Colour and light fill Hackney as Christmas lights are switched on

Flori, 9, with her hand-made lantern Pic: Lois Borny

The centre of Hackney was transformed into a live concert, amidst a galaxy of lights, during an event to celebrate switching on the Christmas lights on Sunday evening.

The event was designed to kick start the festive season in a way that reflected the borough’s rich cultural diversity. Kam Adams, Hackney Council Speaker, told Eastlondonlines: “In true Hackney style, our Christmas lights switch on had an international character and welcomed cultural traditions from the UK and around the world.”

Christmas lights wrapped around trees in Hackney Town Hall square Pic: Lois Borny

Stars from Hackney Empire’s Dick Whittington and His Cat pantomime were in attendance to flick the switch in Hackney Town Hall square, following a series of performances.

The event started with energetic music number from Hackney’s Pantonic Steel Orchestra, a community group created in 1988 to encourage young people to express themselves through music.

Hackney’s Pantonic Steel Orchestra Pic: Lois Borny

Lynette Yearwood, 40, who has been a member of the Orchestra for over 20 years, told Eastlondonlines: “It’s such a community event so it brings everyone together. It gets them into the Christmas spirit. It’s so cold, so we have got to keep warm and keep everyone else energetic!”

In a project envisioned by Hackney-based artist, Emily Tracy, 80 luminous cubic pastel lanterns, made from business waste collected by Hackney Children’s S.C.R.A.P Project, were paraded around the square by pupils from Morningside School, Chatham Place.

Lanterns placed on the Town Hall steps Pic: Lois Borny

Tracy told Eastlondonlines: “The lanterns are made entirely of up-cycled or re-cycled materials and are a celebration of colour and pattern in the dark winter months.”

Music from the event included a performance from Cuban choir Coro de Clave, who created a wall of sound with percussion and voice, a huge crowd of pupils from New Wave Teaching School, on Shacklewell Row, singing a rendition of “No place I’d rather be” while Tropical Isles, a youth carnival group put on a visual display, swirling in a 10-foot costume covered in lights.

Clare Norton, CEO of the Peter Bedford Housing Association, a charity that supports the homeless, was also fundraising for the charity by selling hot spiced apple juice. She was supported by community collaborator Hackney Roots.

Adams, sporting festive reindeer antlers, said at the event: “Thank you to all the performers, artists, pupils, teacher, parents and volunteers who have generously given their time and energy to make this event possible. Many hours of creative practicing and planning have led to this special moment.”

Video compilation of the evenings performances Video: Lois Borny

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