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Panto stars to lead Christmas lights switch on in St Albans

 Published on: 7th November 2016   |   By: The Newsdesk   |   Category:

The Christmas lights in St Albans City Centre will be switched on this year at FOUR landmark locations to ensure more people can see the action. Stars from the Alban Arena pantomime, including Rita Simons from EastEnders, will lead the countdown on a stage at the traditional spot in St Peter’s Street. For the first time, there will be simultaneous switch-ons at three other attractive locations. One will be at a family zone in front of the Arena and beside a giant Christmas tree decorated with spectacular, crowd-funded lights. The St Albans City Brass Band will feature at another area by the Clock Tower Entertainment firm Meraki will oversee the fun at the fourth venue, the German-style Christmas market in Vintry Gardens by the Cathedral. The idea of the extra places is to open up the ceremony to a larger crowd and avoid congestion around the main stage near the Cock Pub. Around 15,000 people are expected at the annual event, organised by St Albans City and District Council, on Sunday 27 November. The City Centre will be transformed into a winter wonderland of entertainment for all the family with gift stalls, a funfair and free activities for children. There will also be a live music stage featuring a host of local acts in front of the Beech House on St Peter’s Street. The event starts at noon and carries on throughout the afternoon with the lights being switched on at around 5pm as darkness falls. Actress Rita, who plays Roxy Mitchell in the BBC soap, will be joined by other members of the panto cast from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Among the line-up is comedian Bob Golding, famous for his Eric Morecambe impersonations, and children’s TV star Ian Kirby. Ian played DC Harry Batt in Dick and Dom in Da Bungalow. The Mayor of St Albans City and District, Councillor Frances Leonard, will also take part in the switch-on. Among other innovations this year is Meraki’s XmasFest area outside the Town Hall. This will feature music, street artists, comedians, a chill out zone and activities such as facepainting. Elsewhere, attractions include a giant pop-up snowglobe, Santa’s grotto and a host of street performers. There will be a number of festive food and drink stalls in St Peters Street and at the Christmas Market food court. The market opens on Thursday 24 November for 25 days until Sunday 18 December. Councillor Beric Read, Portfolio Holder for Community Engagement and Localism, said: “For the first time, the lights switch-on will coincide with the first weekend that the Christmas market is open. “This will get the festive season in St Albans off to a cracker. The atmosphere in the City Centre will be buzzing with so much going on. “It is an event not to be missed and one that also gives a boost to the local economy by attracting so many visitors to the City centre.” Community station 92.6FM Radio Verulam will broadcast the event live and compere from the main stage. Snow White opens at the Alban Arena on Thursday 8 December and runs until Sunday 8 January. For more details, see https://www.alban-arena.co.uk/events/snow-white-the-seven-dwarfs/

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