Milestone Lane in Earsham, near Bungay, has once again been transformed into a Winter Wonderland this Christmas thanks to an amazing light display at the home of villager Keith Penn.
Keith’s display is raising money in aid of All Hallows Day Centre in the nearby village of Ditchingham, where Empanda delivers a service for older people with different levels of care and support needs offering therapeutic day care and an opportunity to have fun, socialise and take part in activities whilst giving family carers a well-earned break.
Keith started his annual Christmas light display back in 2007/8 which won him the Best Light Display in the Village Award and a prize of £20 from Earsham Parish Council (an award he has subsequently won on two further occasions), which he added to the £30 raised from donations that year.
Over the years, as people have become more aware of Keith’s display and make the trip to see it for themselves, his annual fundraising total has grown steadily from the initial £30 to an amazing £600 raised in 2020/21.
Ursula, Keith’s mother, attended the day care service at All Hallows once a week in 2005/6. When it was suggested that Keith should raise money for charity from his light display, this gave him the idea of donating to All Hallows Day Centre where his mother had enjoyed spending time. To date, he has raised just over £3,000, which includes proceeds from his tombola stall at the annual Earsham summer fete in 2019.
Putting on such a display is no mean feat, with preparations starting as early as October, when Keith draws up plans to show where everything will go. He then takes the lights and displays down from the loft during the first week in November when the mammoth task of installation begins in readiness for the 1 December ‘switch on’.
The amazing display includes 270 separate pieces, ranging from 1,000 lights in a single piece, to about 20 lights in the smaller pieces, such as the animals. Altogether, there are 42,443 bulbs and 270 plugs.
Keith said, “It’s always a pleasure putting the lights up – not so much taking them down because everything needs to be dismantled and dried off before being boxed up and returned to the loft. I usually complete this process by the end of the first week in February and then adjust my plans for the following year. It’s so dark after the lights come down which seems really strange, but it’s very rewarding to hear the positive comments from people, particularly the children, some of whom draw pictures and post them with their donations. I hope to continue with my display for the foreseeable future and thank everyone for their support and taking the trouble to comment.”
All Hallows Day Centre Manager, Linda Robinson said, “We can’t thank Keith enough for the money he has raised for our day care service over the last 15 years, and for all his hard work in creating these fabulous Christmas light displays. I really get a lot of pleasure in going to see Keith’s lights every year, his display is truly amazing.”
She added, “We have been able to buy so many things to help keep our day centre customers stimulated and active, including iPads, Alexa Shows and a Nintendo Wii. Some of the money has been used to take people on outings, and to have visitors to the Centre including Minidonks (miniature donkeys for wellbeing) and The Owl Sanctuary. The money has also enabled us to book many live entertainers over the years and our equipment cupboard has been regularly replenished with therapeutic and fun activities, all thanks to Keith’s generosity, for which we are truly grateful.”
“A special ‘thank you’ also goes to each and every member of the community who go along to enjoy the lights and generously donate and to previous sponsor Clean & Dry Laundry and Dry Cleaning Services in Bungay who continue to make a small donation towards the light display.
For anyone wanting to visit the display at Woodcroft in Milestone Lane, it is open each year from 1 December through to 5/6 January. People can enjoy the display daily from 3.45pm to 10.00pm, with the exception of Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day when the lights are on from 11.00am – midnight.