SOUTHEND will light up this weekend as revellers get into the festive spirit.

This Saturday (17) will see the launch of Christmas-on-Sea with a host of free family entertainment including performances and a fire show from East 15, children’s rides, farmers’ and craft market and reindeer.

The town’s Christmas lights will be switched on at 5pm by Carly Day, who plays the fairytale princess in Cinderella, this year’s Cliffs Pavilion panto. She will be joined by Heart FM’s Breakfast Show presenters Martin and Su.

Alison Dewey, town centre officer for Southend Council, said: “With these events, we are trying to boost the trade for local businesses.

“We have got a big free day of entertainment it is a great atmosphere on the day - it is a good festive feel.”

Miss Dewey said the event was always popular – as was the free parking the council offers on Thursday evenings and Sundays.

She added: “We did a survey last year and a lot of people come from outside the town for our switch-on and the fireworks. It is a free day out.

“With the free parking, we try to bring people in and it increases trade for the businesses as well.”

Children will be able to meet Santa on the pier and there will be regular craft and farmer’s markets in the lead up to Christmas.

Derek Jarvis, Southend councillor responsible for culture and tourism, said: “Southend is absolutely the place to be to experience the Christmas spirit. There will be free fun, excitement and entertainment for all the family throughout the town centre this Saturday to get the festivities off to a thoroughly spirited start.”

For more information about events in the lead up to Christmas, go to


Southend town centre Christmas events on Saturday:

The Royals Fairytale Christmas Parade – Santa and his real live reindeer will be joined by fairytale characters including Cinderella as they travel down the High Street, starting at Victoria Circus at 1pm and finishing at the Royals Shopping Centre
• Performances on the “Spectacular” stage in Victoria Circus between noon and 3pm. BBC Essex’s Quest Team will be broadcasting live to entertain shoppers at the top of Pier Hill throughout the day.
• Heart FM’s Breakfast Show presenters Martin & Su will be hosting entertainment on the Heart FM stage from 4pm to warm up the crowds ready for the big lights switch-on at 5pm by Cinderella from the Cliffs Pavilion panto, and the Mayor of Southend, Sally Carr
• Roaming performers in the High Street will add plenty of festive cheer for shoppers.
• Students from the East 15 Acting School will entertain the crowds from 5pm to 5.30pm.
• Shoppers should gather at 5.30pm on Pier Hill for a great view of Christmas fireworks, sponsored this year by Genting Club, Westcliff.
* Throughout the day, there will be a Christmas farmers and craft market in the High Street offering a wide selection of seasonal delights, Christmas treats and unique gift ideas for friends and loved ones. The market will be in the High Street every Saturday from November 17 to December 22 as well as Sunday, December 23 and Monday, December 24.