Let there be lights

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RECORD crowd sees stars switch on Sunderland’s Christmas lights + VIDEO

More than 15,000 people watched as Tom Lister, who played Carl King in Emmerdale, joined local Olympians Jill Scott and Kat Driscoll to flick the switch at the Civic Centre.

The switch on, assisted by Mayor of Sunderland Iain Kay, was greeted by mass cheering and sparked a spectacular fireworks display.

“It was fantastic,” said Tom, who is playing Captain Hook in the Empire’s Christmas panto.

“We were very privileged because we got to stand in the balcony and watch some of the performances. We were able to look down upon this huge sea of people.”

Sunderland-born footballer Jill Scott followed sporting heroes such as Steve Cram and Tony Jeffries in switching on the lights.

“Some of those names are just a few to be mentioned and to be included in that list of people, it really is an honour,” said the Team GB star.

“When I got the phone call to ask me if I would come along, I was delighted. For years I have come to the Christmas lights as part of the crowd, so it was fantastic to be involved today.”

The switch on event, hosted by Simon Grundy and the Sun FM roadshow, included a live acoustic performance from former Monkwearmouth School pupil Paul Liddell.

School choirs from Castletown Primary and Farringdon Community Sports College, winners of the Sunderland City Sings competition, also gave festive performances to warm up the crowd before the big switch on.

Coun Kay said: “We’ve seen a fantastic turn out tonight. The response that everybody gave to the Olympians, Tom Lister, and the rest of the performers we had, was simply fantastic.

“There is a real buzz about the city. There’s a real sense of excitement. It’s just been superb.”

Members of the City Council of Stavanger also switched on the Christmas tree lights, marking a 50-year tradition of the Norwegian city supplying Wearside with a tree.