By Kelly Wickham
Hundreds of visitors to the city braved the rain and cold on Saturday evening to watch the annual lights switch-on.
The annual Rotary clubs of Chichester Christmas tree blessing and switch-on event began with the torchlight procession from East Street.
Pupils from Oakwood School treated crowds to carols with songs including Silent Night.
“As we have done in other years, we were delighted to sing at the turning on of the Christmas lights in Chichester to support our wider community,” said head teacher Clare Bradbury.
“It is a highlight of our Christmas performing season for our pupils and despite the rain it put us all in a festive mood. Our choirs very much enjoy sharing their love of music at this time of year with visits to the hospice and local care homes.
“In particular, at this festive time of year, we teach our pupils to welcome and support others and look forward to hosting our second Funtington Community Christmas at Oakwood on Christmas Day.”
Canon Simon Holland gave a message to the community before he blessed the Rotary tree of goodwill.
Harry Garrow, of the Garrow family, from Heath End near Petworth, who donated this year’s tree to the community, waited for the countdown and then pushed the button to light the tree.
James Garrow said he donated the tree as he loves the city. He said: “I know they struggle to find a good tree and it was something I felt might help to raise money for good causes in Chichester.
“I love the city and it needs all the help it can get. The tree has been in our garden but we are going to replace it now.
“It’s been a very exciting night and it’s been great to be part of it.”
Doug Price, community chairman of Rotary Chichester Priory, said: “We are so pleased so many came to support this lovely event organised by the Rotary clubs of Chichester, in such bad weather.
“Well, it was wet, wet, wet, wet, but the Chichester communities came out with their lanterns and umbrellas and supported the Rotary Festival of Light magnificently and they came in such numbers with their lanterns and lit up the streets of Chichester.
“Oakwood school sang so well again at the tree to start the evening. TS Sturdy Marching Band then led the lantern parade, down East Street to the Rotary tree of goodwill. The band were all lit up looking really good and playing so well. Our town crier, Cllr Richard Plowman, headed the parade.
“A really nice and rewarding, if very wet, evening. Well done everyone. Some 40 Rotary marshals did a fine job in maintaining control during the event, and were so pleased and satisfied with the tree presented to the Chichester community this year.”
After the lights in the main streets and the tree were illuminated, the Chichester Community Choir sang, accompanied by the Chichester City Band.
Craig Younger-Sword, 1st Baritone player in the band, said: “From a player’s view, after arriving and setting up, Chichester City Band waited for the marching band to arrive, along with the rain.
“Suddenly, it was our turn, starting with Hark the Herald Angels Sing along with the community choir. There was a great response from the audience who joined in heartily along with the carols as we all got wetter and wetter.
“It was, despite our discomfort, an enjoyable start to the Christmas festivities.”
Mayor of the city, and town crier for the evening, Cllr Plowman added: “Despite the weather, nothing seemed to dampen the Christmas spirit and goodwill.
“It reminded me of those magical light switch-ons from years ago in Chichester before Christmas became over commercialised.
“It is a time of year when being town crier is one of the best jobs. It was great for the children to ring the bell and enjoy themselves.
“The city streets and Rotary tree of goodwill looked great and the lights really twinkled and sparkled. A very special evening this year.”
To find out more about Rotary in Chichester and joining them or working with Rotary on their many community events, call: 07980 239 227.