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Leicester welcomes the festive season this week with a range of events across the coming days, kick started by the annual Christmas lights switch-on.

In a move from its regular Sunday slot, this year’s switch-on takes place tomorrow, Thursday 17th, with live entertainment on the Humberstone Gate stage from 5pm, hosted by BBC Radio Leicester double act, Jim and Jo.

Studio 79 Dancers, Bullfrog Arts Choir and La Bella Ukulele will all take to the stage followed by members of De Montfort Hall’s Christmas pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk.

Singer Sam Bailey, who plays the lead in this year’s panto, will be joined by fellow cast members, including BBC radio broadcaster Martin Ballard, outside the Visit Leicester centre between 5pm and 6pm for autographs and photo opportunities.

Photo Credit: Leicester City Council
Photo Credit: Leicester City Council

The official switch on is scheduled for 6:30pm, with Lord Mayor Councillor Stephen Corrall taking the honours, joined by both Sam Bailey and Father Christmas.

More entertainment will follow, including a sing-a-long with members from this year’s Curve Christmas production, Grease, music from Leicester based band Johnny & The Goodtime Boys and a performance of ‘O Holy Night’ by Sam herself.

Councillor Piara Singh Clair, Assistant City Mayor for Culture, Leisure and Sport, said: “The switch-on of Leicester’s Christmas lights is always popular with the public, with around 25,000 people enjoying last year’s events.

“There’s a packed programme of events lined up from 5pm – including a 10ft tall dancing snowman, a live performance from Sam Bailey, traditional Christmas songs and, of course, the switch-on of Leicester’s Christmas lights.”

Elsewhere in the city, St Peter’s Square in the Highcross will be transformed into a winter wonderland as part of Snowtopia, with performers including lightwalkers on stilts, a snow Queen accompanied by neon birds and a live show from the Spark drummers.

The festivities continue across the weekend with the return of the Christmas funfair on Humberstone Gate on Saturday 19th, whilst staff from Twycross Zoo are inviting the public to meet one of Santa’s real reindeer in Jubilee Square from 11am until 4pm.

On Sunday 20th, the Winter Food and Drink Festival revisits Leicester for an eighth year, with over 150 food and 20 craft stalls to browse through. Celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli will be holding culinary demonstrations at 1pm and 3pm, whilst live entertainment will be provided by the Red Hot Santa’s throughout the day.

Photo Credit: Leicester City Council
Photo Credit: Leicester City Council

Visitors can take in aerial views of the city’s illuminations from the Wheel of Light, the ferries wheel located in Jubilee Square. Family tickets are available at a cost of £15, with the rest of the week’s events free to attend.

By Jennifer Morris