61 years ago today the crowds one hundred thousand people, according to the police, braved the wet weather and turned up for the switching on ceremony.
At the moment I am in the process of preparing a booklet about this with Dave Richards, we have 17 pictures of the illuminations and any help finding more would be appreciated.
The following is from the mayor’s speech given at the switching on ceremony:
“For many years Ramsgate has offered to its visitors all the usual amenities expected of a popular seaside resort, at the same time preserving the natural characteristics with which the town is endowed.
“Our first “publicity officer” of Victorian days – the artist Frith – saw to it that our sands were made famous the world over.
“Our Royal Harbour, now nearing its bi-centenery, has long been, and still is, a joy to those who love the sea and the little ships – so immortalised in 1940 when the little ships came to Ramsgate to play their gallant part in the evacuation of Dunkirk.
Happy Holiday Ingredients.
“Our promenades, parks and cliffs have a special appeal.
“We cater fully for our friends who prefer the popular outdoor sports, be it bowls, tennis, hockey, cricket or football.
“We boast of our bracing air and our southern aspect. The hospitality of our people is proverbial. In fact, we claim all the ingredients of a happy holiday.
“And so, perhaps, we could have rested on our laurels, assured that our visitors would always come to us.
“But, if I may say so, that has not for many years been the attitude of the local governing body and other who have laboured for their town. It was, therefore, not altogether a surprise that with the advent of the Festival of Britain we should consider in what way we could utilise the charming setting of our harbour and the sea front to give enjoyment in a worthwhile fashion, to provide something new that would attract visitors from near and far, and enhance our reputation as a holiday town.
“This Festival of Light is the result.
“We have the glory of sun by day. We shall now have the beauty of light by night.
Ten Miles of Wire
“Aided by specialist firms, we have created the Festival from a blank piece of paper over many months. The Festival cannot be seen as a whole from any one point. Some ten miles of wire and 25,000 lamps have gone to make up its sections and we have still a little more to come.
“We may ponder over the beauty of the waterfall at Madeira-walk, or search out for our amusement our Alfie up to his many pranks; Mary, Mary, like perhaps so many of that name, quite contrary; the Pied Piper; the animal and bird sanctuary about our waterfall, or the West Cliff gardens, and such features as the monkery and others too numerous to mention at this moment. We believe that children of all ages will spend happy hours among these amusing and in some cases very artistic features, many of which are being seen for the first time.
A Co-operative Effort
“May I say here that the Festival of Light is a co-operative effort. During the autumn I approached a group of traders, mainly on the sea front to contribute towards the substantial capital expenditure involved in the scheme. I met with most enthusiastic response, and they have promised no less than £1,500 a year. With that great help, the council decided to go ahead, realising that the Festival of Light could be an annual attraction which would make Ramsgate the Blackpool of the South. In fact, in the years to come, Blackpool may even be known as the Ramsgate of the North………………..”