The first sprinkle of Christmas cheer hit Leeds last night as X Factor winner Matt Cardle switched on the city’s festive lights.
Thousands gathered for the big event at Victoria Gardens, which culminated in a spectacular fireworks display as 15 miles of Christmas lights were flicked on across the city.
Ex-painter and decorator Matt, who won the X Factor last year, opened his set by performing Stars and Lovers, a track from his debut album Letters, before launching into hit single Run For Your Life and new single Starlight.
He told the YEP that he had been watching the X Factor and had originally backed The Risk and Amelia Lily – but described her possible return to the competition this weekend as “confusing”.
Speaking backstage after his performance, the 28-year-old said: “It was absolutely amazing performing out there, I haven’t seen a crowd like that since the X Factor.
“It was a really, really great crowd, a great vibe. The further north you get, the better the crowds get.”
And the singer had a special Christmas message for the people of Leeds.
He said: “Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for your continued support and have a very merry Christmas.”
The show, hosted by Real Radio’s breakfast show hosts Dixie and Gayle, also featured an appearance from Glee tribute act The Gleeks, who performed their versions of Cee Lo Green’s Forget You and Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing.
Singing trio The Soldiers – who recorded this year’s official Poppy Appeal single I’ve Gotta Get a Message To You with Bee Gees legend Robin Gibb – also received rapturous applause from the audience.
The one and only Santa Claus took to the stage with original Black Lace member Dene Michael, who performed his new single Christmas Time, a duet with I’m A Celebrity... star Crissy Rock.
The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Coun Rev Alan Taylor, was joined on stage by the winner of the Leeds Children’s Mayor competition, Joe Smith, while Simon Grayson appeared alongside players Patrick Kisnorbo and Adam Clayton.
Brian McDermott brought along stars Ian Kirke and Chris Clarkson, as well as new signing Richard Moore, while Ronnie the Rhino proudly showed off the Super League trophy.
Crowds were also entertained by the cast of Beauty and the Beast, this year’s Christmas production at The Carriageworks, and Francesca Pidgeon, winner of Breeze Has Talent 2011.
The switch-on, which marked the start of the festive season in Leeds, was organised by Leeds City Council in partnership with Real Radio and supported by the YEP.firstname.lastname@example.org