Teddington was buzzing on Thursday evening for the return of the Lights Up event to kickstart the Christmas festivities.
An estimated 12,000 people flocked to central Teddington for the festivities, where they enjoyed market stalls, live music and plenty of mulled wine.
Lisa Wyborn, secretary of event organiser Teddington Together, said: “Everyone loves Lights Up, so we wanted to make this one the best one yet. We’ve really gone to town after last year’s had to be cancelled due to Covid.
“It’s the most stressful event of the year and it’s a complete adrenaline rush on the day, but it’s worth it to see everyone’s smiling faces.”
At 6:30pm on the dot, ex-England footballer Paul Merson pressed the button to turn on the town’s lights, and the crowd cheered as the trees were lit up and fake snow fell on their heads.
This year’s event was bigger than ever, with the council funding a Christmas tree on Stanley Road for the first time. The celebrations extended all the way from Stanley School to the Landmark Arts Centre.
The evening cost £50,000 to stage, and was funded by a combination of the council, eight sponsorships and partnerships, fundraising efforts and contributions from 130 local traders – both small businesses and franchises.
Wyborn said: “That’s what’s nice about Teddington. All the businesses work together to support each other.
“This morning, someone didn’t have the right plug to light up their Christmas tree, and someone else lent them theirs so everyone could celebrate together. They’re all in the same boat no matter what.”
The event was also a great opportunity for local charities to raise some cash, including the Rotary Club, which brought Santa along to meet the children.
John Frye, the Rotary Club’s President, said: “This year’s event is brilliant. We really missed it last year as we didn’t get as many donations as usual. […] The donations from tonight have already exceeded our expectations.”
Park Lane Stables were also in attendance, providing kids’ pony rides down Church Road. The stables provide support and fun for disabled people, and was almost forced to close during lockdown last year before being saved by community donations.
The stables’ founder Natalie O’Rourke was very happy to be back at the community’s biggest event of the year. “So many children have missed the ponies, so it’s great to be back. […] We don’t want anything else for Christmas than this!”
The packed crowd was treated to an hour-long set from local band Fake Tan as the event drew to a close at 9pm, and Teddington was filled with the unusual sight of young and old dancing in the street.
The scale of this year’s event was unprecedented, and despite it being a bit of a squeeze with so many attendees, the happiness in the air was palpable.
After the event, Wyborn was delighted: “It was a fantastic night and we’ve had some amazing feedback from traders and residents. The question is, how do we top it next year?”