Hundreds of people packed Grays town centre for the magnificent Christmas light switch-on, marking the start of the festive season in style.

Organised by the business-led Love Grays Partnership, huge crowds attended the event in Grays High Street on Saturday.

Children enjoyed an Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Trail, culminating in a trip to Santa’s Grotto at Grays Shopping Centre and the chance to meet Father Christmas himself.

There was also live entertainment on the main stage throughout the afternoon before headline acts Matt Linnen – a former X Factor finalist – and Kobi, Charlie Dillon and Sienna Leigh – stars of The Voice Kids – performed ahead of the big switch-on.

Mayor of Thurrock, Cllr Barbara Rice, who joined the cast of Aladdin - this year’s pantomime at Thameside Theatre - for the switch-on, said: “This is always an incredibly special event and it was wonderful to see so much festive spirit in the air.

“The entertainment was excellent, the town centre looked superb and it was a real honour to be asked to switch on the Christmas lights.

“I wish all of our residents a merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.”

Cllr Deborah Huelin, portfolio holder for Communities, said: “The Christmas lights switch-on is always a fantastic day for the whole family and a great way to mark the arrival of the festive season.”

Teresa O’Keeffe, a member of the Love Grays Partnership, said: “It’s been hard work planning the Christmas switch-on, but it’s all worth it when everything comes together on the big day.

“The partnership was blown away by the overwhelming positivity at the event this year, the community were so thankful and you could really feel the festive spirit all the way up to the grand finale.

“We would like to thank all the members of the partnership for their hard work, and of course our sponsors and media partners for their generosity, culminating in the biggest and best Grays Christmas switch-on yet.”