Brighton shone on Thursday night (16 November) as thousands of people watched the best Christmas lights display the city has ever seen, officlally switched on by Brighton girl and national TV presenter Holly Willoughby.
Brighton has had no official lights display for many years although individual trading areas made valliant efforts to erect piecemeal displays. In 2004 Brighton’s display was voted the worst in the country during a Radio 5 Live phone-in.
What a difference a couple of years makes as festive fun took over the city as a bustling procession featuring real-life reindeer and a sleigh carrying the Present Fairy, elves from the Argus together with the samba funksters Carnival Collective and stilt walkers led the excited crowds down North Street into the North Laine and finishing in the Lanes.
The spectacular display – which is funded by Brighton Business Improvement District (BID) – has been designed by the company which creates light displays for the Effiel Tower in Paris.
Holly Willoughby took to the stage and thanked everybody for turning up, she told the crowds how honoured she was to be back in her home town for such a major event in the festive calendar.
The Argus elves collected letters addressed to Father Christmas from children watching the parade, the Present Fairy will now send them to Santa in the North Pole.
Entertainment was provided in the North Laine and the Lanes by the Martlet’s Hospice Choice, the Brighton & Hove (actually) Gay Men’s Chorus and the Salvation Army, while hot-chestnut sellers provided seasonal snacks. Many shops in the BID area stayed open for late-night shopping offering promotions and discounts to customers together with complimentary mulled wine and mince pies.
The procession finished in East Street, where hundreds of children gathered to meet and feed the reindeer, who were resting in their pen.
Famlies enjoyed the Donatello treasure hunt seeking treasure from the traders in the labyrinth of the lanes.
The Brighton BID includes North Street and parts of the North Laine and the Lanes. It is a new initiative where traders join together to raise funds to pay for improvements to their areas that they have requested. Traders in the Brighton BID have already committed approximately £300,000 to fund the Christmas lights.
Andrew Fisher, chairman of the BID board, said: “We’re delighted that Brighton can finally put on Christmas lights that can help us compete with the other major shopping destinations in the South East.
“Brighton’s BID area has so much to offer the savvy Christmas shopper – unique shops, independent traders, family favourites and plenty of food and drink outlets in which to relax. The lights will look fantastic and we hope that the people of Brighton & Hove will support their local shopping area.”
The Clock Tower display has received extra funding from Southern Water and construction company Clancy Docwra.
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