While some believe that a silly TV advert marks the start of the Christmas countdown, we know that the Christmas clock truly began on Thursday (10th November) with the spectacular switch on of Leeds’ Christmas lights. Thousands came to witness the latest incarnation of the annual event, featuring double gold Paralympic medallist Kadeena Cox and, of course, Rio heroes Alistair and Jonny Brownlee.
Alistair, who brought home no less than two Olympic golds, said he was “incredibly proud” to have switched on the lights at the culmination of the night’s festivities, which also included an outstanding firework display.
Silver medallist Jonny spoke of the “massive honour”. He enthused: “the people of Leeds have given us so much support and encouragement through the years [and have] always helped spur us on whenever we’re competing around the world.”
The brothers hope that the event will repay the kindness of the people of their home city, evident most recently at the recent Rio Heroes parade. “Seeing tens of thousands of people lining the streets at the recent Rio Heroes parade was an unforgettable experience and we hope that switching on the Christmas lights show[s] just how much that support means to us both.”
Athletics and cycling star Kadeena Cox added to the sense of pride, saying “I remember coming here as a little girl to watch the Christmas lights be switched on so to [have been] on the other side is crazy and an absolute honour. It’s crazy to think I have managed to be a part of something that has been so amazing. Two years ago I never, never would have expected to be in this position so to be a part of it and add to the history is incredible.”
Entertainment prior to the switching on of one of the UK’s largest city centre illuminations was provided in abundance. UK top 10 charting girl band Stooshe took to the main stage while James Wilson, the former joiner from Leeds who went all the way to the judge’s houses on this year’s series of X Factor, performed one of his own songs. Dancing talent was also on display thanks to Britain’s Got Talent’s Boogie Storm, who performed a sensational stormtrooper inspired routine. Meanwhile, children were catered for by fun fair rides along Cookridge Street and by Cbeebies presenters Andy Day and Alex Winters. The former treated the crowd to Dino raps which may even have rivalled those of Beeze has Talent 2016 winner Cole Lawton-Challenger.
Judith Blake from Leeds City Council hailed the great success of the event, calling it an “incredible occasion”.
“We’ve seen thousands of people of all ages come together at the heart of the city centre to get the festive season officially underway. It was particularly special to see our Rio heroes Ali and Jonny Brownlee and Kadeena Cox on stage and to hear the amazing reception they received from the crowd.”
For those who are wondering what to do with the void of time between now and Christmas, Leeds continues to have the festive season covered. On the 25th of November, not only will Roundhay Park host a magic lantern festival, but the Coca Cola truck will also make its appearance in the city centre. What’s more, Millennium Square’s German Christmas Market, opened today (Friday 11th November) will be around until the 18th of December to provide food and drink to all those enjoying the glow of the city’s superb lights.
(Images: Daniel Mortimer)