I arrived a little while before the ceremony, which was scheduled for 6.00pm, and had a wander around the town centre to soak up the atmosphere and perhaps a pint. My first stop was the aforementioned Market Place which was once again packed with shoppers and browsers looking for bargains at the Christmas themed stalls, and for sustenance at the hot food outlets. There was a children’s choir adding to the atmosphere by belting out Festive songs in the way that only children can, all enthusiasm and no self-consciousness.
After a stroll around the traders, I headed off for Lowtown where the bash was taking place, to discover that it had been totally taken over by amusements, fairground rides and more food stalls. There was also what looked to be a bouncy castle, but when I got round to the front I discovered that it was a stage with a huge blow-up canopy over it. A young man with a guitar was entertaining the crowd which was already swelling in number.
As there was just about an hour before the big switch-on I decided that a small libation may be in order. I know Pudsey quite well so, as all of the newer bars at the top of Lowtown seemed to be packed I had a wander down the hill and called in at the Masons Arms which had a sign promising a DJ, Sport on TV and, most importantly of all, Cask Ale. When I got inside I saw that all three of these attractions were occurring simultaneously with the excellent woman DJ knocking out bangin’ tunes from the 1950s onwards and inviting the odd, and when I say odd I mean odd, karaoke singer to provide us with renditions of songs which, up until last night, I had really liked! Fortunately the Liverpool derby provided a little more professional entertainment, especially as the sound was muted for the singers. Actually I think I owe the balladeers a word of thanks, as even their efforts were better than listening to the inane droning of football commentators. The absolute best thing about this place though was the beer, a beautifully kept and presented pint of Tetley’s Original Cask at – wait for it – £2! £2 a pint. Welcome back to the 1990s.
Suitably refreshed, I headed back to the main stage which had filled up with another choir singing Christmas favourites, which included California Dreaming! I blamed the beer in the Masons. There was the MC and, inevitably, the town’s most famous resident, Pudsey Bear. As is traditional on these occasions, the grand switch-on was preceded by a countdown and, when the crowd got to ‘Zero’ the lights came on and, miraculously, it began to snow! There was then an excellent firework display to round things off, the crowd dispersing in a mood to set them up for the festivities ahead.
Once again I must say ‘Well done, Pudsey!’ It is no wonder that so many people take part in civic events when they are as well organised and executed as this.