THE Christmas lights switch on in Sheffield really had the X-mas Factor when series winners Joe McElderry and Matt Cardle pressed the plunger.
And it’s beginning to look a lot like...Blackpool.
That’s because some of the famous illuminations from one of nation’s most famous seaside resorts have been installed as part of the display in the Peace Gardens.
Families marvelled at a giant moving pirate ship display, complete with sharks ‘jumping’ out of the fountains, a huge Doctor Who Tardis, Dalek, a spaceman tribute to the late Neil Armstrong and, of course, Santa.
There’s 173,246 lamps, 30 street displays and 79 illuminated columns in the city this year.
Stars from Cinderella also flicked a switch, to turn on other lights, from the Town Hall balcony.
But it was the dazzling Real Radio stage show - hosted by breakfast show duo Dixie and Gayle - which lit up Barker’s Pool, with performances by McElderry, Cardle, plus Britain’s Got Talent trio The Loveable Rogues, who will tour with Olly Murs next year, Irish singer Ryan O’Shaughnessy and dance chart stars Booty Luv, featuring former Big Brovaz vocalists Cherise Roberts and Nadia Shepherd.
Also on the bill were Charli Beard, Emily and James Worton, Vanquish, Tilly, Danny Shah, Hupe Dance Group, Luciel Johns and panto characters from Cinderella.
McElderry, who won The X Factor in 2009, promoting latest album Here’s What I Believe, but got the crowd in festive mood with his rendition of Driving Home For Christmas.
Backstage he revealed he’s planning a Wham! Last Christmas style skiing break and he agreed to The Star’s challenge when we cajoled him to film his own version of the Christmas pop classic and post it online for Christmas Eve.
“I’m going to held to that now by everybody,’’ he laughed.
“A tour is first priority on my list for next year. When it’s going to happen, I do not know. I need a break and have.
I genuinely don’t know what I want to do yet next year. I almost definitely will be doing a new album, at some point. This year was so hectic. I was recording for seven months. I’ve done lots of promos and shows. I want to sit back and look at it. I’ve got plenty of options. I would like to do a West End show.”
Cardle, who won the seventh series of The X Factor in 2010, was fighting a chesty cold but it didn’t stop him performing hits including songs from his second and latest top 10 album, The Fire.
“I don’t agree with miming, so I decided to give it a go,’’ he told The Star.
“I love Sheffield. This is a great honour to turn on the lights and I’m hoping to be back with a full show. We’re looking to do some shows next year on the back of my new album “
Santa also got the superstar treatment - he is now in his grotto in Fargate, where he will now meet children and hand out gifts, from 11am to 8pm, Monday to Friday, 10am until 8pm on Saturdays and 10am until 5pm on Sundays. Entry is £4.50 per child.
More than 40 traders are also open for business in traditional wooden cabins and this year sees a new Moroccan market.
Trees have be decked with lights in the Winter Garden – shining over a magic wishing well and an enchanted fairy grotto and castle, where children will also be able to pick up clue sheets for a special week-long elf trail.
Specialist stores, sandwich shops and other businesses are opening in Chapel Walk six days a week, including late night on Wednesdays throughout December.