Ceremony gets Christmas off to exciting start

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THE Christmas lights switch-on ceremony ‘is exactly the kind of event Northampton needs to be offering to draw people into the town’.

This is the belief of the chairman of the town’s business improvement district (BID), Stephen Chown, who attended the switch-on by Strictly Come Dancing star Brian Fortuna in the Market Square on Saturday evening.

It was the first year Northampton BID, which represents member businesses in the town centre, has been involved in the Christmas festivities following its formation in January this year.

Mr Chown said: “It was great to see so many people around the town.

“People were starting to do their Christmas shopping and enjoying what was on the stage.”

“The important thing is that businesses are beginning to recognise that we’re using the town centre as a venue and that we’re looking at bringing people to the town to enjoy it for the benefit of the town itself, as well as for the benefit of the retailers.

“It’s really important that we’re offering something around the town as well as the shops, like on Saturday evening.”

Although it is too early for official footfall figures, Mr Chown said: “The town was busy on Saturday which is good news.”

Dozens of families turned out to enjoy the switch-on of lights, centred around the biggest Christmas tree Northampton has ever had, standing 60ft tall in Market Square.

A flurry of “snowfall” added to the atmosphere at the festive launch event, which this year also saw the introduction of a satellite link for children to speak to Father Christmas at the North Pole.

Families were treated to nearly three hours of entertainment, including performances from singer Leanne Boyes and winner of Northampton’s Got Talent 2011, Lauren Jones, as well as street theatre and craft workshops.

Stars from the Royal & Derngate’s Christmas productions also made an appearance on the stage.

This Sunday will see the second Northampton Borough Council Frost Fair in the Market Square, when there will be festive entertainment, workshops, Christmas gifts and food on offer.