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Thousands flock to see Coronation Street star switch on Wednesbury's festive lights

Thousands of people braved the cold and rain to catch a glimpse of Coronation Street star Mikey North at the Wednesbury Christmas Lights Switch-on show.

Mikey North poses with Councillor Luke Giles, Sandwell councillor Elaine Costigan and Mayor of Sandwell Richard Jones ahead of the switch-on
Mikey North poses with Councillor Luke Giles, Sandwell councillor Elaine Costigan and Mayor of Sandwell Richard Jones ahead of the switch-on

The actor, who plays Gary Windass in the soap, was among the guests at the event on Saturday where he greeted the estimated 6,000 fans, signed autographs and posed for selfies.

Some dedicated Corrie fans even arrived early to get a prime spot at the show, which included an afternoon of live entertainment featuring music, singers, street acts and a lantern procession.

There was also a surprise appearance by West End actor Aidan Cutler, of musical Back to the Future fame, who sang a number of hits and paid tribute on stage to the founder of the Wednesbury Christmas Lights Switch-on, veteran councillor Elaine Costigan.

Aidan, a former member of Wolverhampton Youth Music Theatre, told the crowd that among his first performances was an event at the town hall as a child organised by Councillor Costigan which gave him a taste for the stage.

Hundreds of people were on hand to see the Christmas lights switch-on

Wednesbury North ward representative Councillor Costigan helped to relaunch the annual show 20 years ago and said: "The lights switch-on was really good. I'd say it's the best switch-on in Sandwell.

"We estimated there were about 6,000 people there. Mikey North was fantastic with the crowd. He was one of the best guests we have ever had.

"He really made it special. He switched the lights on at 4.30. He was just lovely and spent 45 minutes signing autographs and taking selfies with the fans. He just set the tone for the countdown to Christmas for everybody.

"Some of the people had been standing out in the cold all afternoon, some even in wheelchairs waiting for him to arrive.

"But what made it extra special for me, as it's my last year on the council, was the arrival of Aidan Cutler. He came on the stage and surprised me. I had no idea he'd be there. It was a big surprise.

"He did some songs from the West End and explained that I gave him the opportunity to sing in public. I remember when he was 13 or 14 years old sing at the town hall. He thanked me for giving him the opportunity. It's all round a wonderful day."

Dayton Grey provides entertainment as part of the show

Other performers were singers Beverley, Stuart James, Shaun Langford and Dudley's Dayton Grey, who has appeared on BBC shows All Together Now and I Can See Your Voice.

"When I first got elected as ward councillor in 2002 that was one of my election promises - to bring back the Christmas lights because there had been none in Wednesbury for five years at the time. I started a fundraising appeal for £10,000 towards it.

"I hope that after I retire that the young people will carry it on."

Mikey North takes in the size of the Wednesbury Christmas tree

West Bromwich Christmas Lights Switch-on was also on Saturday afternoon featuring boy band Five and dance duo Signature.

Switch-ons will follow in Bearwood's Lightwoods Park and Blackheath town centre on Friday, December 2, from 5pm.

Sandwell Council’s tourism and leisure boss Councillor Laura Rollins said: “These switch-on events are a wonderful opportunity for family and friends to get together and start getting into a festive, Christmas spirit, something that is even more important in difficult times.

"They also play a huge role in encouraging people to visit and to do their Christmas shopping in a pleasant environment. That increased footfall is vital to many businesses including small, independent shops, cafes and restaurants at what, for many, is their busiest and most important time of year.”

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