Swaffham has a great switch-on

Scenes from the 2016 Swaffham Christmas Lights Switch on - Sister Francis switches on the lights with Town Crier Nigel Wilkin. ANL-161126-122944009

Scenes from the 2016 Swaffham Christmas Lights Switch on - Sister Francis switches on the lights with Town Crier Nigel Wilkin. ANL-161126-122944009

Thousands of people packed into Swaffham for the town’s annual Christmas lights switch-on last Friday.

The event was the first to be held since the town’s new Trade Association took over management of the display, in conjunction with the town council, earlier this year.

Scenes from the 2016 Swaffham Christmas Lights Switch on - The reindeers in Plowright Place. ANL-161126-122724009

Scenes from the 2016 Swaffham Christmas Lights Switch on - The reindeers in Plowright Place. ANL-161126-122724009

The group has previously outlined its plans to keep lights up in the town all year round and said the new display had gone down well with visitors.

Association secretary Elizabeth Mason said: “Everyone loved the new Christmas lights and come January the lights in the trees will remain in place for the rest of the year, after the other Christmas decorations come down.

“This will hopefully create a pavement culture and attract more visitors to the town.”

Highlights of the celebration included a very busy grotto for Father Christmas to meet scores of children, plus a wide range of stalls and a funfair.

The event had attracted controversy in the build-up, after campaigners from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) urged organisers to scrap their plans to have live reindeer at Santa’s grotto.

They argued it was an unsuitable environment for the animals. A Cambridge garden centre has also faced similar protests this week after using reindeer in its own festive display.

But officials rejected the claim, insisting detailed health and safety assessments had been undertaken.

Mrs Mason said one protester did attend the event to voice objections, but left peacefully after expressing her views.