THE festive spirit has well and truly arrived in Winchester, boosted by the lights switch-on last week.

More than 12,000 people were left dazzled by this year’s light display, hosted by Rich Clarke from Heart Radio and put on by Winchester Business Improvement District (BID).

Three ‘local heroes’ who had been nominated in the weeks before the event were given the honour of pushing the plunger to light up the city.

The first was Maddy Thompson, who was chosen for her work as a clinical matron for the Palliative Care Team and her support for the Winchester Hospice Appeal.

The second was Anita Clarke, who raised £400,000 for the Emmaus Hampshire charity, while Mitch Allen was the third guest welcomed onto stage for his efforts to help the community, specifically the sponsored marathon that he ran in aid of Type One Diabetes.

Paul Spencer, Winchester BID manager, said: “We are delighted to have coordinated the lights switch on festivities again and we really wanted to make it a community centred event this year.

“With so many incredible public nominations, we felt that there should not be just one, not two, but three local heroes celebrated.

“We saw it as the perfect opportunity to shine the spotlight on our community heroes, which is why we ran the ‘Nominate Your Local Hero’ campaign, so that well deserving local people could be celebrated and help switch on this year’s lights.”

The BID event was kicked off at 4pm by primary schools from the city district singing Christmas carols as choirs.

Carols were followed by performances from members of the Busking Society at the University of Winchester, including a rendition of Take Me Home Country Roads by John Denver, that got the whole crowd singing.

Two of the Theatre Royal’s pantomime cast were then welcomed to the stage by the host, dressed in full costume.

The dame and ‘Wally’ from this year’s performance of Beauty and the Beast gave a half-an-hour taster performance, before pulling out a water pistol and splashing members of the audience.

Rich Clarke then spent some time within the audience, giving people the chance to win prizes by completing the lyrics to unfinished Christmas songs that were played over the speakers.

The Spitfire Sisters were the final entertainment act come onto the stage.

The nominees were then joined by the Beauty and the Beast pair and Mr and Mrs Christmas to push the plunger that switched on the Christmas lights.

Evening entertainment was then rounded off by three performances - one from Winchester dance group Intergr8, another from the Winchester Cathedral Choir and the final from Body Translation.