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'Convicts' must pay panto penance

PUBLISHED: 11:30 05 December 2008 | UPDATED: 09:31 11 May 2010

Lowestoft's Christmas Lights were switched on last Saturday. Picture: MICK HOWES

Lowestoft's Christmas Lights were switched on last Saturday. Picture: MICK HOWES

AS the police van roared through Lowestoft's town centre delivering two known convicts to the mayor pleading for their pardon, thousands of people looked on agog.

AS the police van roared through Lowestoft's town centre delivering two known convicts to the mayor pleading for their pardon, thousands of people looked on agog.

But it was all part of the merriment created for the town's official Christmas light switch on, on Saturday, carried out by pantomime villains Captain Hook and his sidekick Smee.

The pair, played by Emmerdale's Ken Farrington and CITV'S Jamie Rickers, were handcuffed and handed to Mayor Frank Mortimer on the main stage, who gave them their pardon in return for community service, which they will complete at Lowestoft's Marina Theatre, in Peter Pan, over the festive period.

The trio then officially turned on the Christmas lights, on the stage outside BhS, where thousands of people had congregated to watch the proceedings.

Along with the pirating pair were donkeys posing as reindeer giving rides to children, a mini funfair and a continental Christmas market.

Christmas music blasted out through London Road North and all the shops were open for business.

Town centre manager Emma Jones said it was the best light switch on yet.

“I was absolutely over the moon; I've had so many positive comments both from the public and the retailers. I didn't get away from Lowestoft until really late in the evening because so many people were talking to me, it was lovely.

“The sales were up in lots of shops and they were really busy. I had a lovely email from one of the retailers this week and they said it was a great formula and the best switch on yet.

“The best thing from my point of view though was there were so many people working together, it wasn't just me working on my own, we had such a good team; there was real community spirit. Ken and Jamie also loved it; they said the people of Lowestoft were so friendly.”

After they performed their duties Ken popped into Chadds department store to sign autographs, while Jamie stayed on the main stage with Beach Radio doing games with local children.

In another exciting turnaround, Lowestoft will definitely get a Christmas tree as its festive centrepiece after all.

Problems with vandalism and rising repair costs meant a tree would not go up in the town, but during the event Mr Mortimer promised a real tree would be put up to replace the damaged artificial one.

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