City lights up for Christmas

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MORE than 8,000 people turned out to see a group of costumed musical primates bring some colour to the switch-on of Belfast’s Christmas lights on Saturday.

The band – known to many parents of young children as the ZingZillas from CBeebies – included Zak the gorilla, Panzee the chimp, Tang the orangutan and Drum the monkey alongside some of Belfast’s very own panto characters.

Also taking part was the Barazina youth choir from Ballymoney, with the event compered by UTV’s Julian Simmons.

Lord Mayor of Belfast Alderman Gavin Robinson said: “Christmas is a time for family and children especially so, as in previous years, we’ve aimed our event at younger audiences.

“We’ve seen big stars in Belfast – particularly in the last year – and the ZingZillas are the latest celebrities to add to that long list.”

He had been looking forward to the band coming to Belfast and to the “fantastic Barazina”, he said.

Denise Rosborough, director of the Barazina choir, said the singers had been really looking forward to being part of the celebrations.

Speaking beforehand, she said: “Barazina means ‘creative abundance’ and our young people are bursting with talent, energy and creativity.

“They’re all really excited about taking part and performing for the crowds. It will be an unforgettable experience for them.”

The Ballymoney-based choir, whose members range in age from seven to 14, is from 25 different schools in the area. It was formed in September 2011.

The popular Christmas Continental Market also opened in Belfast at City Hall on Saturday.

Twice the expected number of people turned up to see the lights being switched on in the city last year.

Spectators came to see Postman Pat, Fireman Sam, pantomime dame May McFettridge and Bangor-born West End musical star Niamh Perry.

However some parents had to take their children home early after scuffles broke out among the crowds.

As a result this year’s event was ticketed for the first time, having been distributed from the Belfast Welcome Centre from November 6. Tickets were limited to four per person.

Meanwhile, Bangor also saw its Christmas tree lights turned on at the weekend, marked by a fireworks display. Sasha Sharma was the girl chosen to switch on the lights after winning a recent drawing competition.

Her Christmas tree picture was chosen as the winner and will also be used as this year’s Mayor’s Christmas card.