Sunderland’s Gus Poyet to join city panto star for Christmas switch-on

LIGHTS FANTASTIC: Last year's switch-on of the Christmas lights in Sunderland. Below, Gus Poyet.

LIGHTS FANTASTIC: Last year's switch-on of the Christmas lights in Sunderland. Below, Gus Poyet.

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SUNDERLAND head coach Gus Poyet has a fixture to help Sunderland’s Christmas festivities sparkle.

The Black Cats boss will join the Mayor of Sunderland, Councillor Robert Heron, as he switches on the city centre’s light display on Thursday, November 14.

The celebrations in Burdon Road will be kicked off with live performances from the this year’s City Sings Winning Choirs and 1950s combo The Revolutionaires before the illuminations are then launched.

Poyet said: “As someone who is new to the city, it is a tremendous honour to be asked to participate in Sunderland’s Christmas light switch-on.

“I have already been made to feel very welcome by everyone I have met, and I’m sure it will be great night.”

A star from the Sunderland Empire’s production of Cinderella will also join in the big switch on, with organisers to reveal which cast member it will be nearer the time.

Councillor John Kelly, cabinet holder for public health, wellness and culture, said: “The Christmas lights switch-on is always a fantastic family occasion, symbolising the start of the festive season.

“We’re really looking forward to the celebrations and welcoming our guests who will be switching on the lights.”

Organisers say they will mark the beginning of a packed programme of events in the run-up to December 25.

After the lights switch-on, late-night shopping sessions will begin in the city, Santa’s Christmas Village in Market Square will start to welcome visitors, hosting street entertainment each Thursday and Saturday, and Sunderland Live’s discount scheme, Restaurant Thursdays, will welcome diners.

Mowbray Park will also be lit up in the run-up to Christmas, with the Lightweight snowglobe display to make a return from Saturday, December 14, to Friday, December 20.

Bjorn the Bear Experience, a life-size puppet of a polar bear, will appear in the city on Friday, December 20, and the following day, and Santa’s reindeer will taking time out from their festive preparations to visit Mowbray Park, also arriving on that Friday and remaining on show until Monday, December 23.

Chris Alexander, chief operating officer of Sunderland Live, which is organising the events, said: “We have some fantastic entertainment and guests lined up for the annual switch-on event, and everyone is really looking forward to the evening.

“Christmas in Sunderland 2013 is set to be one of the best yet.”

Drivers using Sunderland City Council car parks in the run-up to Christmas will also get free parking after 3pm on Thursdays and Fridays and all day at weekends.

Full details of the programme are available from www.sunderlandlive.co.uk, and brochures will be available from the City Library and Arts Centre and city centre traders.