Thousands flock to Arundel for a magical day

Lilly Handson, 11, celebrates the snow falling  'PICTURES: 'Liz Pearce 'lp061214xla08

Lilly Handson, 11, celebrates the snow falling 'PICTURES: 'Liz Pearce 'lp061214xla08

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ARUNDEL’S historic High Street was packed with thousands of festive revellers during Saturday’s (December 6) stunning Arundel By Candlelight bonanza.

Shoppers from far and wide flocked to the town to witness the annual spectacle, which this year not only marked the Christmas period but a celebration of independent traders too, falling on Small Business Saturday.

Arundel Xmas Lights Switch On. Arundel by Candlelight 2014. The annual Christmas lights switch in Arundel by Her Grace the Dutchess of Norfolk. Pictured are newly weds, Thomas and Emily May. Arundel. Picture : Liz Pearce. LP061214XLA30 SUS-140612-212402008

Arundel Xmas Lights Switch On. Arundel by Candlelight 2014. The annual Christmas lights switch in Arundel by Her Grace the Dutchess of Norfolk. Pictured are newly weds, Thomas and Emily May. Arundel. Picture : Liz Pearce. LP061214XLA30 SUS-140612-212402008

And despite several false starts when attempting to switch on the town’s festive tree, the day was an amazing success.

Sharon Blaikie, the event’s creative director, said feedback from the public had been ‘really positive’.

“It’s grown and grown and grown,” she said. ”We have tried to stretch the town out. It’s all going on everywhere. We want to have all sorts of performers of all ages and styles. It’s fantastic and gets everyone in the spirit of Christmas.”

She added: “There were several false starts with the lights. I counted four failed countdowns but eventually they came on and no-one appeared disheartened by it.”

The lights were switched on by former X Factor finalist Marcus Collins, the Duchess of Norfolk, Georgina Fitzalan-Howard and children’s television star Richard David-Caine.

Speaking after the successful attempt to get the lights on, a relieved Marcus said: “(Arundel’s) a really beautiful place. It’s such an honour to be asked. I’ve had nothing but love from people, it’s really sweet.

“It’s great to go to a new place that’s so warm and friendly, especially when you’re an actor or a singer because you’re always away at Christmas.”

This year’s festival, sponsored by RINKIT.com and Pegasus Properties, did not feature the traditional torchlight parade, with organisers admitting it had become too tricky to arrange safely.

However, there was a boost in the number of live performances, with musicians from across the area performing sets throughout the day.

There was everything from a Christmas carol service led by churches across Arundel, to some Caribbean fun courtesy of the TLA Steel Band.

The Duchess felt the day provided the perfect start to the traditional season of goodwill.

She said: “There’s a fantastic community spirit here. It’s full of people, it’s so alive. It looks fabulous and is better than ever. We are learning all the time and it’s got a momentum – people know to get here. I love Christmas. I love the lights and carols. It really sets the scene for Christmas and gets us all in the mood.”

For a full picture spread, see this week’s Littlehampton Gazette (Thursday, December 11).