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Kent Christmas lights switch-ons 2017

By Angela Cole

Feeling festive yet? Get into the spirit with some illuminating fun as Christmas lights start to twinkle across Kent. We look at where to head in the coming weeks


The Big Switch On this year will be on Thursday, November 9 between 5pm and 8pm. Festive celebrations will be kicked off with an evening of indoor festive performances taking place around the mall including comedy, dance and music plus the centre will be unveiling its new decorations, themed around the 12 Days of Christmas. There will also be a live show at the Moon Court outside M&S, with a special appearance from Santa. The centre will also have an ice rink and family skating again this year. Visit bluewater.co.uk for more details.

The Big Switch On at Bluewater
The Big Switch On at Bluewater


Santa’s elves will be getting busy when the Mall’s Grotto opens on Saturday, November 11, and will welcome children every day until Christmas Eve, with each one receiving a special gift. Staff will also be collecting toys and gifts for children not so fortunate, with the return of The Mall’s Giving Tree. Shoppers can buy an extra gift and drop it off at the Ask Me Point in the centre, where they can also complete a gift tag if they want. The Mall will then deliver the presents to the Homeless Care Day Centre in Knightrider Street. In the final countdown to the big day itself, volunteers will be on hand to help shoppers wrap their Christmas presents at gift wrapping stations at the Ask Me Point on the centre’s upper level. The service is available for a small fee and all proceeds will be donated to The Mall Cares’ charities. Local charities will also be going head-to-head with their Christmas carolling this December, as The Carol Factor competition begins. Charities will choose a day to perform in the centre, with the groups who raise the most money not only winning the coveted Carol Factor 2017 title, but having the total matched by The Mall.
There will also be seasonal children’s activities from Saturday, November 11, to Saturday, December 16. For more information, visit themall.co.uk/Maidstone


The run-up to Christmas starts at Hempstead Valley on Wednesday, November 15, with new decorations and lights being switched on and a 25ft high Christmas tree outside M&S.
Festive events include a Christmas gift fayre running from Monday, November 20 until Sunday, December 3. The malls will be filled with speciality stalls, selling a variety of gifts and there’s a chance to win a Christmas hamper. Father Christmas will take up residence in his grotto on Saturday, November 18 at 1.30pm, when he will be joined by kmfm’s Garry Wilson and Dame Nellie Night Nurse, one of the stars of the Central Theatre’s pantomime, Sleeping Beauty. The grotto features characters including penguins and will be open daily from Saturday, November 18 until Christmas Eve, with entrance costing £5 per child, iwhich will include a wrapped gift. There is no entry charge for any accompanying adults.
Young visitors can also post letters to Father Christmas in the big red post box and collect a free personalised reply back from the grotto elves. Letters must include a stamped, self-addressed envelope, if they are to be posted. Please allow a week for the elves to get writing. Last posting date is Wednesday, December 20. There will be a carol concert on Sunday, December 10 when the stores will be closed so customers can sing their favourite carols from 4.45pm, accompanied by the Medway Band.
For more details go to hempsteadvalley.com

Christmas at Hempstead Valley shopping centre
Christmas at Hempstead Valley shopping centre


The annual celebration, which will be on Friday, November 17, will be hosted by kmfm, and feature entertainment and special guests. Last year’s event saw appearances from Gogglebox star, Sandi Bogle, performances from X Factor finalists and a surprise visit from the show’s winner, Matt Terry.

Gogglebox star Sandi switched on last year's lights at Westwood Cross
Gogglebox star Sandi switched on last year's lights at Westwood Cross

Francesca Donovan, centre manager, said: “Our annual Christmas lights switch on always attracts thousands of visitors from across Thanet and is a great opportunity to get a head-start on the Christmas shopping, with stores open until 7.30pm weekdays and free parking you can relax and soak up the atmosphere.” Visitors will be able to join in the festive fun and take part in the centre’s name the reindeer competition, with an opportunity to win a stocking full of presents while children can write letters to Father Christmas, which will be collected at the guest services kiosk near Debenhams.


The town’s Christmas programme will begin with the lights switch-on and community parade, which this year will take place on Friday, November 17. Gravesend Borough Market is hosting its second festive season since reopening last year with a four-week extravaganza of Christmas Frost Fairs. Panto star Linda Lusardi will open a special market that evening and the Frost Fairs will begin the following weekend, starting with an Ice and Vintage theme.

The festive fun includes a street parade in Gravesend
The festive fun includes a street parade in Gravesend

All Things Magical is the theme for the weekend after, followed by Hot and Fiery, before All Things Christmas rounds things off over the weekend of December 16 and 17.


The lights go on on Friday, November 17 with former Hollyoaks star Andy Moss and the Mayor pressing the button at 5pm at the junction of Meeting House Lane and Chatham High Street. There will be family entertainment from 3.45pm including dance performances and competitions and prizes.


The lights in the Creative Quarter being switched on heralds the launch of the Folkestone Book Festival. This year the switch-on will be on Friday, November 17 by Tracey Chevalier, author of the internationally best-selling Girl with a Pearl Earring. There will be festivities and Tracey will be holding a discussion with Claire Armistead of The Guardian, exploring her fiction and latest book later that evening. More details at folkestonebookfest.com

The lights in Folkestone's Creative Quarter
The lights in Folkestone's Creative Quarter


Christmas kicks off in the town on Friday, November 17 when the ice rink in the amphitheatre at Calverley Gardens opens with a winter wonderland. There will also be live music events there. For details go to tunbridgewellsatchristmas.com There is festive fun at Royal Victoria Place on Sunday, November 19, with a day of family fun plus free parking all day. Santa will be opening his new Festive Fireside-themed grotto and switching on the Christmas lights from midday with a little help from his celebrity friends – CBBC presenter Mark Rhodes, EastEnders’ Michael Greco and Chris Pizzey from The Basil Brush Show – who will all be starring in this year’s Assembly Hall Theatre pantomime Aladdin. The event will be hosted by kmfm’s Drive-time presenter Rob Wills from 11.30am. Santa’s Grotto will be open until 4.30pm and there will be lots of free festive entertainment throughout the day, including the chance to see Chase and Marshall from PAW Patrol at intervals between 12.30pm and 4.30pm. Shoppers will also be able to see the biggest teddy in Tunbridge Wells and win prizes. For more details go to royalvictoriaplace.com


The fun starts at noon on Saturday, November 18 when there will be street entertainment and a fun run of Santas from 2pm. There will be family entertainment from 3.45pm and actress Claire Sweeney, who is starring in panto at the Central Theatre this year, will be pushing the magic button with the Mayor around 5pm.

The cast of Sleeping Beauty. Pic: Martin Smith at Orgin8 Photography
The cast of Sleeping Beauty. Pic: Martin Smith at Orgin8 Photography


The switch-on event is on Sunday, November 19 this year from noon through to 5.30pm, with the switch being flicked around 5pm by members of the cast of this year’s Maidstone pantomime, Peter Pan. There will be real reindeer, an ice rink for the children and Santa’s Grotto plus the high street will be crammed with street food, mulled wine and stalls.

Amelia Lily as Tinkerbell and Lloyd Daniels as Peter Pan, appearing at Maidstone Studios this Christmas
Amelia Lily as Tinkerbell and Lloyd Daniels as Peter Pan, appearing at Maidstone Studios this Christmas


A countdown is on for Maidstone’s Christmas lights switch-on. The button will be pressed at 6pm on Thursday, November 23, in Fremlin Walk. The illumination will cap a fun-filled evening of entertainment with Santa and his reindeer from 4pm. They’ll be joined by kmfm’s breakfast show presenters Garry Wilson and Laura Nevitt who will host a star-studded show with music, dancing and an extraordinary appearance from the cast of Maidstone pantomime’s Peter Pan. Entertainment is planned along the whole street and Santa will take his usual spot with his reindeer in the bandstand.

Getting festive at Fremlin Walk, Maidstone last year Picture: Andy Jones
Getting festive at Fremlin Walk, Maidstone last year Picture: Andy Jones

The event is free and there will plenty of gifts and prizes available. Traditional Christmas stalls will add to the atmosphere selling tasty treats including bratwurst, pulled pork baguettes and Churros as well as Christmas gifts and stocking fillers.

The Maidstone panto this year, Peter Pan
The Maidstone panto this year, Peter Pan


The lights are turned on on Saturday, November 25 at 5pm when there will be a night food market and visit from Father Christmas from 5pm, with the market from 6pm.

Christmas lights switch-ons near you
Christmas lights switch-ons near you


The fun takes place on Friday, November 24 between 3.45pm and 5pm.

There will be entertainment from 3.30pm with performances including from singing sensation Jack Rose and X-Factor finalist, Joseph, formerly of the band Rough Copy. The lights switch-on is around 5pm. For details of all Medway’s switch-ons head to new.medway.gov.uk


On Sunday, November 26 kmfm head to Commercial Road in Paddock Wood where street entertainment, Christmas market stalls, food and drink, an appearance by Santa and a small funfair will mark the arrival of Christmas.

Christmas lights will be switched on across Kent
Christmas lights will be switched on across Kent


Dover's Christmas lights will be switched on at around 5pm on Saturday, December 2 with guest choirs including the P&O Ferries Choir.


Father Christmas and his elves return to Bewl Water from Saturday, December 9. As well as meeting Father Christmas in his waterside grotto, youngsters will have the chance to embark on a treasure hunt aboard the Santa Express land train to help the resident elves find their missing Christmas items. The experience us open on December 9, 10, 16 and 17 and from December 21 to Christmas Eve. Tickets are £16 per child, including a gift from Father Christmas, and £8 per adult.

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