Panto stars and mayor turn on Sunderland Christmas lights ahead of fireworks spectacular

Families braved drizzly weather as Sunderland’s festive lights were given the big switch on.

Keel Square in the city centre was the venue for the event as hundreds of people young and old turned out for the fun.

Fireworks at Sunderland's Christmas lights switch-on. Picture by Tom Banks.

Fireworks at Sunderland's Christmas lights switch-on. Picture by Tom Banks.

Visitors saw choir performances from Grange Primary School and Benedict Biscop Church of England Academy, while singers Kate Hilton and Channy Thompson also took to the stage, both of who sang Christmas songs.

The Mayor of Sunderland, Councillor Lynda Scanlan, was joined by Richard McCourt and Josh Andrews, stars of this year’s Sunderland Empire pantomime Peter Pan, which runs from December 14, to January 6, for the countdown and switch-on.

Despite heavy rain for much of the evening, families were still keen to stay outside for the big countdown to the lights switch on, which was then followed by a spectacular fireworks display from the former Vaux site.

Brian Watkins, 62, of Southwick, was among those watching the display.

Channy Thompson performing. Picture by Tom Banks.

Channy Thompson performing. Picture by Tom Banks.

“I still love Christmas and it’s great to see everyone getting into the spirit of things,” said Brian.

“Even though the weather’s been really wet tonight there are hundreds here.

“Everyone seems to be a lot happier when it gets close to Christmas and that goes for youngsters as well as us older ones too.”

There were also collections for the NSPCC, with Coun Scanlan choosing the organisation as one of the charities to benefit from her year in office.

Richard McCourt and Josh Andrews alongside Mayor of Sunderland Councillor Lynda Scanlan and consort Mickey Horswill at the Sunderland Christmas lights switch-on. Picture by Tom Banks.

Richard McCourt and Josh Andrews alongside Mayor of Sunderland Councillor Lynda Scanlan and consort Mickey Horswill at the Sunderland Christmas lights switch-on. Picture by Tom Banks.

Katy Carmen, NSPCC community fundraising manager for the North East, said: “We are delighted that Sunderland City Council, once again, has chosen to support the NSPCC at its Christmas lights switch-on event.

“We would like to thank all the people who generously donated during the evening.

“All the money will go towards helping protect more children in Sunderland from abuse and neglect.”

Fireworks at Sunderland's Christmas lights switch-on. Picture by Tom Banks.

Fireworks at Sunderland's Christmas lights switch-on. Picture by Tom Banks.

Youngsters perform on stage. Picture by Tom Banks.

Youngsters perform on stage. Picture by Tom Banks.

Fireworks at Sunderland's Christmas lights switch-on.

Fireworks at Sunderland's Christmas lights switch-on.