The First Final Day…

Thursday February 3rd was the date for the parade, but as we all now know, high winds put paid to that plan.

We made the decision to postpone the event sooner rather than later. Gilly and I had discussed the matter en route to work. Given that the forecast was for extraordinary weather and that it was due to escalate at precisely the time when the parade would be setting off, there seemed little point in making the decision at lunch time. I went straight in to a meeting that was already convened – senior management of the school, plus Sandra and Karen, the school’s administrator. They were of the same mind as Gilly and I and so the decision was made there and then.

We still had an assembly, but not one that raised expectations. The decision was explained, to palpable disappointment from the children. One little boy gave a great sigh whilst clutching his heart. We explained that the event should be enjoyable, should facilitate conversation and observations. If we were all struggling to remain upright with lanterns straining, the experience would be one of anxiety and stress. As one child put it

“I would feel that I wanted to go home…”

The disappointment of bad news was balanced by the hope of good news – that the event would take place the week after and that there was a prize draw to be held in anticipation. Every family who came to workshops had their names put in a hat. The winning ticket would guarantee a £20 voucher for Asda for the adults, and the prize of prizes for the child, to be the Official Bearer of The Scissors for the Lanterns Parade. I drew out the ticket and a brother and sister came to claim their prize. There was then a walk- through of the ceremony, with a child playing the Mayor receiving the scissors from The Bearer, and miming cutting the ribbon after the countdown led by the Chair of the school council and the whole school shouting ‘go!’

When I returned to the workshop, Janette and Kayleigh were writing a poem, railing at the weather for raining on their parade. Loretta commented on how the atmosphere had changed in an instant. Adrenaline levels had dropped and everyone was somewhat down in the mouth. We kept on going for the rest of the day, consciously pushing ourselves to get everything ready. It was working against the wind in more ways than one…

Late morning, the choir turned up at the workshop. We were to be visited by Wayne Allen and other presenters from the local radio station, TFM.

The prize winning lantern, 2010

Last year, Year 6 raised £1000 towards this year’s parade by winning a competition for the most original way to promote the station’s morning show ‘Wake up with Wayne’.

They made their lantern a tribute to Wayne and walked away with the prize.

Wayne, Matt and Amy, the show’s presenters, were  genuinely interested in the children and their lanterns. They wanted to discover more about them and pledged to talk about them on their show in forthcoming days. The choir sang for them and for us – a new arrangement of ‘When you Wish Upon a Star’ and then the band Ash’s song, ‘Shining Light’.

Roman candles that burn in the night
Yeah, you are a shining light
You lit a torch in the infinite
Yeah, you are a shining light
Yeah, you light up my life

‘When you wish upon a star…’

There is something about children singing that usually brings a tear to my eye. The combination of these children singing these songs with such gusto and evident enjoyment and the context of the event postponement made for proper crying.

I had to head for the corridor, where I found Sandra in a similar state. One child said ‘I saw you. Why were you crying?’ ‘Because it was so beautiful. You don’t have to be sad to cry.’

It was a great interruption to the day. After lunch, we picked ourselves up and forged our way through the afternoon. Kayleigh decided that the star of children’s wishes needed more work to come up to our exacting standards and so took it on, with Lisa and others, to get it ready for next week.

The medical students returned and an abiding memory for me is them working with young Katy, covering the robot lantern. She asked things of them

‘Why don’t you start a lanterns parade at your school? It’s really good.’

Katy and her team

She discovered new things

‘I thought Sweden was at the bottom of the world…’

and taught them a thing or two about covering a lantern. Delightful, and I am not sure it would have happened had we been at full pelt, working towards the event.

A Hall full of Lanterns



By 4.30pm, we had done as much as we could do, and we left the lanterns in the hall, almost ready for a parade.


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