A NEW Christmas festival to replace Dunster by Candlelight was unveiled this week as volunteers set to work to raise funds to put on the event.

‘Dunster Winter Festival’ will take place this year over the weekend of December 6 to 8 and continue the traditions which visitors have come to love, such as lanterns providing atmospheric lighting, entertainment in the village, and Dunster Castle and other venues opening to the public. 

The new festival name was suggested by Gaynor Gough and was chosen by committee members from nearly 150 different entries.

Committee members felt it was a name which best reflected their plans, and they thanked schoolchildren, residents, and visitors for taking the time to enter the naming competition.

Dunster Castle will be one of the village attractions open during the new Dunster Winter Festival, in December.
Dunster Castle will be one of the village attractions open during the new Dunster Winter Festival, in December. (Alain Lockyer)

Ms Gough received a gift voucher from the Dunster Living interior shop as a prize for coming up with the winning name.

Now, the committee members are focusing on raising essential financial support to continue a Christmas event which over the past nearly 40 years has brought thousands of visitors to the area.

Village traders had been shocked when Dunster by Candlelight founder Hannah Bradshaw announced in December that the festival, which started in 1986, was being axed.

Mrs Bradshaw said it had grown too large and expensive and complicated to continue to be organised by its long-serving committee members, some of whom were now quite elderly.

‘Candlelight’ had provided an important boost to the local economy and a promotion opportunity for businesses of all types.

A new committee was formed following a public meeting last month and members were pleased to hear that some funding had already been pledged.

Any businesses and organisations interested in discussing how they might become involved in the new event are being asked to contact the team by emailing [email protected].

Committee member David Noad said: “We had an incredible response from the local community, residents and traders alike, who want to support a new event.

“The name ‘Dunster Winter Festival’ best describes how the event has evolved, keeping the elements visitors love and adding new ones.

“There will be more ways to be involved too, from joining workshops to learn some of the skills of our talented local craftspeople, to storytelling.

“The committee and wider village are galvanised to ensure we put on a great weekend’s entertainment for our visitors.

“Now, we need to raise the financial support needed to deliver an amazing event.”

One of the event objectives is to support the attractions which draw people to Dunster, including parks, gardens, historic buildings, and even the public toilets.

Mr Noad said: “Like so many other villages in our area, local government funding has been reduced over recent years, so any profits will offer a welcome financial boost to the charities and organisations that work tirelessly all year round to keep places open for everybody, from nearby and further afield.”

More information about Dunster Winter Festival can be found by visiting a village website here or by going to a newly set up social media page here.