Video and gallery: Christmas switch on lights up town

IPSWICH is officially switched on today!The town's Christmas lights were turned on during a high-spirited event in the town centre yesterday.

IPSWICH is officially switched on today!

The town's Christmas lights were turned on during a high-spirited event in the town centre yesterday.

Families gathered in their winter woollies to mark the beginning of the Christmas season as the town's traders hope shoppers will flock to Ipswich in a bid to beat the recession.

There was even a sprinkling of snow, courtesy of a snow machine, to add to the festive feel.

Up to 10,000 people packed the Cornhill for the ceremony, which will be followed on Thursday by the unveiling of The Evening Star's own Christmas tree in the Tower Ramparts shopping centre.

This year the switch-on featured the cast of the New Wolsey Theatre's pantomime Cinderella, who performed rock and roll songs on stage while the energetic crowd jumped along.

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Organisers hope the good-will feeling of the event will remain throughout November and December as shoppers take to the streets to buy their Christmas goodies.

However they recognise with the economic slowdown, this could be tough Christmas for retailers - and appealed to the shoppers of Suffolk to used local stores.

Paul Clement, executive director of Ipswich Central, said: “It went really well.

“Every year I worry that nobody will turn up and every year there are thousands of people. It is a real event in Ipswich's calendar now; it is about starting the Christmas period.

“And it is about getting people into the town centre. With the credit crunch retailers are finding it very hard so we really want people to spend money locally.

“We are saying to people - please use Ipswich.”

During the Christmas season shops will be opening until 9pm for late night shopping every Thursday and extra Park and Ride services will be put on.

For the 15th year running, Disabled (Blue) Badge-holders can drive through Ipswich town centre on two Sunday evenings to enjoy the Christmas lights.

On 7th and 14th December, between 7pm and 9pm, they can enter the pedestrianised town centre at Major's Corner and drive westwards along Carr Street, Tavern Street and Westgate Street, leaving at Matthew's Street.

A valid Disabled Driver (Blue) Badge must be displayed.

The scheme has been arranged by Ipswich Borough Council with support from the Police.

Did you enjoy Ipswich's switch on? Will you be shopping in the town for Christmas? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail