HUNDREDS of little ones in spooky outfits will be snaking their way through a Derbyshire town – as it stakes a claim to being the Halloween capital of the UK.
The children of Ilkeston – many of them just toddlers – will be filling their trick or treat baskets with sweets in what has now become an annual costume spectacle. And it is all thanks to a big-hearted retired policeman.
Ex-bobby Joe Cahill, 67, came up with the idea to organise a Halloween trail in his hometown after seeing how the events are staged in the pumpkin-crazy USA.
Joe said: “I used to visit my brother in Florida at Halloween. Shops and businesses there hand out treats – so I thought, Why not do the same in Ilkeston?”
The Ilkeston Trick or Treat Trail debuted in 2019 with town centre shops eager to take part. It has since exploded in popularity. Last year NINETY of them signed up.
Joe grinned: “My brother Adrian says Ilkeston has taken the idea and smashed it. It is now a much bigger event here than in Florida!” The list of places where children can get goodies this year ranges from stores and cafes to Specsavers and even a funeral parlour which hopes to have a Ghostbusters hearse. Trentbarton is putting a Halloween-themed bus on the Market Place.
The town hall is joining in too. Deputy Mayor Kate Fennelly will be clad in fancy dress as she doles out “tuffees” which fellow councillors have chipped in to buy. She said: “I’ve not decided on the costume yet – it may be a witch, a spider-themed creation, or a combination of both.” Erewash council’s Deputy Leader Becca Everett, who is Lead Member for Community Engagement, said:
“The Halloween trail is a fantastic family event. The whole thing is a terrific example of local people showing community spirit and kindness. And all credit to Joe – who has become a great champion for shops and businesses in the town.”
The grandad himself remains modest – despite having won an MBE for his youth work in the past. He said: “I’m just a retired Ilkeston bloke who loves the town of my birth.”
Joe insists there is no reason for high streets to be in decline. Four years ago he launched a Facebook group called Ilkeston’s Independent Shops, which campaigns to keep the town centre thriving.
He is relentless in getting new shops to open by tracking down absentee landlords who leave premises empty. Joe said: “Our group has almost 5,000 members and encourages people to shop locally so Ilkeston does NOT end up being a ghost town!”
Tuesday’s trick or treat trail (31 October) starts at 3.30pm at the top of Nottingham Road on one side of Ilkeston and Heanor Road on the other. It lasts until around 5pm . . . “or when the sweets run out”.