How health and safety sank lights launch by SpongeBob

SpongeBob Squarepants was unable to take to the stage for Wolverhampton’s Christmas lights switch-on ceremony because his large costume meant he could not climb a set of steps, it emerged today.

SpongeBob makes a brief appearance with the crowds at the Christmas lights switch-on in Wolverhampton’s Market Square
SpongeBob makes a brief appearance with the crowds at the Christmas lights switch-on in Wolverhampton’s Market Square

And health and safety fears meant he could not be lifted into position on the back of a vehicle because of the huge crowds that turned out to see him.

Thousands of young fans were left disappointed and unable to see the cartoon character over the huge crowd at last week’s event because the children’s favourite remained on ground level.

But it can be revealed today that his huge yellow costume restricted his movement and meant he was unable to be elevated above the throng.

The character was able to meet and greet fans in both Beatties and Market Square, but could only spend two 40 minute sessions with fans due to health and safety rules.

It cost £1,845 to hire the children’s favourite for the grand event, where he appeared alongside Coronation Street actress and Wolverhampton panto star Sherrie Hewson.

It is also the second time a costumed children’s star has proved a let down at the city’s Christmas lights extravaganza, with Peppa Pig having to restrict meetings with youngsters over fears she would overheat in her suit.

Around 2,000 turned out to last week’s event in Market Square, which council chiefs today declared a success.

Mark Blackstock, Wolverhampton City Council’s outdoor events manager, said: “The Christmas lights switch-on was a great success with huge crowds turning up to Market Square to enjoy the free event.

“Unfortunately, the character actor playing SpongeBob Squarepants was unable to climb the stairs on to the stage because of his costume.

“Health and safety considerations meant we were unable to lift him on to the stage using the tailgate of one of our vehicles because of the high numbers of people around the stage.

“This meant that SpongeBob Squarepants was unable to appear on stage during the event. But he did spend an hour and 20 minutes meeting fans both in Market Square and Beatties House of Fraser.

“As the actor could only be permitted to stay in his suit for 40 minutes at a time, again for health and safety reasons, we arranged the two 40-minute meet and greet sessions to enable the public to see him close up.

“During this time, he met as many young fans as possible at both locations, though we of course apologise to anyone who couldn’t see him on stage and was unable to meet him in person.”

Just two years ago, Peppa Pig caused a similar stir when she appeared at the city’s Beatties store to meet and greet families after helping light up the festive decorations.

Many youngsters were however unable to get close to meeting Peppa after the woman in the novelty suit halted the visit, saying she had gone over her time limit in the costume.

Beatties staff even offered to don the suit themselves after the actor said she had gone overtime, to avoid the scenes of disappointed children and parents, but were told they could not take over.

At the time, Beatties said the spontaneous meet-and-greet had still lasted longer than expected, despite health and safety rules intervening.

Jessica Drew, aged 10 and a pupil of Woodfield Junior School in Penn, went along with her guide group to watch the lights switch on in Wolverhampton last week.

Jessica, of Coton Road, Penn, said: “The fireworks were really good and we enjoyed it but we were disappointed that we didn’t see SpongeBob. We just thought that he hadn’t turned up because we never saw him once. There was no sign of him on stage at all.”

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Comments for: "How health and safety sank lights launch by SpongeBob"


Did no one at wolverhampton council think this though before they hired spongebob?But then again barmy health and safety rules are to blame aswell.

Richard Bradford

I m not sure what health and safety legislation would have been broken, i ve been a health and safety consultant for many years and still cant find a rule they would have broken.


It's cost £2000 to hire a guy in a Spongebob outfit? Where do I sign up for that gig?


I thought the council were supposed to be Health and Safety guru's? Surely it should have been looked into before agreeing to spend £2000 to hire him. Couldn't whoever was wearing the suit get into it once they were on the stage? Maybe with some forward planning they could have put some sort of curtain up? Typical

shaun smith

Dont know why they bothered having a lights switch on the christmas lights are pathetic. They seam to get worse every year. Dudley street has hardly any christmas lights up at all.


£2,000 looks like the country have cleared the debt now we can afford things like this


my daughter was gutted she didnt see him. £2000 for 2 40 minute sessions. thats where i went wrong with my careers advisor

London Bloke

So the headline should actually read- " Unsuitable access arrangements spoil switch-on for cartoon character".

Size and access issues should have been brought to the Council's attention by the agency providing the character, as should the time limit in the costume. Don't blame genuine Health & Safety concerns for the poor planning of the access to the stage.


Pathetic on so many level.



The biggest mess of the night wasn't this. It was announcing that the fireworks would be from the roof of Beatties, without informing people that they would be visible from Market Square (launched from Beatties car park). Naturally, half the crowd started walking towards Queen Square (where the fireworks AND lights switch on had been in previous years), and the fireworks started - resulted in people halfway between the squares on Salop Street & Victoria Street stopping, some in the road, to watch the display.

All that was needed was an announcement either to stay in Market Square, or simply to not mention that the fireworks were from Beatties roof, as people would have seen that anyway.


Really pleased our COuncil Tax money is thoughtfully spent by Wolverhampton City Council .... Like NOT!!!


Surely the council did a risk assessment before the event? If so why was it not flagged in advance?

really love this picture


the event as a spectator was a shambles, poor planning meant the character could not get onto the stage, the countdown to the switch on was conducted then it took a further ten seconds for the lights to actually come on! Also the fireworks were released from Beaties but you could not see them from all of the market place. The council put "road Closed" signs at the side of the road but no one actually thought to close the roads! While the fireworks were going off crowds were standing in the street with busses and taxi's trying to get through!

Ol Ernie

The words ' organise, brewery,couldn't, up, a, in, p&&& ' come to mind. Then again no surprises, they even think spending is the way to save money in desperate budgeting times.

Save work and expenses by cutting xmas lights switch on! Fireworks, Police, Spongers pants!

Stop all refurbishment work or closures of outlying council offices.

We all have to suffer so why not councillors and public sector staff.

Charge ALL council directorate/employees/contractors/workers etc for parking like the rest of us have to!

No pay increases and no budget cutting bonuses for the directorate and council managers. They no doubt will get extra pay for each pound they they save. NHS managers do as do other public bodies near by.

C'mon make the commitment to Wolverhampton and save real waste and not by charging vulnerable people!

One day you to may be vulnerable -election days?

Lets cut committees and their expenses' claims.

Cut planned expenditure and not spend to save money, Councillors!

Custard Cream

Sponge Bob should clothed in a better vented outfit really. This is disappointing from such a global superstar.