LOUD bangs and bursts of colour marked the official start of Christmas in Basingstoke.
The traditional Christmas lights switch-on in Festival Square was followed by a 10-minute fireworks display on the roof of the Festival Place shopping centre.
Hundreds of people turned out for the popular annual event, which saw 12-year-old singing sensation Lauren Thalia lead the countdown to last Friday’s big switch-on.
Kestrel FM DJ Pete Denton started the proceedings by introducing a juggling Father Christmas and a festively-dressed unicyclist. They were followed by a pair of acrobatic elves, who kept children in the audience amused with their antics.
Jazz singer and Festival Place regular Fil Straughan got people in the Christmas mood with some traditional songs, before Lauren came on to the stage.
The Testbourne Community School pupil, who reached the semi-final of this year’s Britain’s Got Talent competition, sang Kay Perry’s Firework before she did the switching-on honours.
Afterwards, the young singer, from Hatch Warren, Basingstoke, told The Gazette: “It was really fun and amazing to get up there and see everybody.
“Mum told me they had asked me to switch on the lights and I literally screamed. I could not believe it – normally, it’s a celebrity.”
Natasha Mulvey, who was crowned the winner of this year’s Festival Factor, sang after the fireworks display before the crowds headed indoors to see the centre’s Christmas lights and do some late-night shopping.
Festival Place centre director Steven Connolly said: “It was a very good start to Christmas. The lights switch-on is a real family occasion.”
The shopping centre will hold its Santa Parade on Sunday, December 2, when Father Christmas will make an appearance as well as his friend Bjorn the Polar Bear.