Leicester Christmas lights switch-on draws record crowds

By Conor de Smith

Leicester’s annual Christmas lights switch-on saw record crowds as the city got the festive season underway last Thursday night.

Around 22,000 people attended the event in Humberstone Gate and the area surrounding the Clock Tower to witness the illuminations.

The on-stage entertainment was headed by ITV Central News presenter Matt Teale and featured a host of celebrity guests including X-Factor winner Sam Bailey, BBC Radio Leicester’s Martin Ballard, and the Simpletones.

The switch-on itself was conducted by Leicester Lord Mayor Cllr Ross Grant and ‘Santa Claus’ before a rendition of White Christmas was performed by Bailey.

Leicester City Council has spent an extra £50,000 on festivities having updated the stock of decorations over the last three years. The £170,000 comprehensive budget was distributed between 16,000 lights across 15 city centre streets, a 14m Christmas Tree by the Clock Tower, Wheel of Light, and an Alice in Wonderland themed tableau amongst other activities.

The giant ice rink, which will be 50 per cent larger than last year, opens on Saturday 8 December while there have been decorations erected in St Martins for the first time due to extra funding.

Sarah Harrison, City Centre Director for Leicester City Council, said: “It’s really nice for people to come together. It’s the start of the Christmas season and we get more and more people every single year so we must be doing something right.

“We start planning in February. It is a very long process because there is so much to organise like the ice rink, ordering the Christmas tree, refurbishing the lights, changing the old lights to LEDs, and building the table. It takes a good six months to get Christmas organised.

 

“With the amount of time and investment we put into the Christmas, the city centre looks fabulous to the point where even the most ‘bah humbug’ of people can’t help but smile. We now have these wonderful new public spaces which is why we have so many activities this year.”

A street food event managed by Canteen UK was also held in New Market Square allowing the public to enjoy an array of foods such as gourmet burgers, hot dogs, curry, and cheesecake.

Sarah Ventre, owner of Full of Chaat, said: “We were on board as soon as Canteen UK asked us to do it. We love Leicester and there is a really nice atmosphere here. We have been here since 10.00am and we have really enjoyed it.

“The community feel is another reason why we chose to take part. We’re from Birmingham and do a lot of local events which we enjoy doing, such as our city’s own Christmas lights, and this is very similar.”

The ever-improving event seemed to be a hit with crowds. Christina Allan, 20, a Leicester resident, said that this year’s spectacle has been the best yet.

“I really enjoyed the Christmas lights switch on,” she said. “My favourite bits were the Alice in Wonderland display and the reindeer in St Peter’s Square. It was much better lit than last year and it looked as though they made much more of an effort with the decorations this time around.

“The turnout was a lot larger for the switch-on itself which made for a better night and a much better atmosphere, even if it did take a while to leave the city centre after it had all ended.”

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