WINCHESTER was rocking last night with a chart-topping band to mark the Christmas lights switch-on.

At The Broadway, The Hoosiers entertained the crowds while the mayor, Cllr Frank Pearson, did the honours with the switch-on at 6pm. There was a slightly surreal feel to the event, as the mayor was flanked on either side by a giant panda and Widow Twankey.

It was arguably the strongest line-up the city has seen for the Christmas lights ceremony, with Steve Craddock and Andy Bennett of Ocean Colour Scene also performing. Local talent came in the form of Winchester University Choir and Intergr8 Dance.

Police officers and representatives of the fire and rescue service were also there to spread some emergency services-style Christmas cheer in the afternoon, wishing Wintonians a happy and safe Christmas and offering advice on crime prevention and safety.

The Hampshire Chronicle previously reported that councillors were banking on a bumper Christmas for the city's economy, and the thousands of people who attended the event seemed to confirm that.

Sam Fields, 31, an accountant of Chandler's Ford, was attending for the second year in a row. He said: “I'm surprised how many people there are here but it's just nice to see such a good mix of young people and older people getting in the spirit.”

Next Thursday (November 22) will see the start of the Christmas market and ice rink.