CHRISTMAS joy was brought to the heart of Basingstoke as the community gathered together to sing carols and start the town's festivities. 

The event, on Friday, November 17, attracted hundreds of people to the Top of the Town, who came to enjoy the atmosphere, browse the stalls and see the lights get turned on. 

Festive Friday was organised by community organisation Love Basingstoke and saw free children's activities, festive walkabouts, a market with local stallholders, music and more.

It even saw an appearance from Peter Pan and Hook from this year’s Anvil Arts pantomime. 

Basingstoke Gazette: Panto stars Panto stars (Image: Mark Paine)

Performing arts school PQA Basingstoke performed, as did Basingstoke Rock Choir. 

Council leader Paul Harvey was enjoying the night.

He said: "It’s a great turn out. Everyone’s absolutely loving the rock choir, and it’s great to see all the stalls and businesses here getting involved.

"I’m looking forward to everyone enjoying themselves and having a great time.

"It’s great to see all the families, friends, parents and child getting involved and having fun, and that’s what it’s all about." 

The market features scores of local independent businesses selling a wide range of items. 

Basingstoke Gazette: Basingstoke's Festive Friday

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One of those was Lucy Lundburg, from Hydes Cider Co, which makes cider from its base in Southrope.  

She said: "It’s lovely to be here, getting involved and seeing all the lovely faces enjoying themselves.

@basingstokegazette Festive Friday came to #Basingstoke and saw the start of Christmas in the town #basingstoke #christmas2023🎄🎁 ♬ Christmas standard song - 3KTrack

"We’re a husband and wife team with our first batch of cider which we launched this autumn, and we have been supplying local stores, pubs and businesses. We’re very happy to be here!" 

Steve Gibbs was on a stall based at the council office end of the high street.

He said: "I reckon I’ve got the best view from my office today, the town looks quite a spectacle with all the lights, stalls and people walking through. It’s great to see the town so busy." 

Many families said they felt the event had been well organised and that they had enjoyed themselves. 

Basingstoke Gazette: Basingstoke's Festive Friday

The festivities continue in Basingstoke with the Christmas market open until December 24 and Festival Place started its festive entertainment on Saturday, November 18. 

Two giant Christmas stockings with talking puppets will be putting on shows at The Malls throughout Saturday, November 18 and illuminated butterfly stilt walkers will be lighting up the evening. 

A Christmas Craft Room will be open from 11am until 4pm in The Mall and there will be photo opportunities as characters from the Twelve Days of Christmas at Festival Place will be throughout the centre. 

A mix of local musicians and choirs will be performing throughout the day on the Lower Level by Santander. These include Fleet Rock Orchestra, Rock Choir, and Sing Now Choir. 

The Christmas event marked the return of traditional festive community events after they were cancelled following a chaotic switch-on in 2018 which prompted complaints as there was no tree or Santa Claus, just a giant owl, and then scaled back due to the pandemic. 

Click the top image to see pictures from the event. Send us yours too - email