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Christmas lights switch-ons, markets and ice rinks opening this week in Kent

Festive fever is starting to spread across the county, with lights switch-ons, panto characters out and about and ice rinks opening. Here's our guide to the upcoming ones:

CANTERBURY CHRISTMAS LIGHTS

Mother Goose cast at the Marlowe(19739423)
Mother Goose cast at the Marlowe(19739423)

The lights will be switched on in the city's St George’s Street on Friday, November 15 by kmfm's Garry and Laura and the cast of the Marlowe Theatre's panto, Mother Goose. Classic hits and festive favourites will be performed by live music acts, including Marylebone Jelly for the event between 4pm and 6pm, plus a snow machine. Garry and Laura will flick the switch between 5.30pm and 5.50pm and there will be a mini Christmas market, with free park and ride from 3pm to 9pm. There will also be a helter skelter and giant snow globe to enjoy. It will stay open after the switch-on, with mulled wine on offer. Almost 120,000 LED lights will be sparkling across the city.

TUNBRIDGE WELLS LIGHTS & ICE RINK

This year the lights will be switched on across the town on Thursday, November 14. Local shops will be taking part in the Rotary Club Charity Christmas shop window competition and the lights will be switched on in time for the ice rink opening which is the following day on Friday, November 15 in Calverley Grounds. There will be an outdoor ice rink, live music and food and drink on offer, as well as a second Tiny Tots rink for two to four-year-olds. Calverley Grounds' amphitheatre will be decorated with twinkling festive lights and there will be live music events, in conjunction with The Forum; local choirs performing on Sundays and wreath making workshops, with the rink open to Sunday, January 5. The smaller rink will have Bavarian curling from 6pm. For tickets go to tunbridgewellsatchristmas.com

Ice skating at Tunbridge Wells (21294517)
Ice skating at Tunbridge Wells (21294517)

Santa will be bringing two friends with him when he heads in to the Royal Victoria Place shopping centre on Thursday, November 14, and, to mark the opening of his Arctic Grotto, kids’ favourites Chase and Marshall from PAW Patrol will be popping in at 4.30pm. The event will be hosted by kmfm Breakfast’s Laura and there will be live music from the Tunbridge Wells Rock

Choir. Chase and Marshall will be meeting their fans at intervals throughout the day at 2.30pm, 3.30pm, 5.30pm and 6.30pm. The grotto, styled as an Arctic forest with thousands of twinkling lights, will be a festive fixture daily from Friday, November 15, through to Christmas Eve. A visit to see Santa costs £7 per child and includes a wrapped gift. Sensory Santa visits will be available on Tuesdays from 10am to 11am for children needing a sensory-friendly environment. Booking in advance is not required and a £l donation is made to the National Autistic Society. More details at royalvictoriaplace.com

PAW Patrol will be at Royal Victoria Place Picture: David Bartholomew
PAW Patrol will be at Royal Victoria Place Picture: David Bartholomew

ROCHESTER CHRISTMAS LIGHTS

The first of the Towns’ lights will be switched on in Rochester on Saturday, November 16 in the High Street, along with Rob Wills from kmfm, who will be launching the switch-on, which is sponsored by Medway Specsavers. There will be local acts performing on stage and the stars of Chatham panto, Cinderella, will also be there too. kmfm will be giving out glow in the dark glasses while Specsavers will also be giving out free balloons. There will be family entertainment from 3.45pm, with the switch-on at 5pm.

The Christmas market starts on selected dates from Saturday, November 30 in the Rochester Castle Gardens, with a funfair and Bavarian food village. Lights switch-ons to follow in the coming weeks include Gillingham, Chatham, Rainham and Strood. Find out more at medway.gov.uk

SITTINGBOURNE LIGHTS

In Sittingbourne, the lights will also go on on Saturday, November 16. The button will be pushed on stage at the junction of Central Avenue and the High Street at around 5.30pm. Visitors will be kept entertained all day with a Christmas market and performers are expected to include a sign language choir.

DARTFORD LIGHTS

This year the town’s big Christmas switch on will take place on Saturday, November 16. Dartford mayor Cllr Roger Perfitt will be leading the event in the High Street and joined by Father Christmas as well as the council’s colouring competition winner to turn the lights on at 5.15pm. There will also be family entertainment and giveaways in the town centre with celebrity faces including Denise Van Outen and Britain’s Got Talent winners Twist & Pulse. Music comes from the Soundcasters, a tribute to JoJo Siwa, Lee Jackson and the Country Jukebox Band and X Factor’s Che Chesterman.

Dartford Christmas lights fun last year
Dartford Christmas lights fun last year

REINDEER CENTRE, BETHERSDEN

The Reindeer Centre opens its grotto with Father Christmas on Saturday, November 16. The 150ft grotto has seven animated undercover scenes and the chance to meet the animals on site and feed the reindeer. Young visitors get a quality wrapped present from Santa and his elves who are there until Christmas Eve. There will also be an artificial snow play area, and soft play climbing area. Details at reindeercentre.co.uk

The Reindeer Centre has Christmas events
The Reindeer Centre has Christmas events

BLUEWATER'S GROTTO & ICE RINK

It’s official - the Christmas lights are on at Bluewater shopping centre now, so the festive countdown is on. Following on from the lights being switched on last week, the Christmas grotto and ice

rink will open on Thursday, November 14.

Christmas at Bluewater is about to start
Christmas at Bluewater is about to start

Both will be next to the lakes at the Village, with the grotto having a festive story of The Nutcracker and the Realms. Visitors will be met by a toy soldier guard who will give each child a golden key before they enter a series of realms and meet Santa. The outdoor ice rink will have a clear roof and there will be skating aids, bob skates and lessons available. Alongside the rink, special events will be held by kmfm. The grotto is open every day until Christmas Eve and the ice rink until Sunday, January 5. To book tickets for both attractions, visit bluewater.co.uk

HEMPSTEAD VALLEY SHOPPING CENTRE, GILLINGHAM

The traditional grotto at Hempstead Valley will open on Saturday, November 16 at 2pm when Derek Moran from Channel 5's Milkshake - Dandini in this year's panto, Cinderella at the Central Theatre, Chatham - will welcome Father Christmas to his grotto with kmfm's Andy Walker for the official countdown.

Father Christmas at Hempstead Valley
Father Christmas at Hempstead Valley

The grotto features characters including reindeer and a towering Christmas tree and will be open every day until Christmas Eve. Entrance is £5 per child and includes a wrapped gift. There is no charge for accompanying adults. Pre-book your visit (there is a £1.50 booking fee) at bookfatherchristmas.co.uk

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