Heather tops Preston’s lights spectacular

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A huge turn out of Prestonians enjoyed a festive lights switch-on to remember with a packed bill of entertainment on Saturday night.

On a night which was crisp and cold but mercifully dry, they saw headline act Heather Small push the button after flawlessly delivering her most famous hits for the bash on the city’s Flag Market.

As the white festive lights lit up, a pyrotechnic burst of sparkly light burst into life above the stage and artificial snow rose in a cloud and sprinkled downwards - just like the real thing.

The cost of the concert was around £20,000 with the overall event, including the lights switch-on and concert, costing around £105,000. City centre businesses coughed up £80,000 and the city council contributed £25,000 to provide lights around the market area.

The crowd seemed to enjoy it - and a late disappointment did not dampen spirits - the news filtered through that reality star Joey Essex was too ill to attend.

His late replacement turned out to be popular Emmerdale star Danny Miller, who plays the character Aaron Dingle.

Pictures Martin Bostock. Preston Christmas lights switch on. Heather Small.

Pictures Martin Bostock. Preston Christmas lights switch on. Heather Small.

The show began when DJ Carlos (Carl Emms), who presents the Drivetime show on Smooth Radio, introduced Mr Bloom (Ben Faulks) from CBeebies favourite Mr Bloom’s Nursery.

Mr Bloom kept the crowd entertained with veggie-themed japes and songs and there was a thrill for Barton St Lawrence primary School pupil Harry Lawson, aged six, when he was invited onto the stage with his mum Ally Lawson.

Ally said afterwards: “That was brilliant, Mr Bloom is a legend. We all know the words to the Alltment Song.”

And Harry added: “That was very exciting.”

The came a wide range of entertainment to keep the crowd warmed up - Dave Finnegan’s The Commitments unleached a string of classic songs such as Knock on Wood, My Girl and In the Midnight Hour.

Jo Lloyd from Smooth Radio kept the songs coming before ’Seventies soul legends The Real Thing arrived.

The Liverpudlians rolled back the years to get the crowd moving as they brilliantly delivered their much-loved hits such as Can You Feel the Force, Can’t Get By Without You and of course, You To Me Are Everything.

There was still time to introduce the cast of Guild Hall panto Jack and the Beanstalk and local hero Steph Slater, Preston’s own gold medal paralypian swimmer.

Then it was time for Heather Small, former M People singer, to take to the stage.

Dressed in an immaculately tailored red suite and tan ankle boots and in fine voice, she wowed the crowd M People favourites Search for the Hero, Moving On Up - and her solo hit Proud.

And then, as the Lord Mayor, Coun John Collins, was invited onto the stage, the lights came on as the show came to an end for another year, as the countdown to Christmas begins.