Children help light up Christmas for shoppers

Families turned out in force as the Christmas tree lights were switched on at a Whitley Bay shopping centre.

A big crowd gathered around the tree at Whitley Lodge as local school children sang carols and Christmas songs.

Cheers rang out as eight-year-old Evie Middleton from Whitley Lodge First School pushed the plunger to light up the tree.

Evie was the winner of a competition to design a logo for Whitley Lodge Community Spirit which organised the festivities.

The Rev Benjamin Carter, of St Mary the Virgin, Monkseaton, who chairs Whitley Lodge Community Spirit, a not-for-profit community group backed by churches, schools, businesses and North Tyneside Council, said: “It was wonderful to see so many people turn up.’’

Money for the 20ft tree was raised by local traders including a £250 gift from Tesco.

“I would like to thank everyone for their support,’’ said the Rev Carter. “It’s been a real community effort and we are determined to play our part in making this a fantastic festive season for everyone.’’

After the ceremony families joined the Rev Carter in a Christmas prayer.

The lighting of the tree is the first in a series of events to celebrate Christmas at Whitley Lodge culminating in a Christmas Fayre at the shopping centre on December 21 including a visit by Santa on his sled.