Newcastle cricket star Danielle Wyatt lights up town's festivities
THOUSANDS of shoppers marked the countdown to Christmas when a town centre's illuminations were switched on by a homegrown sports star.
England international women's cricketer Danielle Wyatt was the special guest at last night's celebrations in Newcastle.
The 21-year-old, who made her debut for the national team in 2010, was invited to flick the switch to kick-start the town's festive celebrations.
Danielle, who was born and bred in Newcastle and still lives locally, said: "I was feeling nervous before I switched on the lights in case I pressed the wrong button.
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"I used to go to the Christmas light switch-on every year when I was a kid, so it's a great honour to turn on the lights in my home town.
"I was so excited that friends who I haven't seen since college all came to see it.
"My parents thought it was great, although my brother laughed initially when he heard I was switching on the lights."
When she is not away playing cricket, Danielle, from the Westlands, still finds time to go shopping in Newcastle.
She added: "The town is great. I love it. I actually did a bit of my Christmas shopping earlier in the day before the lights switch-on."
Last night's festivities in Newcastle began with the live Signal Radio Christmas Show.
David Thompson, aged 52, owner of Hammersleys Bakery, in Newcastle, said the event always helps to boost trade.
He said: "My shop is usually busy during the evening of the switch-on.
"We made a roast outside for people coming to see the lights."
The switch-on was organised by The Newcastle Town Centre Partnership, which is made up of a number of town centre businesses, the New Vic Theatre, Keele University and Newcastle Borough Council.
And it is just the start of Newcastle's celebrations.
Upcoming events include a Dickensian market, a 'Pop-up Emporium' in Lancaster Building, and a farmers' market where a range of hand-made and locally grown produce will be on sale.
There will also be a Santa's grotto in the Roebuck Centre, on Fridays and Saturdays throughout December.
Neale Clifton, executive director for regeneration and planning at the borough council and a representative on the Newcastle Town Centre Partnership, said: "We feel really proud that by working together the partnership has been able to bring together a fantastic programme of entertainment in Newcastle.
"We aim to attract families, friends and visitors into the town to enjoy the activities, and to take advantage of the wide range of independent retailers and businesses.
"When people turn their minds to Christmas shopping, we want them to support their local town centre – it's convenient, relaxing and has a festive family atmosphere."