Background on the lights of Longford Road (written December 2012)
Reading all the inaccuracies and sensationalism in some major news articles and all the negative comments that these articles bring I have decided I would finally like to write some true facts and information about the Longford Road lights from the person who actually does it. Hopefully from reading this you will have a better understanding why I do it and how it is done rather than just hearing third party comments and made-
My name is Alex Goodhind and I am 28. I own and run an Electrical and Audio/Visual company in Wiltshire called Kanconnections.
I started the lights in Longford Road 17 years ago. I was 11 years old and back then Christmas displays on houses here in England were few and far between. There were only two I knew of and to me these displays were utterly amazing. The most local one to me was in Hazelwood Road, Melksham. The owner , Micky Perin sadly no longer does the display, but back when he did it was amazing. Year after year I use to walk down there or persuade mum to take a detour down to this road when we were out and about, she must have got a bit fed up with it after the 20th night in a row, but nevertheless she would drive me down there without hesitation for me to gaze in awe at the display. They had illuminated figures (known as blow molds) of Santas and Snowmen, they had a waving and moving father Christmas on the roof, icicle lights and moving reindeer. All of these were completely unheard of in the UK in the early nineties. The owners use to take a trip to America every now and then and bring these items back with them. There was also a house in Box, just down the road from my Grandparents house, which was also amazing. They had an old steam engine in the garden with lights around the wheels to make it look like they were moving, they had a big santa and reindeer with moving legs, and big Christmas cracker. Sadly they also have ceased doing their display, however you can now see there display as part of ours in 2012 as they decided to pack in doing the display and I bought it all from them to integrate into my display.
At the age of 11 and having a keen interest in electrics from an early age (I was more interested in wires and plugs at 3 years old than I was with toys) and being inspired by the above displays I set out to put a few lights up on the outside of my parents house in christmas 1995. The display consisted of about 5 strings of low voltage lights draped across the house and a couple in the trees, along with the coloured lanterns my dad bought years earlier which he use to put up in a tree in the garden (17 years later, these lanterns still sit over the drive as a memory of what started it all) it took me hours to do and the cables passed through an open window and plugged in to a extension lead but afterwards I stood back and was quite proud of what I had achieved.
So after a fantastic two week holiday a couple of hours before the flight home we were all frantically packing up to come home. Clothes were being sacrificed for light storage space in suitcases, I was pleading with my dad and uncle to buy even more lights, they were just trying to get the lights I already had into suitcases, I was just excited as we were going home and I had loads of lights to put up. So once we had packed as much as we could, I sadly agreed we would have to leave the blow-
Back in England I started putting up the lights. Being a different voltage in the UK to America I had to use a 240v to 110v transformer, unfortunately the first one I tried melted! After weeks of hard work, this was the result…
Picture of Christmas 2002
As well as lights from America, me and my mum also built a big Santa and reindeer frame to go in the middle of the wall, you can just see the end of it in this picture. This frame survived right up until 2009, when it finally fell apart, Christmas 2003 was much the same as Christmas 2002.
The next significant development was me losing all sense of self-
Picture Christmas 2004
Now well into lighting up my house and a fair few years of doing it under my belt I decided to take the next step and put blow-
Picture of Christmas 2005
In 2006 life changed for all of us, my mum passed away after losing her battle with pancreatic cancer; it devastated us all. Anyone who knew Gill, knew what an amazingly generous and loving lady she was, she would have done anything for anyone and we all miss her terribly. As a tribute to her I decided to carry on the display for 2006, and now started raising money for Dorothy House Hospice who cared for my mum in her final weeks. I was featured in a book this year called 'Christmas Houses' with pictures of the 2004 display and a brief history of how and why I did the display up to that point.
Pictures of Christmas 2006
It was clear in 2006 that I had exceeded the capacity of the incoming mains supply to our house. During 2006 we couldn't use any high load appliances such as a kettle as the display was running at 95 amps and our main supply to the house was rated at 100 amps so during summer 2007 I knew the display was only going to grow and the only way for this to happen was to upgrade the incoming supply to the house. After several letters to the local electrical distribution company (Southern Electric) who have offices in Melksham, they agreed to do a very special price for the installation of a 300A 3-
Christmas 2007 was bigger and better than before, now with a 300 amp supply to play with and permission of my dad to use the whole driveway for lights there was no stopping me. 2007 display saw large figures along the fence line, the main trees fully wrapped, lots more blowmoulded figures in the driveway and of course a lot more on the roof! This year attracted a lot of media attention, including ITV who did a live weather report from the house, We also topped £2000 in donations which was the most we had ever collected for charity
Picture of Christmas 2007
Christmas 2008 was much the same as the previous years, it attracted quite a bit of media attention, which I didn't like at all, but they use to just turn up and there was not a lot I could do about it. I learned how the newspapers just make stuff up if they don't have all the information. Such things were said like 'Alex Goodwind' spends £30,000 a year on lights, that I do it to 'outshine the rest' false comments like this attracted many negative comments on the associated papers websites and made me very angry, however there was nothing I could do once they were published. Let me tell you, spread over 17 years the display may well have cost around £20,000, but how on earth anyone thinks that I could or would spend over that in one year is beyond me! In the later years of the display, I was probably spending around £2000 a year on lights, no more. These comments use to really hurt me after all the effort I put into the display, the readers who left these comments did not see what it was for, just the sensationalism of the title. One comment read 'this idiot spends £30,000 on lights each year but only hands over £3000 to charity, what an idiot' well if the article was correct, they would have known I probably spent only £2000 or less on lights, and if I handed that straight to charity, one they would have had less money and two it would also not of brightened up the December months for so many people.
The reason I started the display was I loved the way Christmas lights made me feel all warm and happy inside all those years ago, the reason I continued to do it as I got older is that I could see I was making others feel the same and it started making a lot of money for charities that were close to my heart. If it was just a couple of sets of lights and 'tasteful' as many of the comments say it isn't then it would not have the 'wow' factor that gets people flocking to see the display from all over the country. Some of these people who left these awful negative comments really should come and make the effort to see the display, have a look at the smiles on the faces of kids and adults alike, see the money flowing into the charity box, see my neighbours walking around with mulled wine and sausage rolls and see the other houses in the street lit up. Maybe then they would have thought twice about commenting the way they have. I do not do it for any personal attention and I have shied away from the TV companies wanting to do documentaries on me as I want it to be about the lights, not about me! I'll leave that to the people that will do anything to get themselves on TV.
Christmas 2009 saw the house covered to the point I didn't have any more space left, significant developments this year was a computer controlled donation board and a lot more lights on the roof, also the big santa and sleigh frame in the middle of the wall that me and my mum built in 2002 was replaced with a newer one with more detail and moving legs. The display consumed 200 amps this year, used around 400 metres of cable, 60 waterproof connection boxes. This year saw the most ever visitors to the display and we topped the previous year in donations reaching over £4000. I did start to tire of the display in 2009. My business was going well and I did not have the time that I used to to spend on the display. The enthusiasm and the excitement I used to feel when gettng out the lights and putting them up had almost gone and it became a chore. Most people don't realise this but it takes over your life to some extent. The lights aren't down until almost February, then by September you are getting them all out again to test and prepare them. October and November are then taken up with putting the lights up which in 2009 took 6 weeks, then December is when they are lit. Then, in January, down they come. That's a fair chunk of the year you are involved with the lights!, you do that for 17 years and it starts to take its toll. Anyway, the lights went up and on for 2009
Picture of Christmas 2009
The lights were packed up in January 2010 and I did plan to return for a 2010 display, however October came, work was very busy and the last thing on my mind was Christmas lights. So for December 2010 for the first time since 1995. No.1 Longford Road was dark. Many rumours went around for reasons why I didn't do the display. The ones I heard were 'I had lost my job' 'I had moved away' 'I had fallen off a ladder and broken my arm' Well if you don't have the facts then make it up I guess! The reason 2010 had no lights is I was far too busy and didn't have the enthusiasm for it.
2011 came and Christmas lights were still the last thing on my mind, with business booming and new contracts coming in, my focus was solely on work and my new lovely girlfriend Sarah. Anyone who asked if I was doing the lights was met by me saying that that was it for the lights, 17 years, I had done my time. I stuck to that until I learned that the house in Box, one of the displays that inspired me from the beginning was packing up for good and wanted to sell his display....could I resist?....when I learned of this I jumped straight in the car and drove over to Box. Banging on the door I was met by George. I think my words were, apart from hello, were, 'do you still have the lights'. It turned out he did and I explained I wanted them as they were what had inspired me and that I would be devastated if they went to anyone else. We agreed I would be back in the morning to collect them...My plan of giving up doing the display had gone out the window! So, early the next morning me and my neighbour Gwillum were on our way to Box. It took us three journey loads but eventually the items that influenced my display over the years were standing in my drive. So for 2011 I just put these items up in a more modest display. It was a fresh change from 6 weeks work to two days!
Pictures of Christmas 2011
2012 came and I still was not sure if I was going to bring back the main display. With two years off and a lot of work on, even though I now had the extra lights from Box in storage I still definitely did not have Christmas lights as a priority. As the months drew on more and more people asked if I was doing it.The answer was still no..err, possibly...no. Sat in the pub one day with one of my oldest and dearest mates, Kim Bailey (I also mean that literally as he is old) he told me that if I did the lights again he would help me with it for the full duration. With some physical and moral support on board, I gave doing the display again some consideration. September 2012 came and I decided I would go for it again. Maybe I was drunk, maybe I was just in a good mood. I don't know but with a order placed for a load of new lights I was now committed. True to his word. Kim was there when he said he was ready to help me get this show on the road. We worked tirelessly for six solid weeks putting work on hold and working out in all weathers. We bickered, threw stuff at each other but we got there in the end and on December 1st 2012 the display was back, bigger than ever. This year also saw my friends from Melksham Christmas Lights, who do the town lights, offering to get on board with my display which was fantastic. They helped me put lights in the big conker tree on the pavement, supplied 'snowfall' lights to go in the main trees outside the house. They also supplied snow machines which are a big hit. These guys are amazing; the lights in Melksham town centre are the best for miles around and they are all volunteers, absolutely incredible. Not only did Kim spend six weeks helping me put up the lights, he also dresses up as Santa and stands outside most nights! The kids and adults absolutely love it. He is joined by his team of Elfs which so far have been Craig Armstrong, Kev Hilman and Eddie Owens. I cannot put into words what his input has been like, he likes Christmas more than I do. Furthermore Paul Weymouth, who is the main man behind Melksham Christmas lights, has been fantastic.... he has even been dressing up as a reindeer to help raise money for our charity, standing alongside Santa and his chief Elf.
So there you have it, a brief as possible history of the lights, the real facts of why I do it. I don't currently know what the future holds and if there will be a 2013 display. But if you want to bring a smile to your face come down to Longford Road during December 2012 between 5 and 10 each night and come and meet Santa and his team.
I would just like to thank my Father, Colin, who's house this display in on! Without his support throughout the years, letting me drill holes in his wall and cover his house in lights, dig up his drive to lay a new main to the house, filling his sheds with lights, cracking his roof tiles! none of this would have been possible. He is truly an amazing and generous man, his and my mums comments over the years of 'oh god, Alex, that's enough now, not more lights' just made it that all more exciting. I'm sure they had a chuckle or two as they saw large santas hovering past their windows as I ascended the ladder. Either that or they were close to disowning me, if they were, they never let on!
My thanks also to Melksham Christmas Lights with Paul Weymouth & Graham Fryer, for their support, Kim Bailey for his tireless efforts, Kev Hilman, Craig Armstrong, and Eddie Owen, the Elfs! And also to my amazing Girlfriend Sarah Hudd for putting up with me being tired and stressed for the last six weeks while working on the lights, I couldn't of done it without her understanding and cooperation.
Written December 2012 by
Facts for 2012
This is the 17th year the display has been up for
The light display is owned by Electrician, Alex Goodhind, aged 28
The lights were started in 1995
The display draws 230 Amps at 230 Volts
The incoming supply to the property is a 300 Amp three-
The display used 600 metres of cable, 70 waterproof connection boxes, two thousand cable ties, 200 metres of steel restraining wire.
The display has around 180, 000 bulbs
The following year I did the same, but added a couple more light sets while still traveling down to Hazelwood and Box to get more inspiration. Then in 2000 my dream came true, Me and my father were going to America on Holiday to stay with my uncle who lives in Pheonix and then before we came home, and inspired by Hazelwood Road's idea, I planned to buy a load of exciting American lights! Unfortunately for my father, my idea of 'a few lights' and his were very different. After the 10th trip to Home Depot and Sears and with my uncles spare room quickly filling with lights, the look on both their faces was of humour and worry. I was just interested in buying as many lights as I could, my dad was more focused on how in the world we were going to get them all home and my uncle was probably just looking forward to getting his house back!
Pictures of Christmas 2000
I was so happy with what I had achieved, even in 2000 there were hardly any houses that were lit up in the UK like this. A couple of other houses in the street started putting some up after my being inspired by my 2000 display, including Barry Hammond at no 7. It was such a nice feeling knowing that I was now inspiring others like I had been inspired by my idol displays.
The next few years were much the same, I reused the same lights and the same patterns, until 2002 when my parents extended the house, which gave me a new blank canvas! Now I didn't have anywhere enough lights to cover the new part of the house and domestic light suppliers in the UK were still rare, although DIY stores were starting to get more of a range. So with an invite from my friend to California, off I went back to the states again. This time introducing my oldest friend Andy to the delights (or he might say otherwise) of stuffing as many lights into 3 suitcases as you can. Back from the states and luckily avoiding another excess baggage charge this was the result for Christmas 2002