Fearnhill and Icknield pupils among the stars as Father Christmas and friends come together for Letchworth Christmas lights switch-on

PUBLISHED: 17:05 28 November 2016 | UPDATED: 22:15 29 November 2016

Father Christmas on his sleigh before the Letchworth Christmas lights switch-on. Photo: Love Letchworth

Father Christmas on his sleigh before the Letchworth Christmas lights switch-on. Photo: Love Letchworth

BJP Photography Ltd.

Thousands packed into Letchworth town centre on Saturday night for the big annual switch-on of the town’s Christmas lights – with Father Christmas himself leading the countdown, and pupils from Fearnhill and Icknield schools among the evening’s stars.

Icknield School children performing with Imajica Theatre at the Letchworth Christmas lights switch-on on Saturday. Photo: Jeff GillIcknield School children performing with Imajica Theatre at the Letchworth Christmas lights switch-on on Saturday. Photo: Jeff Gill

There were stalls from Uncle G’s Gourmet Fried Chicken, the Heritage Foundation and more – and new Leys Avenue beer shop Crafty’s, set to open next month, opened for a sneak peek from 4pm.

On the main stage in Leys Square, there was a live music and performing, including ukelele, choral and folk music from Fearnhill School students.

Fearnhill School students performing at the Letchworth Christmas lights switch-on on Saturday. Photo: Jeff GillFearnhill School students performing at the Letchworth Christmas lights switch-on on Saturday. Photo: Jeff Gill

Fearnhill music teacher Hannah Landsman said: “Weeks of rehearsing by the students has paid off and even though it was cold, we all enjoyed performing to friends, family and the local people.

“We got many wonderful compliments from the crowd about our performance and we hope we got people in the Christmassy mood.”

Icknield School children performing with Imajica Theatre at the Letchworth Christmas lights switch-on on Saturday. Photo: Jeff GillIcknield School children performing with Imajica Theatre at the Letchworth Christmas lights switch-on on Saturday. Photo: Jeff Gill

An Imajica Theatre-led contingent of Icknield pupils then performed a 21st-century version of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ featuring gadgets such as iPads and games consoles.

After the Icknield crew left the stage, young funk-rock trio Jump Stone got revellers bouncing with a few blistering numbers before Father Christmas’ parade from the top of Eastcheap to Leys Square began at about 5pm, led by a fire engine.

Anna and Olaf from Frozen were among the characters in the parade, as were Mickey and Minnie Mouse and Pokémon Pikachu – and members of the Rotary Club of Letchworth Garden City flanked Father Christmas’ sleigh, emblazoned with the livery of the Letchworth Round Table.

Leather-jacket wearing, mohawk-haired host Toby took to the stage, pointed down the middle of the crowd and had each side shout against the other for Father Christmas – dubbing one side ‘Rudolph’ and the other ‘Comet’ – until the man in red himself took the stage ringing his magical bell.

Baby Catherine Asher gets a good vantage point on the shoulders of dad and Comet journalist JP Asher.Baby Catherine Asher gets a good vantage point on the shoulders of dad and Comet journalist JP Asher.

Pointing at Toby’s unconventional hair, Father Christmas said: “When I was flying over Letchworth earlier, I saw this young man walking down the street and I thought he must be a member of the Hedgehog Patrol.”

Referring to the multiple Christmas light countdowns in Hitchin on Friday night, Santa added: “We’re only going to have the one.”

The Letchworth Christmas lights switch-on. Photo: Love LetchworthThe Letchworth Christmas lights switch-on. Photo: Love Letchworth

With Father Christmas and an assortment of helpers looking on, the plunger was pushed by Anna and Olaf from Frozen shortly after 5.30pm – but the night wasn’t over yet, with the fun going on to 8pm.

Letchworth BID manager Tom Hardy told the Comet: “Thank you to everyone who braved the cold on Saturday and came to our Letchworth Christmas light switch-on.

Fireworks at the Letchworth Christmas lights switch-on. Photo: Love LetchworthFireworks at the Letchworth Christmas lights switch-on. Photo: Love Letchworth

“Thousands of people flocked to the town centre and we were so overwhelmed with the amount of support these town centre events generate.

“This was by far the highest attendance I have ever seen at a switch-on in Letchworth, and we’re already looking forward to next year and how to accommodate such high numbers.

Looking down Leys Avenue after the Letchworth Christmas lights switch-on on Saturday. Photo: Jeff GillLooking down Leys Avenue after the Letchworth Christmas lights switch-on on Saturday. Photo: Jeff Gill

“Special thanks have to go to the town centre businesses who collectively fund these large events. Please do consider using the town centre for your Christmas shopping this year – we have a huge number of small independent shops with some fantastic products.”

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