Fury as 'beautiful' lighting given by Sam Mendes film crew torn down

Fury as ‘beautiful’ festoon lighting on Margate seafront that was donated by film crew working on new Sam Mendes film is torn down after killjoy council chiefs ruled they were too BRIGHT

  • Council chiefs have refused seafront festoon lighting from director Sam Mendes
  • They said the decorative lighting installed for ‘Empire of Light’ was too bright 
  • And refused the donation from Television company Neal Street Productions

Residents are furious at council chiefs for refusing lighting on its town’s seafront because it was ‘too bright’ after it was donated by film crew working for award-winning director Sam Mendes. 

The decorative seafront festoon lighting which stretches half a mile along Margate, Kent was installed as part of upcoming romance flick ‘Empire of Light’ starring Olivia Coleman and Colin Firth. 

The film crew, who were in the town for nearly seven months and brought £4million into the local economy, made the offer to gift the lights to the town after positive feedback from residents and traders. 

But council officers refused to accept the offer from television company Neal Street Productions following an investigation into the cost of keeping the lights. 

Residents are furious at council chiefs for refusing lighting (pictured before it was removed) on its town’s seafront because it was ‘too bright’ after it was donated by film crew working for award-winning director Sam Mendes

The film crew, who were in the town for nearly seven months and brought £4million into the local economy, made the offer to gift the lights to the town after positive feedback from residents and traders (pictured before they were taken down)

Thanet District Council (TDC) also said the decorations were damaged by wet weather before it took them down on Friday.

The council said this means they are unsuitable for long-term use on the seafront, and cannot be easily dimmed, meaning they could cause car accidents and contribute to light pollution.

TDC said in a statement: ‘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.’ 

Disappointed residents have taken to social media to express their anger at the decision.

Writing on Facebook, Jane Cadman said: ‘They [TDC] just don’t want the cost of maintenance.’

Lee Carpenter added: ‘Thought they looked nice when lit up but oh no too expensive for TDC to run even if they got £4million for the filming.’

While Sara Ransom asked: ‘Wonder what they’re going to do with the lights? They are beautiful.

‘Funny that they weren’t declared as ‘unsafe’ all the while filming was going on.’

Other locals said the addition of brighter lighting had actually made them feel safer walking along the seafront late at night.

Locals said the addition of brighter lighting had actually made them feel safer walking along the seafront late at night (before the lights were taken down)

Thanet District Council (TDC) also said the decorations were damaged by wet weather before it took them down on Friday (before the lights were taken down)


The decorative lighting which stretches half a mile along Margate, Kent was installed as part of upcoming romance flick ‘Empire of Light’ starring Olivia Coleman (right) and Colin Firth (left). Both stars are pictured while filming scenes from the film which involves a love story and takes place in an English coastal cinema during the 1980s

Amy Bass said: ‘So we all pay council tax and all we wanted was some cute lights that woman even said made them feel more comfortable walking along that road at night and we cant have them.

‘No surprise from the council there to be honest. Such a shame.’

A spokesperson for TDC said: ‘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 long-term 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.’

Olivia Colman was seen building sandcastles on the beach as she shot scenes for romantic movie Empire Of Light alongside her co-star Micheal Ward

TDC confirmed they had made the ‘difficult’ decision to decline the offer.

The spokesperson added: ‘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 street scene, we confirm that having fully considered the factors already listed, we have taken the difficult decision to decline the offer.’

The Empire of Light team say the £4million they contributed to the local economy is through the likes of venue hire, security, office space, and accommodation, over the duration of filming – which began in November and wrapped up on Thursday.

Councillors have contacted the crew to ask if the infrastructure can remain so better lights can be installed.

The spokesperson said: ‘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.’

The film producer and director Sam Mendes has worked on film war epic 1917, James Bond movie Skyfall and Revolutionary Road. 

This latest flick, which also stars Micheal Ward, is Mendes’ first solo screenplay.

The film is scheduled to be released in the Autumn of 2022 and will be produced by Pippa Harris. 

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