Manchester’s Christmas lights switch on was full of frivolities and fantastic fireworks, but a strong sense of solidarity was also present.
Teeming with talent, Saturday’s event saw Pixie Lott and DJ Sigala play before an audience of over 20,000 festival goers braving the heavy rain.
Key 103 hosts Mike Toolan, Matt Haslam and Coronation Street’s Brooke Vincent soldiered on, and Albert Square rang with the claps and cheers of happy families as children of all ages danced along to the acts on stage.
The stars themselves were just as enthusiastic.
“I love Manchester! It has an amazing vibe and spirit. People are always so lovely and friendly, and the crowds are always incredible,” Pixie Lott told MM.
Saturday’s Christmas light switch on occurred less than six months after the deadly Arena bombing, which killed 22 people and injured hundreds more.
Manchester has faced increased security ever since. Yet while the events of May 22 were not openly referred to onstage, everyone present was mindful of the city’s recent past.
Many of the acts, such as Shrek The Musical star Lucinda Shaw, spoke fondly to MM of Manchester and expressed their condolences to the victims.
“Manchester [is] a really special place for a lot of people. I’m from Australia, but [seeing] everything that was happening on the news – it just broke everyone’s hearts.”
Earlier this year, up-and-coming boy band Yes Lad included a Manchester bee in the music video for their single Something More as a tribute to the victims of the attack.
Before performing at the switch on, the Mancunian group described their part in the show as an “honour,” and hoped that the event would send an important and beneficial message to everyone around the world.
“[Event’s like tonight] prove that love always wins. It was such a travesty to happen, but we’ve all come together to bring a positive out of a negative.”
In their united stand against terrorism, Yes Lad and their fellow headliners were also quick to emphasise the cathartic importance of both music and the arts during difficult times.
Shrek’s Steffan Harri felt that the play, which famously follows an ogre who learns how to love after rescuing a fairytale princess, was very relevant in light of recent events.
He said: “There’s a sense of friendship [and] a sense of community in Shrek which is very important. It’s [also] so important for people to be whoever they want to be without people judging.”
Liz McClarnon who plays Jovie in Elf: The Musical similarly felt that the uplifting and inspirational messages of our entertainment could provide some comfort to their audience.
She said: “We need that little bit of magic now because we’re going through some really, really, tough times – especially Manchester.
BRAVING THE RAIN: Thousands of Mancunians – including a large percentage of kids – packed Albert Square in horrendous weather to see the artists perform
“We need all those moments and those nice little things that put smiles on our faces.”
It’s safe to say that the Christmas switch on provided the audience with those. Ahead of Elf’s opening at The Lowry Theatre in later this month, McClarnon and her co-lead Ben Forster enchanted audiences by arriving in reindeer-driven carriage, before performing two heart-warming hits from their show.
Manchester’s Christmas light switch on was opened by the captivating Little Women, which is set to begin on December 9 at Hope Mill Theatre.
The gathered guests were also treated to a performance from Street Dance from the Dancehouse Theatre as well as a preview for Guys and Dolls, whose run commences at the Royal Exchange Theatre on Dec. 2.
Although we’ll have to wait until January 2018 to see our favourite green ogre at the Palace Theatre, Steffan Harri and Lucinda Shaw delighted the crowd with their lively rendition of the show’s signature song I’m A Believer.
Certainly, Manchester’s switch on featured plenty of other favourites and Sigala invigorated the audience with his 2015 debut single Easy Love.
Plus, Pixie Lott had toes tapping with several of her most popular tunes, including her newest single Won’t Forget You before she wowed everyone with a cover of Bing Crosby’s White Christmas.
And as for Yes Lad? Well, before their barnstorming Michael Jackson medley, the band revealed that they are already planning to return to the Town Hall for Christmas 2018!
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“We’ll keep releasing music, [and we’ll] be back here next year. Top of the bill!”
If this year’s joyous and wholesome entertainment is any indicator, it seems that Manchester’s 2018 Christmas light switch on will be a similarly huge success.