Ipswich: Christmas lights to have official switch-on event after all

Last year's Christmas lights' switch on at the Cornhill in Ipswich - this year's event will be rathe

Last year's Christmas lights' switch on at the Cornhill in Ipswich - this year's event will be rather different. - Credit: Archant

Ipswich will have an official Christmas lights switch on after all!

After pressure from our readers, the borough has decided that the lights in the town centre will be switched on by mayor Bill Quinton and local schoolchildren at the end of shopping, 5pm, on Sunday, November 16.

It will follow a day-long festival of entertainment in the town with street artists, panto stars, and a special market in St Peter’s Street.

There will also be special offers on buses, park and ride, and town centre car park to attract shoppers in during the whole day.

The switch-on had been in doubt because over recent years so many people have crowded into the Cornhill that thousands have had to be turned away.

This year’s simple ceremony is expected to attract afternoon shoppers before they leave for home – but hopefully there will not be as many disappointed.

Ipswich council leader David Ellesmere said: “We have spoken to the police and we will be able to move the switch-on to 5pm as the finale to the day’s entertainment.

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“We head from local businesses that they understandably preferred us to provide a bus and car park package to attract shoppers on the big day.

“We are delighted we can now provide both this and a switch-on ceremony.”

Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement said the celebrations in the town centre had been drawn up in consultation with the retailers who wanted an alternative to the set-piece switch-ons that have been seen in recent years.

He had not wanted to concentrate all the efforts on the switch-on: “You then have the situation where people just see them go on and then go home because all the shops are shut because of the Sunday Trading laws.

“There are also issues with the number of people on the Cornhill. It can only take about 4,000-5,000 people and we have had to turn people away in the past.”

Last year about 8,500 tried to get on to the Cornhill and more than 3,000 were disappointed to miss out on the fun.

This year the emphasis will be on cheap parking, free park and ride, and attractions aimed at bringing shoppers into town as soon as the shops open their doors between 10am and 11am.

Sunday trading laws dictate that stores can only be open for six hours on a Sunday.

Mr Gummer had been surprised to hear that the lights would be on all day. He said: “Only in Ipswich would you have the lights switched on in broad daylight!”