IT S hard to imagine that just three years ago, Barnstaple s historic town Square was in fact a roundabout. Old black and white photographs stand testament to the many different uses it s had over the years; but it s doubtful Albert and co have ever play

IT'S hard to imagine that just three years ago, Barnstaple's historic town Square was in fact a roundabout.

Old black and white photographs stand testament to the many different uses it's had over the years; but it's doubtful Albert and co have ever played host to anything quite like the Christmas lights switch on shows that Barnstaple Town Centre Management has organised for the last three years.

Previous events featuring Joss Stone and The Saturdays have been enjoyed by thousands of people in the town and with more lights, cameras and double the action, last night's event was arguably the most spectacular yet.

Although the weather forced the cancellation of the firework show, not even bitterly cold winds and the occasional downpour could dampen the party atmosphere as chart-topping acts The Dolly Rockers followed by Noisettes took to the stage to officially launch the start of the town's Winter Festival.

The Dolly Rockers' Sophie King and Lucie Kay bravely appeared as a duo for the first time ever after fellow band member Brooke Challinor was forced to withdraw through illness.

And by the time Noisettes came on to push the plunger to turn on the lights and perform four songs, crowds - estimated to be in excess of last year's 8,000 turn-out - crammed into every nook and cranny of The Square, spilling out into Belle Meadow and Boutport Street.

The band is set to play in Milan, Italy, on Wednesday; but it's doubtful they'll receive a more enthusiastic reception than they did in Barnstaple last night. North Devon folk normally have to travel far and wide to see such high profile pop acts. So it's no surprise that when big bands turn up on our doorstep, we welcome them with mobile phone waving open arms.

The groups were the highlight of a day of fantastic entertainment taking place on two stages and in various locations around the town. Starting with a Spirit of Christmas parade in the High Street and Strand, visitors began to fill the Square to watch acts including the North Devon Gang Show; Orchard Vale and Pilton Infant School Choirs; the North Devon Community Gospel Choir; Jaden Cornelius; Jenna Witts; Sam Dowden; and bands Maybe Naked and The Breaks Collective.

The day also saw the live draw of the North Devon Hospice bumper draw where a new Ford KA was won by Sharon Lee, from Filleigh.

Town centre manager Craig Bulley said: "We had a fantastic turn-out again and I'm pleased that despite the weather, we were so well supported by people in Barnstaple and beyond.

"We're pleased to be able to put on such a successful show. There are a few technical tweaks we'd like to make here and there but we're still learning and we'll be working towards putting on an even bigger and better show next year."

For more on this year's programme of Winter Festival events and late night shopping times between now and Christmas, read Wednesday's North Devon Gazette or click the Christmas events tab on the homepage.

For more pictures of the Barnstaple Christmas lights switch on event, see Wednesday's Gazette or follow the link bellow.