Empire of Light production company says it will gift seafront festoon lights to Margate

The Empire of Light production company will give the festoon lights to Margate Photo Frank Leppard

Margate will be gifted the festoon lights strung along the seafront and up to the Old Town, it has been confirmed today (March 15), although details of how they will be operated and maintained are still to be worked out.

The lights have been installed by the production crews working on the Sam Mendes movie Empire of Light which is currently being filmed in the town.

Photo Frank Leppard

Residents have been calling for the lighting to remain after the crews wrap up filming at the end of May and those calls received backing from councillors including ward councillor Rob Yates.

It has now been confirmed that Neal Street Productions does plan to gift the lighting to Margate. An offer has gone to the Kent Film Office which will liaise with representatives from both Thanet and Kent councils.

Photo John Horton

Pippa Harris from Neal Street Productions said: “From the very first moment we discussed having the festoon lighting along the promenade it was always our hope to gift the lights to the town.

“We have received such a warm welcome and so much support from the people of Margate that we would be thrilled for the lights to stay and be something that will be enjoyed by the town and its visitors for years to come.”

Eddie Kemsley, Dreamland CEO said: “When we started our conversations with Neal Street Productions about this amazing film coming to Margate, we discussed how this project could leave a lasting beneficial legacy for the town.

“The festoon lights strung along the entire parade, have not only sparked positive conversations but also literally illuminated our beautiful seafront and so we’re thrilled that they will continue to do so after filming has ended.

“There’s still work to do and a way to go with practicalities, but we’re sure the whole community will join us in thanking Neal St Productions for their generous gift.”

Photo Rob Yates

Cllr Yates said: “On behalf of Margate Central residents I would like to say a big thank you to Sam Mendes, the production company and Dreamland for their support in gifting these lights to Margate.

“I am confident that together we can resolve any technical issues involving the brightness levels, maintenance and cost of running the lights, just as Westgate Town Council manage their town centre Christmas lights.

“I know the residents and businesses of Margate will be thrilled and believe it will make people feel safer at night along our seafront. Let there be light!”

Thanet council has been asked for comment.

Photo Carl Hudson

Filming for Empire of Light – a 1980s-based love story – started in Margate on February 28 and is due to run through until May 21.

It stars Academy Award winner Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward, Academy Award winner Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Crystal Clarke and Tanya Moodie. Tom Brooke and Hannah Onslow join the previously announced cast.

Produced by Academy Award nominee Pippa Harris (1917, Call The Midwife, Penny Dreadful) and Mendes (1917, Skyfall and American Beauty) under their Neal Street Productions, the film will be released by Searchlight Pictures with an expected date of Autumn this year.


  1. TDC… Good luck. They are useless gift horse and all that but no one on TDC could find their ares in the dark..

  2. Please can the company be asked to leave the structure in Gofddens Gap until whatever takes its place starts to be constructed.

  3. I believe the planned hotel is still going ahead unless it is not happening now.it would look good to keep it there unless it has security there vandalism will take place obviously the sound stage will have to be removed as property of the production company.

  4. brilliant news–quite literally! It will bring people in to see them, they are spectacular. Lets make it work please?

  5. In a world where energy prices are through the roof, are the rate payer’s funding this.
    Or does TDC have a magical Money Tree?
    Once again TDC will not be accountable for the money it spends / rate payers money!

      • its hardly the Blackpool Lights is it ?

        its a string of lights yes looks nice but would i come to margate to see them ? No

        plus its an extra cost to us

        • No, but it IS a step in the right direction.

          If only TDC had invested more in things that attract visitors since their formation circa 1974 (The Pier, The Lido, The Winter Gardens and an endless list of other things!). I’d much rather see investment in things like these than throwing money at dubious “art” projects, and I also supported the revival of Dreamland until the inevitable dodgy dealings started.

          Now, can we have the flower boxes back in Canterbury Road near Birchington/Westgate?

  6. The production company will be more than happy to give them away, probably cheaper than taking them down and storing , storing them until they might be needed.
    Of course i’m sure we can rely on TDC to keep them in good order and replace any failing bulbs in a timely fashion once they belong to the town.
    The other bonus is that the Dreamland lights will work once put back.

  7. I hope they replace any duff lamps as soon as they blow as there is nothing worse than neglectful maintenance which TDC are well known for. When Seeboard maintained the original coloured lamps all along the seafront routes they were out regularly replacing all the duff ones to keep it looking nice and looked after for visitors and residents alike. Will TDC live up to that?

  8. Have not heard anymore about Margate Town Council. Surely they would be most likely to deal with the beautiful lighting

  9. What a fantastic thing Rob but you failed this town in its entirety. Lights camera action.. Tdc don’t act they are a play house of clowns act no circus would take them not even Billy Smart…
    No likey no light… Thought we were in debt Rob. You adding to it

  10. I assume these are eco lamps and of course it remains to be seen if TDC maintain them properly and restrict the light pollution so that they are not burning constantly.At least they look good now. More importantly as someone else has commented a more useful legacy from the filming hopefully will be the reinstating of working neon lighting to the cinema which had been failing for more than 9 months which Dreamland simply ignored similarly with the graffiti to the listed cinema .

  11. The lights look great i have to say and so does the facade of dreamland but Its like putting a cherry on a turd

  12. As a relative newcomer to Thanet I really can’t understand the miserable comments here. Surely we don’t want to live in a grey utilitarian world. We need some sparkle in our lives. Surely we all want the town to look prettier and more interesting, for residents and visitors.

    • Relative newcomer will mean you’ve not experienced many years of amateurish ineptitude at the hands of tdc over the years. It’ll take a lot more than a few sparkly lights to make up for it all.
      Pound to a pinch of salt the lights won’t be maintained properly as has been the case of the various dreamland sign lights over the uears that TDC have been in the front seat.
      The general cynicism is borne of years of bitter experience.

  13. Glad to have the lights. In my opinion, I think they would look better with coloured bulbs, would suit Margate better. But hey, a freebie’s a freebie.

  14. Great news and I hope TDC make sure to factor in repair and any costs to keep them looking nice.

  15. Such a good idea. Tourist will flock to see these lights. A true wonder of the world when people have nothing else to do but huddle in blankets around the wireless. We are so fortunate to have councillors who truly understand the 21st travel market.

    The electricity bill can come out of the climate change budget. Sorted!

    • Barry your type of cynicism is sadly catching. Too many people commenting here with a “what’s the point when it’s all crap” attitude. The point is – as in the words of the advert – “every little helps”. It’s a tiny improvement but lots of tiny improvements lead to bigger and better.

  16. Used to be able to jump off the pier when feeling depressed, now we haven’t got one, should’ve rebuilt it years ago.

  17. Regardless if the movie is a success or not people will come and visit,this makes us all responsible for this town that I’ve grown up in to be a great one once again(tall ask granted) the 80’s were magical.Its a positive for our town and we almost accept its a step forward.

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