It was a Christmas light switch-on to remember for the Bolton family as crowds enjoyed live music and a celebrity homecoming during a celebration of the town’s community spirit.
The seasonal spectacular served to raise everyone’s mood after a difficult week saw a devastating fire force hundreds of town centre residents to be evacuated to emergency accommodation.
The festive crowds in Victoria Square cheered along as home-town hero Jenny Ryan, currently starring in ITV’s The X-Factor: Celebrity, delivered a memorable performance of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.
She was later joined on stage by Bolton Mayor Cllr Hilary Fairclough and Father Christmas to flick the switch to mark the official start of Bolton’s festive season.
Jenny said: “It’s an honour and a privilege to come back to my home town of Bolton for the Christmas light switch on.
“It’s something I’ve done many times as a spectator, stood out here in the cold and it’s great I now get to take part.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by the support from the people of Bolton. I’m proud to be a Boltonian and I hope I’m doing Bolton proud.”
Hollyoaks actor Ray Quinn, who stars as Aladdin in this year’s Albert Hall’s pantomime, was originally set to do the honours. But he graciously stepped aside to allow Jenny to turn on the lights in her home town.
The event, sponsored by Market Place Shopping Centre, also showcased a plethora of local acts including the Rock Choir, Bolton Ukulele Group and Luke McColl.
Redd, Izzie Ingham and Kallea were among the musicians who performed on both the main stage and in the Market Place.
During a poignant moment of the night, University of Bolton Student’s Union President Ansh Sachdeva addressed the crowd.
He thanked the emergency services, volunteers and the people of Bolton for the help and support given to the students affected by Friday’s fire at The Cube student accommodation block.
Ansh said: “The response from the community has been great, I’m just overwhelmed by the love and support.
“Thank you to the firefighters and the staff at the university, it’s incredible how everyone has joined hands to do what we have done.
“The support of the Bolton family was overwhelming, within six hours we had so many donations.”
It was one of many memorable highlights from an evening that showed Bolton at its very best.
The Christmas light switch-on is always a spectacular event but I think the people of Bolton have outdone themselves this year.
Mayor Cllr Hilary Fairclough said: "The Christmas light switch-on is always a spectacular event but I think the people of Bolton have outdone themselves this year.
“From our wonderful local musical acts to the spectacular homecoming of our own Jenny Ryan, it was the perfect way to start the festive season in Bolton.
“My highlight of the evening was the message of thanks from the university students to all the community volunteers who have helped them in their hour of need.
“It was a touching reminder of what makes Bolton so special.”
Nikki Wilson-Cook, Centre Manager at event sponsors Market Place said:
"Last night's event was absolutely spectacular.
“The fun kicked off at Market Place at 3pm and the atmosphere was totally electric.
“Varied performances from Christmas Elves, Kallea, Redd, Georgia Bradshaw, Bolton Ukulele Group, Izzie Ingham and Luke McColl kept everyone enthralled until the lights were officially turned on - the perfect celebrity for this honourable job!”
The event is just the start of the festive fun in Bolton.
Tickets for Aladdin at the Albert Halls can be booked online or by calling 0843 208 0500.
The always popular Winter Festival will welcome its first visitors on Saturday, December 7 and will be open every day until Sunday, January 5 (except Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day).
This year the festival will feature a giant covered ice rink, a teepee bar and a family fun zone. For more information visit boltonwinterfestival.com.
Free weekday parking after 3pm will continue until January 3 in NCP multi-story car parks, as well as free parking on weekends and bank holidays.