Olympic heroes to switch on Christmas lights in Leeds

THE city's Rio heroes are ready to light up Leeds at this year's spectacular Christmas lights switch-on event.

Alistair and Jonny Brownlee
Alistair and Jonny Brownlee

Leeds-born triathletes Ali and Jonny Brownlee and Paralympian Kadeena Cox will be the special guests of honour at next week’s showpiece, when they will take to the stage and get the festive season officially underway.

Taking place on Victoria Gardens on The Headrow from 6.45pm on Thursday November 10, the switch-on will also include live music and entertainment in front of an expected crowd of thousands.

Speaking ahead of the event, double Olympic gold medallist Ali said: “We’re incredibly proud and excited to be switching on the Christmas lights in our home town.

“The people of Leeds have given us so much support and encouragement through the years and knowing the city is behind us has always helped spur us on whenever we’re competing around the world.”

Jonny, who won a silver medal at the Rio Games earlier this year, said: “Seeing tens of thousands of people lining the streets at the recent Rio Heroes parade was an unforgettable experience and we hope that by switching on the Christmas lights, we can show just how much that support means to us both.

“It’s going to be an amazing night and we can’t wait to press the button and officially start the countdown to Christmas in Leeds.”

Courtney-Mae Briggs and James Bennet.

The Brownlees will be joined by Paralympic gold medallist Kadeena Cox, who won bronze in the 100 metres sprint and gold in 500 metres cycling time trials.

British girl band Stooshe, who had a top 10 hit with their single Black Heart as well as a UK top 10 album, will also be performing on the main stage.

Stooshe said: “We love Christmas and anything to do with getting in the spirit so we can’t wait to perform in Leeds and switch on the Christmas lights! Whenever we are in Leeds, it’s always a great crowd and so very much looking forward to meeting all the lovely people.”

Also performing one of his own songs on the night will be local lad and X Factor contestant James Wilson, who made it through to judge’s houses on this year’s show.

James said: “I’m so proud to have this opportunity to sing in my home town. This is a real big deal for me and I would like to thank everyone who has supported me.”

Cbeebies stars Andy Day and Alex Winters and will be hand to entertain the crowds this year with some Christmas classics as well as some of Andy’s popular Dino raps.

Joining them in the festive fun on stage will be panto favourite Jez Edwards, who will be appearing as Buttons in Cinderella at the Carriageworks Theatre’s annual Christmas panto.

And Britain’s Got Talent sensations Boogie Storm will be taking the crowd to a galaxy far far away, performing their unique dance routine as Stormtroopers with a festive twist

Courtney-Mae Briggs and James Bennet.

There will also a live performance from the cast of Strictly Ballroom, who are appearing at West Yorkshire Playhouse, and Breeze has Talent 2016 winner Cole Lawton-Challenger, a vocalist and rapper who wowed the judges at this year’s event.

Hosting the evening’s entertainment will be Dixie and Emma from Heart Breakfast.

Dixie said: “It’s my favourite night of the year and the light switch on really kicks off the Christmas celebrations in Leeds. Especially with the opening of the new shopping centre Victoria Gate; shoppers have got a lot to be excited for this Christmas.”

Emma added: “I can’t wait to get on the stage to turn the lights on, knowing we start Christmas for the shoppers is so exciting! We love being involved, it’s always such a great atmosphere.”

Other attractions on the night will include fun fair rides along Cookridge Street, with entertainment culminating in the big switch-on of one of the UK’s largest displays of city centre festive illuminations and spectacular fireworks lighting up the city’s skyline.

The event will start at Victoria Gardens on The Headrow from around 6.45pm.

Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “The Christmas lights switch on is always such an exciting occasion and we’re particularly proud to welcome some our Rio heroes Ali and Jonny Brownlee and Kadeena Cox to the stage as special guests of honour. They are tremendous ambassadors for Leeds and I’m sure they’ll get an incredible welcome from the crowds.

“The atmosphere on Victoria Gardens is always very special each year and it’s fantastic to see so many people coming to the city centre to get the festive season underway together.”

The Leeds Light switch-on marks the official start of the city’s Magical Leeds campaign which will feature a number of special events and activities including the annual Christkindelmarkt on Millennium Square.

To find out more about Magical Leeds, go to whatson.leeds.gov.uk

As part of the lights switch on, the following road closures will also be in place on the night along with other traffic management measures:

-Headrow (Oxford Place to Albion Street): 6pm to 8.45pm

-Cookridge Street (Headrow to St Annes Street): from 1pm

-Calverley Street (Headrow to Gt George Street): 8pm to 8.30pm

Have you downloaded the free YEP app available on Android and iphone?