Heralding the beginning of the festive season in Cambridge, the annual Big Switch On is one of the biggest events in the local calendar. A full weekend of entertainment culminating with the city’s beautiful festive illuminations being unveiled, it offers two great days out for the whole family, and is guaranteed to get you in the Christmas spirit nice and early!
This is the fourth year that the event has been planned and funded by Cambridge BID – a collaboration of more than 1,000 businesses working together to promote and keep the city centre vibrant.
“We are delighted to be staging another fantastic Switch On event for both locals and visitors to enjoy,” said Becky Burrell of Cambridge BID. “We are proud to be showcasing such a wonderfully diverse line-up of music, dance and home-grown talent which will appeal to everyone.”
Local heroes from Cambridge United will be switching on the city centre lights on Sunday 20 November. Centre-back Josh Coulson (right), the club’s longest-serving player, will be joined by goalkeeper Will Norris and Marvin the mascot to light up the Market Square. Together, they will illuminate 26 different schemes of white lights stretching across 22 streets in the city centre.
“We’re delighted to be switching on the Christmas lights this year,” says Josh. “Having lived around the city all my life, it’s a real honour. We look forward to seeing as many people as possible turn out for the switch on.”
There’s a packed programme of fun and entertainment on the cards, kicking off at 11.45am with the Homerton Jazz Band, who’ll be getting everyone in the mood ahead of their appearance at The Cambridge Jazz Festival.
The singing and dancing continues through the afternoon with entertainment from performing arts schools Stagecoach, Splitz Cambridge and Razzamataz as well as from local schools Parkside and Fulbourn Primary. Cambridge’s ‘best loved busker’, Tom Korni – aka The One-Boy Band – makes a welcome return this year, followed by nine-piece jazz band, Mode 9 and Cambridge-based jazz talent, Iroko and the uplifting Sing! Choir.
After the Big Switch On, which takes place at 5pm, there will be a rousing finale courtesy of the Souls Café Gospel Choir.
As well as the activity on stage, there will be street entertainers and stilt walkers mingling with the audience,.
The festivities don’t stop there, with The Grafton, The Grand Arcade and Lion Yard all hosting additional activities in what promises to be a bumper-filled weekend of fun and festivity.
Heart FM will also be broadcasting live from The Grafton on Saturday 19 November, joined by carol-singing choirs from across Cambridge before the lighting of the Grafton tree at 5pm.
The Grand Arcade’s programme of events, meanwhile, which starts on Sunday 20 November, includes live musical performances in the Atrium and a confetti canon salute at 4pm to mark the switch on of the shopping centre’s lights.
Lion Yard, meanwhile, is hosting a magical, musical weekend, complete with face painting, a Christmas Photo Booth, roaming magicians, festive live music and even a visit from Santa himself.
Additionally, from 2pm on Saturday, alternative brass band The Brass Funkeys – who are closing The Cambridge Jazz Festival the following week – will be meandering through the city centre, playing everything from traditional marching numbers to their own unique brand of funked-up covers.
Roslin Russell of Cambridge Jazz Festival said: “We are really excited to be supporting the forthcoming Christmas Lights Switch On for the second year running. There is an amazing amount of musical talent in Cambridge and this is a fantastic opportunity to showcase it during the excitement of the Switch On.”