Tenth annual event had real community feel with local people the stars of the show

Barnstaple bathed in a warm glow of community spirit this evening as the town was lit up all ready for Christmas.

Thousands packed into the Square, Strand and Boutport Street to see the 10th annual Christmas lights switch-on performed by local community heroes nominated by North Devon Gazette readers.

Grace Brown, founder of Honey's Bravery Bags; Braunton teenage meningitis campaigner Lydia Cross; and Barnstaple community champion Irene Hockin were given the honour alongside Chivenor Military Wives Choir members Cheryl Morgan and Emma Aurelia, nominated by event lead sponsor Barnstaple Asda.

Barnstaple Christmas lights switch-on 2016. Picture: Andy KeebleBarnstaple Christmas lights switch-on 2016. Picture: Andy Keeble

They shared the big red plunger with One Direction bassist - local lad Sandy Beales - and veteran music director Nigel Brookes as ITV Westcountry presenter Seth Conway led the huge crowd to a countdown.

Earlier in the day, entertainment was provided by youngsters from Stagecoach Theatre Arts; North Devon Allstarz; Pathfield School Choir; and Fremington singer Yazzy - all presented by Voice FM presenters Paul Hopper and James Chapple.

Before the switch-on, around 100 Newport primary and Park secondary pupils filled the stage to belt out a few festive favourites.

And after a set by Small Town Jones, front man Jim Jones was joined by his children Ruben and Imogen to perform a rendition of Keane's Somewhere Only We Know and John Lennon's Happy Xmas (War is Over).

Fireworks followed the switch-on and the event was signed off on a real festive note by the Barnstaple Concert Band.

Plenty more planned in the run-up to Christmas

The switch-on event has heralded the start of a festive programme of activities being planned in Barnstaple that will continue right up until Christmas.

Father Christmas arrived in his grotto in Green Lanes today and late night shopping will take place on Thursday nights throughout December, with a traditional Christmas fayre and carol service on Thursday, December 8.

New events for Barnstaple will include a Movez Maniax Christmas Crackerz circus show in the Pannier Market at 2pm on Sunday, December 4; a lantern parade through the town centre on Thursday, December 15 at 6pm; and a Christmas street food party and market on Thursday, December 22 from 6-10pm.