Thousands flock to Preston's Christmas lights switch-on

The Flag Market was packed for the switch-on
The Flag Market was packed for the switch-on
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A crowd estimated at up to 8,000 thronged Preston's Flag Market area to signal the start of the Christmas season in dazzling style.

Soul legend Alexander O'Neal was among the stars as a feast of entertainment heralded the big switch-on of the city's festive lights.

The big moment - Boyz On Block pull the switch

The big moment - Boyz On Block pull the switch

Hundreds of thousands of super-bright LED lights will light up the city centre this Christmas and Mark Whittle from Preston BID, which funds the switch-on evening, reckoned Saturday's event was the biggest and best yet.

"The switch-on is the city’s biggest free family show and it just gets ever more popular," said Mark.

"People were queuing from anything up to five hours before the show started to ensure a good spot and we had as many in the Flag Market at the start this time as we have had at the end in some previous years.

"I would estimate there were more than 6,000 people here enjoying the show - what a great turnout.

Hundreds of thousands of LED lights are now adorning the city centre

Hundreds of thousands of LED lights are now adorning the city centre

"The weather co-operated and there was a lovely festive family atmosphere throughout - we couldn't have wished for better.

"Thanks to our partners and sponsors and to everyone who came along to help make it such a spectacular start to Christmas.”

O’Neal, whose hits include Criticise and If You Were Here Tonight, was joined on the bill by Boyz On Block, made up of leading members of some of the biggest boybands of the 90s and 00s - Dane Bowers (Another Level), Shane Lynch (Boyzone), Abz Love (Five) and Ben Ofoedu (Phats & Small) - along with Preston ska band Skaface, singer songwriter Harvey Brittain, and Chloe Rose, a singer, Tic Tok social media star and influencer with a substantial online following.

Preston's College dancers also performed, while for the younger members of the family, PJ Masks superheroes Catoy, Owlette and Gekko also took to the Flag Market stage.

Soul legend Alexander O'Neal entertains the crowd

Soul legend Alexander O'Neal entertains the crowd

Bill-toppers Boys On Block were joined by Father Christmas as they pulled the lever to light up the city centre, to the delight of the packed crowd, who were showered in tickertape.

Mary Mercer from Preston was in the audience with three generations of her family.

She said: "We come every year and we love it.

"The atmosphere is brilliant and it's great to see such top stars performing in Preston.

"It really feels like it's Christmas when the lights go on and we look forward to the switch-on all year.

"We always have a great time."