26 May, 2022

Margate Seafront festoon lighting

Neal Street Productions installed decorative festoon lighting along Margate seafront, from Nayland Rock to the Margate Harbour Arm, as part of the staging for director Sam Mendes’ feature film, Empire of Light.

Following a positive reaction from local residents and businesses, Neal Street Productions made a formal offer to gift the lights to the town of Margate, once they reached the end of filming. Thursday 26 May is currently scheduled to be the final day of filming in Margate.

Council officers, in consultation with the Kent County Council Highways team, conducted an investigation into the likely running costs, ongoing energy and maintenance costs and fees for testing and licensing that would be incurred, should the lights be taken on by Thanet District Council.

During the course of the investigation, we were informed by Neal Street Productions that they were experiencing ongoing technical issues with the lights, which had been installed as all-weather equipment, but which were in fact suffering from water ingress during wet weather due to a manufacturing fault. On this basis, these lights are not considered to be suitably resilient for longterm use in the seafront location, and would not withstand the ongoing impact of the weather that they would inevitably be subjected to.

In addition to concerns over the resilience of the lights to wind and rain, the existing lights do not have controls installed to allow them to be timer activated, and cannot easily be dimmed. Currently, the lights are too bright to pass a road safety assessment and add to light pollution in the area, with potential impacts on the environment and biodiversity.

Now that filming is drawing to a close, Neal Street will be starting to remove the lights on Friday 27 May. While the lights were a positive addition to the Margate streetscene, we confirm that having fully considered the factors already listed, we have taken the difficult decision to decline the offer.

We understand that the Margate Charter Trustees have contacted the Empire of Light production team to ascertain if any part of the infrastructure could remain, to facilitate the installation of more suitable and robust replacement lights.

Festoon lights on Margate Seafront being removed by person standing on raised platform
Credit: John Horton/Isle of Thanet News – Production team removing festoon lights
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