Huge crowds in Ipswich celebrate Christmas lights switch-on
PUBLISHED: 19:56 17 November 2016 | UPDATED: 21:56 17 November 2016
Thousands got in the festive spirit to usher in the start of Christmas tonight at Ipswich's spectacular Christmas lights switch-on.
Despite gloomy weather throughout the day threatening to dampen the mood of the Cornhill crowds, the rain stayed away for the big countdown.
Entertainment came from the Ipswich-based Children’s Theatre Company, who sang a host of Christmas carols and snippets from their upcoming musical Cats, and the cast of the Ipswich Regent’s panto Sleeping Beauty, who each took a turn on stage getting the audience singing along with them.
There were also star turns from Town 102’s Wayne Bavin, who plays Sleeping Beauty’s dad the King in the panto, and a special talk by Norman Lloyd on the huge success of this year’s Pigs Gone Wild campaign.
The event even saw the Mayor of Ipswich Roger Fern get up on stage and beat the king to the crown of best costume.
“Mine is certainly more festive,” he said.
This will be the last year the crowds gather around the town centre’s controversial white artificial Christmas tree after it was announced that next year the town would be getting a traditional natural tree.
A petition protesting against the white tree, which is made of 41 aluminium spheres and covered with more than 40,000 low energy LED lights, was signed by almost 1,500 people.
But as the white paper snow fell on the crowds and the illuminations came to life, there may be some who will miss how striking the tree looks at night.
Last night’s celebrations also marked the start of the town’s late night shopping season with the high street packed full of shoppers looking to grab a bargain.
Paul Clement, chief executive of Ipswich Central, said it was a very important time of year for the town’s shops.
“Many shops in Ipswich get 30% of their turnover in six weeks over Christmas,” he said.
“To get that wrong for some can be catastrophic.
“We need to look after our town’s retailers.”
However, he said he was quietly confident it was going to be a fruitful Christmas for the town’s shops.
“I don’t really like predictions or crystal ball gaze because factors like the whether and national trends can make a difference but I am optimistic.”