YORK Minster was spectacularly lit up as the city’s festive lights were switched on.

Held at the new location of Duncombe Place, with the iconic backdrop of the Minster, the switch-on event marked the start of York’s Christmas Festival.

Lights and projections adorned the cathedral, with plans to use the lights periodically in the run-up to Christmas when there are not services or events taking place.

The event, which was jointly organised by Make It York and York Business Improvement District (BID), saw hosts town crier Ben Fry and Laura Castle from Minster FM and BBC Radio York’s Georgey Spanswick lead the traditional countdown to illuminating the Minster and the city-wide winter light display.

There were live performances from Lucy’s Pop Choir and Shepherd Group Junior Band to entertain the crowds.

York’s St Nicholas Fair also launched on Thursday, with cosy festive chalets spread across Parliament Street and down into the Coppergate Centre.

Paul Whiting, head of marketing and communications at Make It York, said: “The light switch-on has been hugely popular this year and the move to the spectacular surroundings of Duncombe Place has really added a magical touch to the festivities.

“York truly is the most festive city in the UK and we are delighted to kick start our Christmas Festival with this special event, welcoming visitors and residents to enjoy the vast array of events and experiences on offer, only In York this Christmas.”

York BID, which organised York’s annual display of Christmas lights throughout the city centre with the support of Make It York, have this year commissioned even more lights for Duncombe Place, including sympathetic lighting that highlights well known landmarks such as the Boer War Memorial, St Michael Le Belfry as well as the Minster.

Andrew Lowson, executive director of York BID, added: ‘Having a great winter lights display has always been important to businesses in York, because some expect to take a third of their annual turnover during the festive period. The lights play an important role in brightening up the city during the dark winter months and encouraging people to enjoy the brilliant retail, food and attractions that York has to offer.”

Joining in the celebrations were Lucy Staniforth, England footballer, the cast of Theatre Royal’s Sleeping Beauty pantomime: Martin Barrass (The Queen), David Leonard (Evil Diva), Susie Cooper (Princess Beauty) and A.J Powell (Darth Diva), along with the Lord Mayor of York, Cllr Janet Looker and the Rt Revd Dr Jonathan Frost, the Dean of York. Castle Howard’s Father Christmas also made a special guest appearance to help kick off the festivities.

Also getting underway on Thursday were the Yorkshire Yuletide Village in Shambles Market and a festive fairground in King’s Square - running until December 22.

For more details on the St Nicholas Fair and the Christmas activities going on around the city visit: www.visityork.org/whats-on/christmas