Published: Saturday, 14th October 2023

Christmas lights will once again shine across Medway’s town centres, thanks to three companies working with Medway Council.

After Medway Council announced it had made the difficult financial decision to not fund Christmas lights in its five main town centres, three companies that work closely with the unitary authority came forward to offer their help.

Norse Group, Marston Holdings and VolkerHighways have joined forces to provide their financial support to install and cover the costs of running Christmas lights in Chatham, Gillingham, Rochester, Rainham and Strood high streets.

Incredibly heartened by the generous offer

Leader of Medway Council, Cllr Vince Maple, said: “I am incredibly heartened by the generous offer of all three companies. Their corporate support means it is now possible to have Christmas lights in all five town centres this year. My personal thanks to Norse Group, Marston Holdings and VolkerHighways.

“Our decision to not use taxpayers’ money to fund Christmas lights and switch-on events saves the council £75,000. With a 91 per cent cut in government funding since 2010 and a £17million gap in this year’s budget, I remain resolutely determined to balance our books, even if that means further difficult decisions.”

Make the most of what Medway has to offer

Keith Hanshaw, Client Services Director, at Marston Holdings, said: “We are pleased to be able to support Medway’s Christmas lights. We hope that this will encourage residents and visitors to make the most of what Medway has to offer during the festive period, as well as support local businesses.”

Hope the lights bring some Christmas cheer

Alistair Thompson, Managing Director of VolkerHighways commented on the sponsorship: “We are pleased to help support Medway Council for their Christmas light display this Christmas. We hope that the lights bring some Christmas cheer to the residents and visitors of Medway during the festive season.”

Although the switch-on events will not be taking place this year, families can book to meet the children’s characters Miraculous Ladybug, Chase from Paw Patrol and Bluey at Strood, Gillingham and Rainham libraries. Chatham will hold a Christmas parade and Rochester will hold various Christmas events, including the popular Dickensian Christmas Festival.

Free Christmas bus travel in Medway

Medway Council has also secured government funding to provide free bus travel in and around Medway on Saturday, 9 and Sunday, 10 December (up to 8pm). This includes single journeys on any Medway bus operator.

Cllr Simon Curry, Portfolio Holder of Climate Change and Strategic Regeneration at Medway Council, said: “I am delighted that we have secured external funding to offer our residents free bus travel for one weekend leading up to Christmas. This offer, at no cost to the taxpayer, will help support our local businesses, regular bus users and will also give residents the chance to ditch their vehicles and use public transport for free and help the climate we live in.”

Free Christmas parking in Medway

In support of local businesses and to encourage residents to stay local this Christmas, Medway Council is offering two free days of parking across all of the car parks it owns: on Saturday, 16 and Sunday, 17 December.

Cllr Lauren Edwards, Portfolio Holder for Economic and Social Regeneration and Inward Investment at Medway Council, said: “Despite the council’s incredibly challenging financial situation, where we are able to help our residents and business communities, we will. I am pleased that we will be waiving the parking fees on two dates, over a weekend, just before Christmas. This will allow people who work in Medway to park for free, as well as encourage residents to shop local and visit one of the many fantastic restaurants over the festive period. We are fortunate in Medway to not only have bespoke shops in five main high streets, but other wonderful stores and businesses dotted across our towns. Please do tick off those Christmas lists by shopping local this year.”

Christmas in Medway

Get festive in Medway this year by enjoying one of the many events and activities in the run-up to Christmas.

  • Saturday, 18 November - Christmas parade in Chatham
  •  Saturday, 25 November to Sunday 10 December - three weekends of Rochester’s Christmas Market
  • Saturday, 25 November to Sunday, 10 December (weekends only) - a new magical children’s Christmas village in Rochester Castle Grounds
  • Saturday, 2 and Sunday, 3 December - Dickensian Christmas Festival
  • Saturday, 2 December to Sunday, 7 January - Victorian traditions at Eastgate House, including:
    • Sunday, 10, Saturday, 16 and Sunday, 17 December – immersive adaption of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ at Eastgate House
    • Monday, 18 December to Saturday, 23 December – meet the traditional Victorian Father Christmas at Eastgate House
  • Friday, 8 to Sunday, 31 December - Aladdin, pantomime at The Central Theatre in Chatham.
  • Saturday, 9 to Saturday, 23 December - naughty elves on shelves at The Guildhall Museum

Meet children’s characters at Medway libraries. Book online with a library card, by phoning 01634 337799 or visiting any Medway Library. The sessions will take place:

  • Miraculous Ladybug: Strood Community Hub, Friday, 17 November, 2-2.30pm, 3.45-4.15pm and 5-530pm.
  • Chase from Paw Patrol: Gillingham Community Hub, on Friday, 24 November, 2-230pm, 3.45-4.15pm and 5-530pm.
  • Bluey: Rainham Library, Friday, 1 December, 2-230pm, 3.45-4.15pm and 5-530pm.
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