Basildon Christmas launch to include firework display, gospel choir and live radio coverage

BASILDON’S annual Christmas festivities will end with a firework display this year, instead of a Christmas lights switch-on.

The event will also be broadcast live on the radio for the first time in its history, by community station Gateway 97.8.

The firework display will mark the end of a day of festive entertainment in the town centre on Saturday, November 16.

Basildon Council said the display would be best viewed from St Martin’s Square, as the fireworks will be launched from the top of the Westgate shopping centre.

Other activities will include carol concerts, craft workshops and ice-skating.

A council spokesman said this year’s event would be much larger than in recent years, with activities and entertainment taking place all day, across the whole of the town centre.

The free ice rink of previous years will return to Town Square. It will be officially opened at 10am with a performance by the St Luke’s Hospice choir.

A Santa’s grotto in Basildon Market will also open at 10am.

Half an hour later, at St Martin’s Church, staff will officially open their annual Christmas Bazaar.

At midday, a second Santa’s Grotto will open in the Eastgate shopping centre. The centre will then host other Christmas activities and entertainment until 4pm. It said further details of its plans would be announced soon.

Between 3pm and 6pm, Christmas arts and crafts workshops will take place at Basildon Library, Christmas card-making classes will be held upstairs in the Towngate Theatre, and free face-painting will be offered at The Advice Store in Westgate.

At 4pm, the Basildon Operatic Society will host a Christmas carol concert in the Towngate Theatre Café, whilst a children’s storytime will be held in Basildon Library.

At 5pm, the Basildon Community Gospel Choir will take over from the Operatic Society at the Towngate Café and hold another carol concert.

Between 3.30pm and 6pm, Gateway 97.8 will host music and entertainment on a stage in St Martin’s Square, before the day’s events end at 6pm with the firework display.

Gateway station director Ros Connors said: “Our breakfast show presenter Dave Webster will be hosting on the stage. There are going to be live acts performing.

“Other Gateway presenters will also be in the town centre, doing interviews. The whole day is going to be broadcast live on the air, which is different to any other radio station that has been involved in the event before. It’s the first time this has ever been done.

“We will be doing live links down to the stage in the afternoon and we will also be covering all of the events in the Eastgate. It means that people who are unable to get down to the town will still be able to listen to it on the radio and enjoy it, which I think is quite important.”

Last year, the council did not hold a Christmas lights switch-on or fireworks display, but instead asked an arts group called Things Made Public to hold a series of small live entertainment events in the town centre over a number of weeks.

Figures released to politicians by the Eastgate shopping centre showed that footfall in what would usually be the week of the switch-on event had dropped by 24 per cent, compared to the previous year.

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Charles Thomson

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