another West Didsbury post. Promise, for the next posts I’ll move a little further than 5 steps outside my front door, yes?

[Photo by that hairy dude from Hey! Manchester]