Empire of Light Margate: Fury as ‘beautiful’ garland lighting donated by Sam Mendes film aborted

Residents are furious with city officials for refusing lighting on the city’s coast because it was “too bright” after it was donated by a film crew working for award-winning director Sam Mendes.

The decorative coastal garland lighting that stretches half a mile past Margate, Kent was installed as part of the upcoming romance film ‘Empire of Light’ starring Olivia Coleman and Colin Firth.

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

But city officials declined to accept the offer from television company Neal Street Productions after an investigation into the cost of keeping the lights.

Residents are furious with city chiefs for refusing lighting (pictured before it was removed) on the city’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 had been in the town for nearly seven months and brought £4m into the local economy, made the offer to donate the lights to the town after positive feedback from residents and traders (pictured before they were removed)

The film crew, who had been in the town for nearly seven months and brought £4m into the local economy, made the offer to donate the lights to the town after positive feedback from residents and traders (pictured before they were removed)

Empire of Light Margate: Fury as 'beautiful' garland lighting donated by Sam Mendes film aborted

Director Sam Mendes was also spotted on set during the filming in Margate

Thanet District Council (TDC) also said the decorations had previously been damaged by wet weather picked them up on Friday.

The council said this means they are unsuitable for extended coastal use and are not easily dimmed, meaning they can 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 increase light pollution in the area, potentially impacting the environment and biodiversity.”

Disappointed residents have expressed their anger at the decision via social media.

Jane Cadman wrote on Facebook: “She… [TDC] just don’t want maintenance costs.’

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

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

“It’s funny that they weren’t labeled as ‘unsafe’ during the filming.”

Other locals said the addition of brighter light had made them feel safer walking along the coast late at night.

Locals said the addition of brighter light had made them feel safer when walking along the coast late at night (before the lights were turned off)

Locals said the addition of brighter light had made them feel safer when walking along the coast late at night (before the lights were turned off)

Thanet District Council (TDC) also said the decorations were damaged by wet weather before being removed on Friday (before the lights were removed)

Thanet District Council (TDC) also said the decorations were damaged by wet weather before being removed on Friday (before the lights were removed)

The decorative lighting stretching half a mile past Margate, Kent was installed as part of the upcoming movie 'Empire of Light' starring Colin Firth

The romantic film is about a love story and is set in an English seaside cinema in the 1980s.  It also plays Olivia Coleman

The decorative lighting that stretches half a mile past Margate, Kent was installed as part of the upcoming romance film ‘Empire of Light’ starring Olivia Coleman (right) and Colin Firth (left). Both stars have been pictured shooting scenes from the movie which involves a love story and is set in an English seaside cinema in the 1980s.

Amy Bass said: ‘So we all pay council tax and all we wanted was some cute little lights that the woman even said made them feel more comfortable walking down that road at night and we can they don’t have.

“No surprise from the council there to be honest. Such a pity.’

A TDC spokesperson said: ‘Neal Street Productions installed decorative garland lighting along the Margate coast, from Nayland Rock to the Margate Harbor Arm, as part of the staging of director Sam Mendes’ feature film Empire of Light.

“Following positive response from local residents and businesses, Neal Street Productions made a formal offer to donate the lights to the city of Margate once they reached the end of shooting. Thursday, May 26 is currently scheduled as the last shooting day in Margate.

“Council officials, in consultation with the Kent County Council Highways team, have conducted an investigation into the likely operating costs, ongoing energy and maintenance costs, and testing and licensing fees that would have to be incurred if the lights were taken over by Thanet District Council.

“During the investigation, we were informed by Neal Street Productions that they were experiencing ongoing technical issues with the lights, which were installed as all-weather equipment but in fact suffered from water ingress in wet weather due to a manufacturing defect. .

“On this basis, these lights are not considered resilient enough for extended coastal use, and would not withstand the continued impact of the weather to which they would inevitably be exposed.”

“In addition to concerns about the lamps’ resistance to wind and rain, there are no controls installed in the existing lamps that allow them to be activated with a timer and cannot be easily dimmed.”

Olivia Colman watched her build sandcastles on the beach while shooting scenes for the romance movie Empire Of Light with her co-star Micheal Ward

Olivia Colman watched her build sandcastles on the beach while shooting scenes for the romance movie Empire Of Light with her co-star Micheal Ward

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

The spokesperson added: “As filming is nearing its end, Neal Street will begin removing the lights on Friday, May 27.

“While the lights were a positive addition to Margate’s streetscape, we confirm that, having fully considered the factors already mentioned, we have made the difficult decision to decline the offer.”

The Empire of Light team say the £4 million they have contributed to the local economy will be through site rent, security, office space and accommodation, over the duration of the shooting – which started in November and concluded on Thursday.

Councilors have contacted the crew to ask if the infrastructure can remain so that better lighting can be installed.

The spokesperson said: “We understand that the Margate Charter Trustees have reached out to the Empire of Light production team to consider whether some of the infrastructure could remain, to facilitate the installation of more suitable and robust replacement lamps.”

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

This latest film, also starring Michael Ward, is Mendes’ first solo screenplay.

The film is slated to be released in the fall of 2022 and is being produced by Pippa Harris.

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