How the people of Port Talbot came together to make Christmas special

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All the magic of Christmas came back to Port Talbot at the weekend when huge crowds gathered to celebrate the festive season and their community with a special parade through the town centre.

The night had been in preparation for some time with organisers saying they wanted to ensure children were given a wonderful and memorable experience after complaints about last year’s tree.

In the end so many people turned up that the huge numbers took organisers by surprise.



Santa in the new Christmas tree by the station



One of the stars at the Christmas lights switch on in Port Talbot

Children’s faces lit up when the lights on the new Christmas trees were switched on with choirs singing carols and community groups all turning out in force to take part in the event.

This year Aberavon RFC took the lead in organising the event, with help from a number of county councillors and local residents.

A fundraising page saw generous donations reach more than £11,000 while six local councillors donated a further £10,000 from their community funds.

Port Talbot ward councillor Saifur Rahaman said it was “absolutely fantastic” to see so many people attend, and thanked Aberavon RFC and all those who donated or helped in making the event happen.



A huge crowd turned out to take part in the first Christmas parade in Port Talbot for years

He said: “The smiles on little faces were among my highlights of the event, as this is what Christmas is all about.

“The amount of people who turned up on Sunday proves that we in Port Talbot can achieve anything if we have the mindset to make a difference in our community.”

On social media, local residents said Port Talbot had brought Christmas back to the town and it would be a lasting memory for the children, saying it was brilliant to see all the excited, happy faces.

Cllr Sharon Freeguard, who also represents Port Talbot, said:  “After last year and the disappointing tree we wanted to make sure that Christmas in Port Talbot was wonderful.

“We wanted the switch on to be a wonderful experience and memorable for the children.

“It’s been a fantastic community effort with lots of organisations from Aberavon, Port Talbot and Taibach coming together to join in the parade.

“A big thank you to Aberavon RFC and obviously Michael Sheen who kickstarted the fundraising but to everyone who donated.

“There were so many people involved which was brilliant, it wasn’t down to any one person.



Spreading some Christmas magic in Port Talbot

“And a big thank you to everyone who came out for the night, we were so pleased with the turn-out.

“The children’s faces were an absolute picture, when the lights went on their faces lit up.

“It was truly amazing and that’s what makes Christmas.

“Hopefully this will be the first of many – we want to develop it for next year.”

The funds raised helped to buy both a traditional tree, in place by the civic centre, and a modern walk-through tree by the transport hub with children having their picture taken inside the tree’s arch.

Additional Christmas decorations and garlands were also bought for the town.

Aberavon RFC’s chairman Andrew John said the aim was to spread as much Christmas spirit as possible and thanked all those who took part.



All kinds of community groups took part in the celebrations

Neighbouring communities also got involved with Cwmavon donating £900 from their own Christmas lights fundraising pot.

Lee Harris, who took a photo of a crowded Station Road, attended the event with his partner Tammara and their three-year-old daughter Lillie-Rose.

He said: “We thoroughly enjoyed the parade and the Christmas lights switch-on.

“Our daughter loved it, it was fantastic for the town and nice to have it back in Port Talbot.

“When I was younger there was always a parade which went down Station Road – hopefully it will get better and better.”



Crowds line a street in Port Talbot for the Christmas parade

Neath Port Talbot Council stopped funding Christmas decorations in 2014.

Aberavon ward councillor Nigel Thomas Hunt said: “The community had expressed disappointment with the festive spirit shown in Port Talbot in recent years.

“Six councillors in Aberafan and Port Talbot got together with Aberafan RFC and pledged a sum from our members fund with Aberafan RFC setting up a fundraising page.

“We had a hyper boost when Michael Sheen and his friends Neil Gaiman and David Arnold pledged further monies.”



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