FESTIVE cheer sprinkled across Southend today as thousands of jolly people packed the High Street for the annual Christmas lights switch on.

The Southend BID event saw the community all come together to revel in the holiday spirit, enjoy the food and gift stalls, and cheer for the talent performing on the main stage, in Victoria Circus.

Echo: Busy - Victoria CircusBusy - Victoria Circus (Image: Newsquest)

From 12pm, visitors soaked in vibrant performances from The Ironworks Youth Theatre and community-based group The Show Choir.

Echo: Group - The Show ChoirGroup - The Show Choir (Image: Newsquest)

Arwen Beglan-Power, Andre Neville and Roy Chittock, members of the city’s disability-friendly music group The Music Man Project, said: “A fantastic atmosphere in the High Street.

Echo: Joyous - (L to R) Arwen Beglan-Power, Andre Neville and Roy ChittockJoyous - (L to R) Arwen Beglan-Power, Andre Neville and Roy Chittock (Image: Newsquest)

“Seeing the many great talents on the stage and performing for the community was brilliant.

“We hope everyone had a great time.”

Southend resident Katy Harris added: “It was lovely to see everyone coming together for such a joyous occasion.”

Echo: Jolly - Katy Harris and her friend DaveJolly - Katy Harris and her friend Dave (Image: Newsquest)

With people munching on mouth-watering bratwursts or getting a sugar rush from sweet treats, some opted to support independent trader’s gift stalls.

Thurrock trader Dani Alder, who was selling wreaths and festive toys, said: “It’s a fantastic opportunity because it gets my name out there, I get to see and meet people, and make some money.

Echo: Traders - Dani Alder and her mum Josie SmithTraders - Dani Alder and her mum Josie Smith (Image: Newsquest)

“This was my second year, and I can’t wait to be here again in 2024 and beyond."

At 6pm, Bake Off’s Dana Conway and Married at First Sight’s JJ Slater, both from Southend, pushed down the plunger alongside mayor Stephen Habermel and wife Tracy, and Santa.

Echo: Main moment - (L to R) Santa, Dana Conway, Tracy and Stephen Habermel and JJ SlaterMain moment - (L to R) Santa, Dana Conway, Tracy and Stephen Habermel and JJ Slater (Image: Newsquest)

Dana said: “What an honour to have been considered for this.

“I’ve only been living in Southend for three years, and to be a part of a big event is crazy.

Echo: Honour - Dana ConwayHonour - Dana Conway (Image: Newsquest)

“An incredible way to end 2023.”

JJ added: “It was so exciting.

“I always came to the switch on event as a kid, and now I got to switch them on alongside Dana.

Echo: Excited - JJ SlaterExcited - JJ Slater (Image: Newsquest)

“Truly amazing.”

As the dazzling gold and white strings of light illuminated the city, everyone hurried down towards the seafront for the banging finale as colourful fireworks burst into the night sky.

Echo: Illuminated - the High StreetIlluminated - the High Street (Image: Newsquest)

Echo: Dazzling - the High StreetDazzling - the High Street (Image: Newsquest)

Echo: Colourful - fireworksColourful - fireworks (Image: Dawid Glawdzin)

For even more Christmas events taking place in Southend, visit: southendbid.com/christmas-in-the-city.