What better time of the year for community spirit and family atmosphere than Christmas.
And on Thursday night West Didsbury celebrated its annual Christmas Lights Switch On.
Celebrity chef Simon Rimmer, co-presenter of Something for the Weekend and owner of Greens in the town, and Olympic sprinter Andrew Steele were on hand to join in the festivities.
“Brrr, cold evening,” commented one of Didsbury residents awaiting the Christmas lights Switch-on yesterday on Burton Road in West Didsbury. The crowd gathered in the chilly evening and gradually warmed with hot mulled wine and cider.
The event, named LightsFest in the tradition of WestFest and Cavfest, began at 6.30 pm with Christmas carols sung by the choirs of Cavendish Primary and Lancasterian School.
Wrapped up in their scarves and Christmas costumes, singing happily and heartily, the children invited Christmas spirit and spread festive atmosphere.
White Christmas, Jungle Bells, We Wish You a Merry Christmas were all part of the repertoire of the young choir that won the hearts of the gathered audience.
“This is a very good event with a surprisingly big turn out. Everyone is here, everyone is happy and you can feel the sense of community,” Andrew said.
Event though it might seen surprising for some to see him walk among the streets of Didsbury rather than the training camp at the Australian Institute of Sport, the British Olympic and Commonwealth Games sprinter likes to be part of the local community.
“I am very local, I am to a good extent involved in the local community and especially with the organisers at Didsbury Life,” he said.
In August next year, Andrew , born and bred in West Didsbury, will hopefully be running the 400 metres and 4×400 metres relay for Great Britain in the 2012 London Olympics.
Along with hard and intensive training and preparation for the big event, Andrew is currently on the quest for sponsorship and funding.
“Preparations are going really well. I had some rough time with injuries but my training is on track now. I am giving my best in the remaining ten months for the big event.,” he said.
As part of his training Andrew spends six to eight weeks a year in Australia at the Australian Institute of Sport. However, he insists on being very local and mainly trains at places like the Manchester University Gym and Wilmslow Gym.
In the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, the first Olympic Games for Andrew, he managed to secure eighth position in his individual 400m semi-final, although he missed out on a place in the final. He ran a personal best time of 44.94 seconds.
“Now it is going to be a medal. I have to reach the final in the individual and try for a medal. We also have a fairly good chance to get the medal in the 4×400 metres relay.”
In the 2008 Olympics, as part of the Great Britain team, Andrew finished fourth in the final of the 4X400m relay. He was only 0.6 seconds away from a medal.
“We finished fourth in a time last Olympics, which would have gotten us silver in every other Olympics in history. We are fast and we have very good chances. We will use the home advantage to churn us as much as possible,” he said.
Labelled by the local community as Didsbury’s Olympic 2012 hope, Andrew may very well represent not only Didsbury’s but also UK’s hope for Olympic medal.
“I have a really good chance to win a medal. That is the big aim. That would be a dream come true.” Christmas is the best time of the year to wish for dreams and hopes to come true.
Part of the Xmas Switch-On was also a draw kicked off by Andrew Steele that included a number of prizes and more than 30 winners. However, the chillness of the approaching night prevented the organisers from announcing all winners.
Rimmer, who also owns Earle in Hale, did the final countdown for switching on the Christmas lights.
All prize winners and ticket numbers of the draw will be posted on the Westfest site and on Didsbury Life.