Christmas lights switched on by Sir Chris Hoy

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HUGE crowds flocked to the city centre for the launch of the Capital’s Christmas festival.

An estimated 26,000 revellers turned out to watch cycling legend Sir Chris Hoy switch on the festive lights, smashing predictions the Night Light event would attract around 18,000 spectators.

Fireworks at the Assemby rooms George Street. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Fireworks at the Assemby rooms George Street. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Hundreds of entertainers from schools and community groups put on shows at 12 stages set along the length of George Street.

The dazzling displays included performances of everything from LED hula-hooping to African drumming.

The Gold stage hosted premier acts, with a performance from West End star Louise Marshall and sing-along sessions led by the Edinburgh Rock and Sing in the City choirs.

St Andrew Square was a winter wonderland as people of all ages got in the Christmas spirit, with the 60-metre high Star Flyer proving a hit with thrillseekers.

Sir Chris Hoy and Amy McBeath switch on the lights. Picture: PA

Sir Chris Hoy and Amy McBeath switch on the lights. Picture: PA

Families wrapped up warm as they browsed the festive market, enjoying mulled wine and hot chocolate to stave off the chill.

Office manager Jill Paterson, 30, from Leith, was there with her, partner Craig Lothian, 31, a credit manager, mum Pat Paterson, 64, and children Lexi Belle Shepherd, three, and Joey Lothian, seven months.

Jill said: “It’s a great event and there’s so much for the kids to do. I can’t believe how many people have turned out for it – people are really enjoying themselves.”

Forth One DJ Arlene Stuart welcomed six-time Olympic champion Chris Hoy to the Gold stage. He said: “It’s an absolute pleasure to be back home in my home town. You can see everyone is so excited, there’s a real buzz about the place.

“It’s the first time I’ve been back since the roadworks have been cleared for the trams and it’s looking really lovely now – it’s great to get the city back.”

Giving him a helping hand was eight-year-old Amy McBeath.

The fundraiser brought in more than £4000 for the Sick Kids Friends Foundation with three athletic challenges, despite suffering from cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus which makes moving difficult.

The eager crowd joined in the countdown as the lights came on to a dazzling fireworks display.

All the money raised at the event will go towards Cash for Kids, which supports children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Lord Provost Donald Wilson said: “Christmas is a time for giving, sharing and kindness. Cash for Kids is a very appropriate focus for us at this time of year, having helped 20,000 children this year alone.”

Charlie Wood, director of Underbelly and producer of Light Night, said: “I’m happy and feel privileged and honoured that we have had the opportunity to stage this event and to have worked with so many brilliant people from the communities of Edinburgh.”