The Big Switch-On 2018 gallery: Paralympic star Jonnie Peacock says it was 'awesome' to turn on Cambridge's Christmas lights
Cambridge Independent supports Cambridge BID event, which attracted thousands to market square
Paralympian Jonnie Peacock said it was “awesome” to switch on the 2018 Christmas lights in his home city of Cambridge.
The Big Switch-On, organised by Cambridge BID and sponsored again by the Cambridge Independent, attracted a huge crowd to market square on Sunday.
New lights have been installed by the BID and there were performances throughout the day ahead of the plunger being pushed on the balcony of the Guildhall.
Jonnie, a double Paralympic gold medal-winning sprinter who was born in Cambridge and grew up in Shepreth, told the crowd that it was great to be switching on the lights in a city that meant so much to him.
He was joined by the mayor of Cambridge, Nigel Gawthrope, and Heart 103 presenters Kev and Roz who compered for the afternoon.
On the Big Switch-On stage, the first performance came from Fulbourn Primary School choir, which sang a collection of Christmas carols and songs, before London Road Sixth Form College was represented by a harpist and poetry recital.
Cambridge Rock Choir offered a medley of Christmas songs, before local choir Vocal Remix took to the stage. Stagecoach Performing Arts gave a dance show next, before contemporary dance from Splitz Theatre Arts, drama from Razzamatazz Theatre School, contemporary Christmas songs from Stagecoach Choir and uplifting tunes from Sing! Choirs.
Cambridge busker Tom Korni - also known as The One-Boy Band - was up next before Ballet Central performed something from Nutcracker.
Then it was time for Doddington sprinter Jonnie - who performed in 2017’s Strictly Come Dancing, reaching week nine on the BBC show - to switch on the lights with the mayor amid pyrotechnics and confetti.
Talking to the Cambridge Independent afterwards, he said it was an “awesome” experience.
Admitting he was biased, he said Cambridge was his “favourite city”.
Meanwhile, a new hollow Christmas tree has been installed this year, just off the market square, and proved a popular spot for photographs.
The Grand Arcade also offered entertainment throughout the afternoon, with performances from Stagecoach Performing Arts School, Cambridge School of Visual and Performing Arts, Vocal Remix and Cambridge Theatre Company before BBC Radio Cambridgeshire presenter Jeremy Sallis introduced Santa to turn on the lights while confetti cannons rained gold and silver foil on to a packed crowd.
At Lion Yard, new Christmas lights were on and a new grotto was present in the atrium.
And at The Grafton, the Giving Tree is back for the twelfth year, giving people a chance to donate a gift to a child that might not otherwise get one this year.
Presents can be brought into the centre, or purchased while in the centre and placed under the tree, which is in the Great Court, near H&M.
Mothercare is offering 10 per cent off in-store for anyone buying an item for the tree.
The Grafton Centre manager, John O’Shea, said: “For more than a decade, people from across the region have shown just how generous they are by donating to our Giving Tree campaign. Last year was a real highlight as we had a record-breaking total, with more than 8,400 gifts collected as part of the initiative in just over a month and we would love to see 10,000 gifts donated this year!”
John, who is spending his second year as manager of the revamped shopping centre, said the response was heartening last year.
“We had people from all walks of life getting involved, from those doing their festive shopping to staff from stores in the centre and even contractors who were working on the redevelopment of The Grafton at the time and I was blown away by seeing just how many took part. I can’t wait to see how many gifts we get this year.”
Heart FM will be encouraging listeners to join in again.
Breakfast presenter Kev Lawrence said: “We’ve seen the amazing difference the Giving Tree makes to the many children and young people around Cambridge who might not otherwise receive a present at Christmas.”
Look out for our full interview with Jonnie Peacock in this week’s Cambridge Independent.