THOUSANDS of festive fanatics lined Southend High Street for the switching on of this year's Christmas lights display.

The event on Saturday, organised by the city's business improvement district (BID), 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.

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

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: Santa - Father Christmas joined in the funSanta - Father Christmas joined in the fun (Image: Gaz de Vere)

“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.”

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.

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

Echo: Squad - the switch-on teamSquad - the switch-on team (Image: Gaz de Vere)

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

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. 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. Truly amazing.”

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