ILMINSTER organisers have been forced to cancel the Victorian Evening, although they will not be pulling the plug on the Christmas Lights.

Every November the event draws a massive audience, and with the coronavirus pandemic still ongoing the town’s chamber of commerce has be forced to cancel the 2020 crowd-pleaser.

Mike Fry-Foley, a member of the chamber, said: “In the light of the current Covid-19 situation and the likely position in November this year, Ilminster Chamber of Commerce has reluctantly taken the decision to cancel the Christmas Festival this year.

“We are very disappointed to have to do this but it is the sensible course of action.

“However, the Christmas Lights team are planning to put up their fabulous lights so the town will still look its wonderful best over the Christmas period.”

Clinton Bonner, chairman of the Ilminster Christmas Lights Committee, confirmed their promise to still have ‘some sort of Christmas lights display this year’.

Lights committee members were well into their repairs and replacement work when everything came to an abrupt halt in February because of the pandemic.

Mr Bonner added: “Whatever happens with Covid-19 during the autumn and winter, we will be doing our utmost to make sure there will be the best possible display to brighten up the Christmas weeks.”

With well over £2,000 worth of spares and new fittings already ordered, the committee had committed itself to a big works programme - but after a four month hiatus a small band of volunteers is back in ‘The Shed’ getting the work done - under strict health and safety measures.

Mr Bonner said: “It looks like we will get all the work completed and will definitely put some lights up.

“It could be a full display, but that will depend on the Covid-19 restrictions at the time. But our volunteers have worked hard to get this far in such a difficult period.

“We also have two big new frames costing £4,000 arriving to be erected at Lloyds Bank and Mitchams as the others were showing signs of wear.”

The lights display is also set to include some 80 trees.

“We were already well ahead with checking and so we knew that some garlands and frames were in good working order,” Mr Bonner added.

“Now after carrying out most of our inspection and repairs work a lights display will be possible.

“The restrictions on large gatherings makes it impossible for Ilminster to have a switching-on ceremony this year - so it will be a surprise for everyone when they do actually go on - but we will definitely brighten up the town for Christmas.”

Last year’s project to instal wifi for many of the frames and garlands has been extended and organisers expect 80 per cent of lights will be switched on at the touch of a keyboard.

Mr Bonner said: “We must be aware that anything can happen between now and Christmas - there might be a spike in the infection rate, for instance, but we do know that a big effort by a full team over a weekend would see a great display once again.

“It is a great shame that the Victorian Night is not possible, but we can at least get the lights up before Christmas and brighten up the festive period for the community.

“I am sure the people of Ilminster will be supportive of whatever we can achieve. Residents can rest assured that we will be doing all we can to brighten up their Christmas weeks - even if the period until then is not so bright.”

Although 2019’s event was a cold and wet affair, hundreds of people still turned out to see the lights turned on.

Organiser Clinton Bonner declared it the wettest lights switch on the town had seen since the event was launched more than 25 years ago.

Previous years had seen thousands pack into the town centre, with a growing assortment of lights and other attractions. For more, visit