Gallery/Video: Suffolk towns celebrate Christmas lights switch-on ceremonies

Emma Freud switches on Aldeburgh Christmas lights. 
Children from Aldeburgh Primary sing for the crowds. Emma Freud switches on Aldeburgh Christmas lights. Children from Aldeburgh Primary sing for the crowds.

Sunday, December 1, 2013
1:15 PM

Communities across Suffolk indulged in the spirit of the season as they switched on their Christmas lights to transform their town centres into festive fairylands.

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As well as a chance for people to see the colourful, twinkling lights, it was a big weekend for traders as people flocked to the shops to start buying the essential presents.

TV and radio broadcaster Emma Freud was the guest of honour and was accompanied by carnival queen Hannah Osborne, and her princesses Bonnie Butterworth, Ellie Philpot, and Matilda Salter, mayor Sara Fox, and poster competition winner Sam Strowger, to press the plunger to light up Aldeburgh for Christmas.

The switch-on followed a full day of festive activities, including a variety of music on the main stage, with pop and praise, a brass band and singers.

Around the town there was wine and food tasting events, masterclasses ranging from photography to gift wrapping, plus fairground rides, face painting and storytime sessions.

Naomi Tarry, chairman of the Aldeburgh Business Association, which organised the event, said: “The day was a resounding success and it was super to see the High Street full of people enjoying the atmosphere.”

The light switch-on in Hadleigh had a comic touch, as comedian and campaigner Griff Rhys Jones performed the honours.

In the town’s Market Place, he entertained a crowd several hundred strong with his light-hearted banter before flicking the switch to illuminate the colourful Christmas tree.

Griff, who is also president of the national charity Civic Voice, told the assembled crowd that he “loves Hadleigh” and he congratulated local people for fighting to keep their town beautiful. Earlier this year, he added his voice to the Hands Off Hadleigh campaign, which fought an application by Tesco to build a superstore the town.

Last night, he told the EADT: “It’s not that people don’t like Tesco; it’s to do with the fact that this town and others like it have a good mix of people living close to the centre. There has been a tendency to think that business and commercialism are the only solution for town and city centres. But it’s great to see so many people gathering in the centre of Hadleigh tonight, purely for a culturally driven event.”

Visitors to the town were entertained by Elmsett Brass Band playing traditional carols while youngsters were able to put their Christmas requests to Santa, meet two of his reindeer and try out some of the traditional fairground rides.

The event was funded by the profits from craft fairs run by the town forum, which disbanded earlier this year.

At Felixstowe, mayor Jan Garfield switched on the town’s glittering display after a day of festive entertainment, including dancers, choirs, singers and a Christmas craft fayre.

The lights – organised by members of the Felixstowe Lions – include garlands and displays up and down Hamilton Road and Orwell Road, with the centrepiece tree on The Triangle.

Mrs Garfield thanked the Lions for their hard work in organising the lights and “a wonderful day” for the resort, the traders for financial support, and Felixstowe Town Council for footing the display’s electricity bill.

A member of the Military Wives Choir was picked out of a draw to switch on Colchester’s new Christmas lights in the High Street alongside the mayor Colin Sykes.

Mum-of-two Shona Allford joined the choir in May after arriving at Colchester Garrison with her husband Capt Clive Allford of 13 Air Assault Support Regiment.

Michelle Reynolds, chairman of Colchester Christmas Group, coordinating the town’s festive activities, said: “We want local people to embrace the town this year, shop locally and support the festive activities. We also hope that the businesses of Colchester will fully support and embrace the festive opportunities and help to make this year special.”

In Framlingham, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dan Poulter did the honours as the town’s lighting-up ceremony marked the culmination of a year’s work to create a permanent raised plinth to hold the seasonal centrepiece - a 30ft Christmas tree.

The Framlingham Business Association worked with the town council and used funding from a Portas High Street grant won by Heritage Coast Market Towns Initiative (HCMTI), plus a locality budget contribution, to build the structure.

The ceremony also included a performance by Framlingham College Choir and a blessing for the Christmas season from Framlingham Churches Together.

Jenny Stockman, FBA chairman, said: “Our new plinth and its Christmas tree are visible proof of just a small proportion of all the effort that is made to keep this market town the vibrant place it should be for the community, and for the businesses on, or off the high-street. I am immensely grateful to everyone who has helped and am looking forward to all the events taking place over the festive season in the town.”

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