The scheme - designed to make Scandinavian foreign exchange students feel more at home in the town - has caused mixed reactions throughout the local population. Speaking on behalf of the 'We Don't Mind' action group, Mary Blight commented: "I think it's a wonderful gesture. I'm sure most of the Norwegian visitors will welcome this bold move. The last lot looked ever so out of sorts, what with all the daylight they were getting. When you saw them in the street it was almost as if they'd been drinking heavily. Poor souls. They has it very dark where they live."
However, not all Keynsham residents are quite so in favour, with opposition mounting in the form of the 'Light Nights, Right' concern group. A spokeswoman informed us: "It's all good and well these European big-wigs making their decisions in their posh offices near the seaside, but I bet they don't have to pick their
kids up from school in the dark. Some of our schools are in narrow roads - we have enough trouble parking our people-movers even in the daylight. Plus, my husband won't let me drive in the dark." Another L.N.R member added: "It's a disgrace! One minute we're being told to speak in metric, the next they want us to go all nocturnal. We don't need another dark age 'round here."
The EU flag. That's a star for each council estate...
Keynsham is one of five towns in the BANES region set to take part in the scheme, which will see the town's skies darken at around 2pm during the mid-winter months. This year's batch of overseas students are due in November, though ironically they are likely to be of Spanish origin, not Scandinavian as was previously anticipated. Keynsham police have applied for funding to recruit an extra member of staff in order to cope with the expected crime wave, with burglars likely to make the most of the extended darkness hours.
We tried to contact the European Union representative in charge of the project, Mr Jean-Luc Lapin, but his personal assistant said he was in a meeting about the catering for the EU Christmas do. Mr Lapin last made the headlines when his radical proposal to reduce the number of days in the week was given a second reading. If the pilot scheme is a success, Keynsham could be granted full European Darkspot status, with clocks going back five hours in 2005.