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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 November, 2004, 14:44 GMT
Church fury at Damned's switch-on
The Damned
Damned if they do....
A decision to invite punk rockers The Damned to switch on Cambridge city's Christmas lights has sparked controversy among church leaders.

Captain Sensible and David Vanian will replace the usual choice of Christopher Biggins for the switch-on at the Guildhall on Sunday.

The Reverend at St Martin's Church said the seventies band was not appropriate.

But guitarist Captain Sensible said: "They could have booked Cliff Richard. How boring would that have been?"

Anti Pope

Captain Sensible is due to join Father Christmas and city mayor Roger Dryden for the festive switch-on.

But the decision has led to fury among church leaders.

"It is not appropriate for Christmas," said Reverend Stephen Leeke, of St Martin's Church in Cambridge.

I did not anticipate it being controversial. I can imagine that being the case 20 years ago
Annette Joyce, Cambridge city centre manager
"They are a punk rock band with very doubtful lyrics."

He added that the council had not given much thought to the decision to invite the band - whose songs include Anti Pope.

"They should admit they made a mistake," he said.

Reverend Dr Peter Graves, of Wesley Methodist Church in Cambridge, said: "We should not give a major function over to a group that goes out of its way to deny what Christmas is about. "

He added the decision should have been handled more sensitively.

The council said the idea arose because the event coincided with The Damned's Cambridge tour date.

The band is set to play its 22nd tour date at Cambridge's The Junction after the switch-on.

'Criticism laughable'

City centre manager Annette Joyce said: "I did not anticipate it being a controversial switch-on. I can imagine that being the case if it was 20 years ago.

"It is actually a mixed cultural event that promotes what's happening in Cambridge. Some think it's blasphemous, others think don't be ridiculous."

Previous years have seen Christopher Biggins, Big Brother's PJ and Spencer and the annual pantomime cast flick the switch.

This year brass and jazz bands, Cambridge's Collegium Choir and the cast of Cinderella on Ice will also be participating in the day's events.

A spokeswoman for The Damned said the group found it laughable that the church has decided to criticise them for something as trivial as turning on Christmas lights.

She said they made no apology for their opinion or material.

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