THOUSANDS of people packed into Worcester city centre to start the countdown to Christmas with the annual lights switch-on.

The festive spirit was in full swing outside the Guildhall from 4.30pm yesterday.

Mayor of Worcester, councillor Roger Berry, performed the switch-on with the help of Molly Telfer, aged six, and Hafsa Shafqat, seven, of Stanley Road Primary School.

Councillor Berry said: “It was a great pleasure to see the enthusiasm from the local children and their parents.

“The city looks fantastic, especially with the extension into Broad Street.”

Over in CrownGate Shopping Centre, children’s favourite Peppa Pig and her brother George were on hand to meet their young fans from 2pm.

The party mood was boosted further by the presence of Free Radio personalities along with breakfast show presenters Hursty and Helen, who conducted games and competitions in the centre’s Friary Walk area from 4.30pm.

Matthew Griffiths, five, of Cranham Primary School, was chosen as the lucky competition winner to push the button and illuminate the centre.

Erica Burlace, CrownGate Shopping Centre manager, said: “It’s just been an absolutely brilliant afternoon. I wasn’t feeling festive until today because in retail everything starts so early.

“Everybody was smiling and happy. Matthew has been fantastic, so a big well done to him.”

The occasion also marked the start of Thursday late-night shopping, with many shops throughout the city centre taking part.

Some stores will remain open until 9pm to allow shoppers to cram in the shopping hours until Christmas.

Father Christmas will be in his free grotto from 1.30pm on Sunday, and children can visit him all the way through to Sunday, December 23.