Ho ho NO! Santa wars as councillor describes as 'outrageous' decision to open rival grotto at Wisbech Castle on same day as Christmas market
PUBLISHED: 16:50 02 December 2019 | UPDATED: 16:50 02 December 2019
A councillor described as "outrageous" the decision by Wisbech Town Council to open a Santa's grotto at Wisbech Castle on Sunday on the day the Lions traditionally provide Father Christmas for the festive market.
Cllr Andy Maul said: "Personally I find it outrageous that a tax paying asset should stand in direct opposition to a charity that does so much for this town.
"The Lions have supported every event this town council organises and for the work they do should be supported".
Cllr Maul, a town and district councillor, said the issue was never discussed at the Castle committee, of which he is a member.
The castle - run by the town council - will open its grotto whilst down the road at the market, run by Fenland District Council; Wisbech Lions will showcase their Santa.
And to complicate matters a third grotto - complete with Santa - will open at the Wisbech Institute in Hill Street, again as its done in previous years.
Cllr Steve Tierney, a town, district and county councillor, is one of the leading figures in helping to run the castle since the town council took it over from Cambridgeshire County Council.
Wisbech Lions hosted Father Christmas at the town's light switch-on last month and will do so again at the annual Christmas market as they have done for many years.
But Wisbech Castle is forging ahead with plans for their own Santa and grotto on the same day, using what they say are a number of "props" left over from their sell-out Halloween event.
Cllr Tierney admits the castle "seem to have accidentally upset Wisbech Lions in the process".
He said: "The Lions feel that there being a Santa's grotto at The Castle as well as the Santa they are going to have will confuse children.
"They have asked us to withdraw our grotto from the event."
A spokesman for Wisbech Lions said: "We want to make it perfectly clear that there is always room for more than one Santa in Wisbech or wherever else.
"No one has the monopoly on a myth. Obviously we are extremely happy to have a member who loves his job at Christmas.
"We are not in a competition, we are not a business. We live in a democracy. Every one has a choice where to shop or go.
"We volunteer to work tirelessly throughout the year to be able fund raise (not always) to support local people in need and occasionally international disasters, as do Lions across the world.
"We count ourselves fortunate to have the support of various other organisations and work alongside them to provide a joined up approach to events.
"We are not political and do not debate. This is a Lions Club Facebook page not a debating chamber. If we make a comment it's from the Club Members not individuals."
Cllr Tierney said:" It is important to note that we greatly respect the Wisbech Lions and everything they do.
"They are a brilliant group and we have no interest in upsetting them.
"However, we didn't think they had any rights to the use of Santa at Christmas, we didn't think our grotto would do them any major harm.
"We have advertised the event and gone some way towards organising it, including buying the gifts for Santa to give the children.
"We certainly don't want to upset the brilliant Lions. But we cannot agree if this is a reasonable request for them to make or not."
On a Facebook page he later noted that the Lions had put out a message saying they are "totally happy" for the second Santa to be at the castle.
"Perhaps there were mixed or misunderstood messages previously but it seems the matter is settled and all is well."
He wrote: "Thank you Lions for being so reasonable. A donation will be made."
Wisbech Lions are also organising their annual sleigh journey this month through the town.
"We have children running out with buckets of change they have saved all year," they posted to Facebook.
"Have also lost track of how many people tell us they recall being helped by Lions years before. But, as the old advert says 'A Lion is for life, not just for Christmas!' Glad to hear you have good memories, thank you."
If you can't get to see any of the Santas in town, then the Lions Father Christmas sleigh will be coming to a road near you shortly.
Here are the routes they will come through in the run up to Christmas.
Monday December 2 sleigh route: Heron Road - Westmead Avenue - Queen Elizabeth Drive - Falklands Drive
Tuesday December 3 sleigh route: Mansell Road - Copperfields - Ramnoth Road - Mount Drive
Thursday December 5 sleigh route: Kirkgate Street - Jeffrey Avenue - Kirkgate Street - Chapnall Road - Fundrey Road - Musticott Place - Fundrey Road - Stow Road - Trinity Road - Norwich Road - Council Road.
Saturday December 7: Morrisons 9am to 4pm.
Sunday December 8: Wisbech Christmas Fayre from 8am to 4pm.
Monday December 9 sleigh route: Edinburgh Drive - Acacia Avenue - St Michael's Avenue - Grosvenor Road - Goddard Crescent - Tinkers Drove - Ollard Avenue.
Tuesday December 10 sleigh route: Stow Road - Frinton Way - Salcott Drive - Frinton Way - Peldon Drive - Maldon Road - Bush Lane - Welbeck Road - Boyces Road - Claremont Road - Cockets Drive - Boyces Road
Wednesday December 11: static at Upwell Village Hall from 3.30pm to 4.30pm then sleigh run from Village Hall to St Peter's Road to Hall Bridge Estate then back to Village Hall.
Friday 13 and Saturday 14 December at Asda from 9am to 4pm.
Monday December 16 sleigh route: Pickards Way - Cambridge Drive - Strawberry Close - Summerfield Close.
Friday 20 and Saturday 21 at Tesco from 9am to 5pm.