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Canterbury Christmas lights: Is this Kent's most festive high street?


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With five miles of twinkling LED lights illuminating its historic streets, Canterbury is now a sea of festive colour.

But does Kent's only city boast the best Christmas display in the county?

Christmas lights have been switched on in Canterbury city centre. Picture: Canterbury BID/Matt Wilson
Christmas lights have been switched on in Canterbury city centre. Picture: Canterbury BID/Matt Wilson

Thousands of people turned out to watch as its lights were officially switched on after darkness fell on Friday.

The magical event, featuring a horse-drawn carriage and Christmas market, took the form of a lantern-lit parade in a bid to keep people moving and encourage social distancing.

But about 5,000 people are still thought to have turned out to take part in the festivities - the first switch-on event since 2019 as last year's was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Lisa Carlson, CEO of Canterbury Business Improvement District, which organises the event, said: "Enthusiasm for Christmas was palpable in Canterbury on Friday night, with the start of the Christmas market and the opportunity to get together for the switch-on with friends and family for the first time in two years.

"This year’s move to a parade allowed people to join in the fun from multiple locations – from The Marlowe Theatre to Whitefriars shopping centre.

Families watch a horse-drawn carriage go by. Picture: Canterbury BID/Matt Wilson
Families watch a horse-drawn carriage go by. Picture: Canterbury BID/Matt Wilson
A band provided festive music. Picture: Canterbury BID/Matt Wilson
A band provided festive music. Picture: Canterbury BID/Matt Wilson

"Visitors to the city were entertained by No Limit’s Street Band playing Christmas tunes, some very fun and festive Christmas characters and of course the two carriages - horse-drawn and BMW-drawn - with the Marlowe Pantomime cast and the Lord Mayor.

"It was great to see Ben Roddy back in his panto dame costume and for the Lord Mayor to be donning a Christmas jumper.

"Now it’s time to get Christmas started in Canterbury!"

The "light up parade" set off from the Marlowe Theatre at 6pm before processing through the city centre as the 118,000 LED lights were switched on.

The parade was led by the No Limits Street Band, followed by the Lord Mayor and his family, the Marlowe panto cast in a horse-drawn carriage, and Christmas characters and people carrying lanterns.

A unicorn formed part of the lantern-lit parade through Canterbury city centre on Friday. Picture: Canterbury BID/Matt Wilson
A unicorn formed part of the lantern-lit parade through Canterbury city centre on Friday. Picture: Canterbury BID/Matt Wilson
The parade featured a number of costumed characters. Picture: Canterbury BID/Matt Wilson
The parade featured a number of costumed characters. Picture: Canterbury BID/Matt Wilson
kmfm's Garry Wilson at the Canterbury Christmas lights switch-on event
kmfm's Garry Wilson at the Canterbury Christmas lights switch-on event

It finished up at Rose Square, where it was met by kmfm presenter Garry Wilson.

Canterbury's Christmas market also launched on Friday, and will be open until 4pm on Christmas Eve in St George's Street, Whitefriars and Rose Lane.

The market is open from 10am until 6pm Monday to Friday, from 9am to 6pm on Saturdays and from 10am until 4pm on Sundays.

The city's Christmas lights adorn 21 streets in the city centre, and cost £66,000 annually. They are provided by Canterbury BID and paid for by businesses in the BID area.

Stars of the Marlowe's pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk took part in the festive event. Picture: Canterbury BID/Matt Wilson
Stars of the Marlowe's pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk took part in the festive event. Picture: Canterbury BID/Matt Wilson
kmfm's Garry Wilson at the Canterbury Christmas lights switch-on event
kmfm's Garry Wilson at the Canterbury Christmas lights switch-on event

For a guide to Christmas switch-on events taking place elsewhere in Kent, click here.

Read more: All the latest news from Canterbury

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