Galleries: Christmas lights switched on in Ipswich and Bury

CHRISTMAS lights were switched on in Suffolk’s two biggest towns last night as traders hope for a much-needed boost from festive trade.

Spectacular displays brought festive sparkle to streets in Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds as businesses were poised to benefit from a Christmas kick.

Huge crowds descended on the Bury as this year’s festive spectacular was switched on by Father Christmas and friends in the Buttermarket last night.

William Starling, seven, was delighted to see glitter confetti fill the sky as the town’s display sparkled to life.

“I like the lights and seeing Father Christmas dance,” he said.

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Mother Goose and her friend Priscilla, stars of the Theatre Royal pantomime, joined Ian Houlder, mayor of St Edmundsbury, for the official switch on.

Fairground rides, hot food stands and late-night shopping tempted thousands of visitors to descend on the town for one of traders’ busiest nights of the year.

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Ruth Brady, manager of the Bury Chamber of Commerce, said: “This is a crucial time of year for traders in the town.

“Many of them survive because of trade over the Christmas period.

“We have got great lights which help generate a great Christmas atmosphere.

“The switch on kicks off the whole festive season.”

Around 4,000 shoppers were expected to fill the town’s shops and car parks as the �10,000 lighting display was finally revealed.

New yuletide lights have been introduced in key parts of the town in the first year of the new Business Improvement District (BID).

Steve Peters, Bury town centre manager, said: “The light switch-on brings lots of people into the town.

“Some businesses do extremely well out of it.

“Shoppers then become aware of what’s here and come back another day.”

Meanwhile in Ipswich over 8,000 people gathered outside the town hall to watch Father Christmas turn on the town’s festive lights.

Santa arrived on a special sleigh towed by Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer before switching on the lights to a massive cheer.

Paul Clement, executive director of Ipswich Central, said: “We think there were over 8,000 in the town who had travelled from near and far to be there.

“The lights switch is traditionally the start of a boost for retailers in the town. From now on shops will be open late on every Thursday evening until Christmas.

“My message to shoppers across the region is to come into town. We have more retailers than this time last year and everything’s in place for a successful Christmas.”

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