Coventry Christmas Light Switch On 2019
Sat on the Botanist balcony overlooking the event, I marvelled at the size of the crowd squeezed into the city centre. It seemed thousands had gathered for the beginning of a thrilling night, eager to have some fun and start Christmas celebrations early.
As the show started off with cradling my first mulled wine of the year against the bitter cold, I watched as Free Radio presenter JD and Producer Paul introduced the night to an excited crowd – promising an evening of local talent before the lights reveal at 7:30pm. Already lit up were the trees were adorned with solar-powered lanterns beautifully decorated by local children.
Welcoming local Coventry dance groups onto stage by a roar of clapping hands, the performers dominated the stage to the tune of Christmas classics, and sang along when Coventry native Josh Hale took the stage shortly after. Dubbed ‘Coventry’s own Ed Sheeran’, Hale charmed crowds with his soulful acoustic versions of All Night Long and Shape of You.
The crowds below the balconies were a real mix of young children, parents, students and everyone in between – the atmosphere was buzzing with Christmas spirit and real Coventry pride, as more talent graced the stage and the evening got steadily darker and colder.
Amongst the fun was some more sobering moments; we heard that last year the local community had collected 7,000 gifts for Mission Christmas, a toy appeal charity, and the presenters – including Fleur East – had recently appealed again for more support. This support from Coventry’s local communities shone through as the crowd celebrated the success of last year’s appeal.
Some more vocal performances and crowd-wide sing-alongs followed, with Ernesford Grange school choir doing a sweet rendition of “Eyes Wide Open” from Greatest Showman, followed by confident rising star Abz Winter’s original song to get the crowd moving and jumping.
The crowd was buzzing throughout all of the acts, with the anticipation for the lights switch-on building throughout the night. In an interview with Trish Willetts, Coventry BID Director, she said that,
“[W]e want to make the lights switch on about Coventry, so the light installation, the acts are all from here. We’re about to put on the biggest digital mapping show that has ever come to the city… this is another level which we intend to keep building on year after year.”
After a well-received performance from The Voice star Tom Barnwell, the countdown was led by the City’s Mayor, Linda Bigham. From the balcony I watched as Linda, joined by Santa Claus himself, wished everyone a “wonderful and peaceful Christmas as we move towards City of Culture”. And with that, the countdown started and everyone enthusiastically joined in.
Immediately, confetti cannons showered the crowds and the balcony as Christmas music blared out the speakers. Through the shower of confetti, we saw the surrounding buildings begin to light up as the instalment began. As the crowd screamed and clapped, the lights flashed and synched together in a beautiful display.
As the Christmas lights stayed on and the confetti slowly fell, the atmosphere in the centre was electric. Long after the amazing light mapping show onto the buildings in Broadgate Square, the crowd was still abuzz with excitement for Christmas, but also for Coventry and what the New Year of 2020 will bring.
written by Katie Robinson
edited by Esmé Spurling
photography by Ruby Nixon for Coventry City Council