The Christmas lights were switched on at the Bargate this evening by Southampton hero Greg Gilbert, Wave 105 DJ Mark Collins and the Mayor of Southampton, Councillor Les Harris.
The Delays frontman, who was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer last year, said in an Instagram post that he was “humbled to have been asked” to switch the lights on and tweeted that he is “happy to play a part.”
Introducing Greg, Mark Collins said: “There is nobody else really who could be a bigger hero for this city at the moment.”
Today also marked the opening of the Christmas Festival — the German Christmas market — and the return of the popular ‘Flying Santa’, suspended high over Above Bar Street.
Children and parents can watch his show twice a day, from Monday to Saturday at 5pm and 7pm and Sundays at 3pm and 5pm.
The decision to open the Christmas Festival on Armistice Day was met with controversy, with a Daily Echo reader calling it “INCREDIBLY (sic) bad taste”.
Another reader said: “I suppose the corporate money makers got (sic) to squeeze every week they can out of it, regardless if it means treading on the thoughts of our fallen.”
But the city council said they moved the opening time to 12 noon today as a mark of respect.
The Mayor of Southampton, Councillor Les Harris, said: “It’s great to have all these people coming into the city centre and enjoying themselves. It’s wonderful.”
The city’s first ever ice rink is also open, with a cosy pop-up Alpine bar serving mulled wine, hot chocolate and artisan food to skaters in need of a pick-me-up.
It is located on the Western Esplanade next to the medieval wall and is open from 10.30am to 10pm every day except Christmas Day, from November 11 until January 2.