M People star Heather Small tops bill for Preston Christmas lights party

BIG NAMES: Heather Small and The Real Thing will perform at Prestons Christmas lights switch-on

BIG NAMES: Heather Small and The Real Thing will perform at Prestons Christmas lights switch-on

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Preston is planning a cracker of a Christmas party to make the city proud.

M People star Heather Small will be one of the headline acts at a grand festive lights switch-on, which this year returns to the Flag Market.

The Real Thing

The Real Thing

Soul legends The Real Thing, Dave Finnegan’s Commitments and Mr Bloom of CBeebies fame are also in the line-up for the bumper free concert on Saturday, November 26.

Preston will also put up a giant 30-foot Christmas tree, lay on a series of Saturday street performances and run a TV advertising campaign to pull people into the city centre during December.

Mark Whittle, of Preston’s Business Improvement District (BID), which is staging the event, said: “The switch-on concert this year is a different kind of show to kick-start the festive celebrations.”

“Instead of filling the stage with X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent type of acts – not that there’s anything wrong with that – we wanted to provide something for all age groups.

It’s definitely a case of less is more with the emphasis on quality and credibility. It is a line-up which is tighter, yet has a far wider reach.”

“It’s definitely a case of less is more with the emphasis on quality and credibility. It is a line-up which is tighter, yet has a far wider reach.”

Brit Award winner Heather is expected to perform M People classics including Moving On Up, Search For The Hero and Proud.

Million-sellers The Real Thing, who are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year, will put on a soul set which will include the instantly recognisable You To Me Are Everything.

Dave Finnegan’s Commitments, direct from the Hollywood blockbuster film, will bring the party to Preston with an energetic performance including timeless, feel-good classics like the international hit Mustang Sally.

Dave Finnegan

Dave Finnegan

And it will all be kicked off by Mr Bloom – AKA actor Ben Faulks – from the BBC hit Mr Bloom’s Nursery, entertaining the youngsters in the audience from 5.15pm. Smooth Radio North West will host the whole show.

The concert and switch-on is sponsored by the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce. Chief executive Babs Murphy said: “This will be the last major event of our centenary year and it is our way of saying thank you to the people of Preston. This is where the chamber began exactly 100 years ago.”

Preston BID is investing up to £140,000 in the city’s Christmas campaign – £60,000 of it on the festive lights. Preston City Council has put in £20,000 to light up the markets quarter.

The Harris Library and its surrounding trees will also be bathed in coloured floodlighting.

There will be no Lancashire Market this year and no portable ice rink. But Preston BID says this is still the most intensive Christmas campaign it has been involved in.

“Last year the switch-on was in Fishergate and it was great,” said Mark Whittle. “But before that it has been held in the Flag market and we are going back there again this year.

“This is the biggest Christmas show of its kind in Lancashire and we want it to be maintain its reputation as the best.”