Hundreds of families from Burton and South Derbyshire braved the chilly weather to turn out for one of the biggest nights in the town’s calendar - Burton’s Christmas lights switch on.

The festive cheer was in full swing as people of all ages donned their scarves and gloves to see the Christmas season kick off on Sunday night.

Santa was there to add some sparkle with his sleigh while even a few Star Wars characters went along for the unmissable occasion.

To choose a candidate to switch on the lights, Touch FM hosted a competition for local parents to nominate a child hero who had overcome tough experiences or achieved something of great note.

The honour of turning on the lights this year went to four-year-old Toby Holloway, who was nominated by his mum Sam, 29, after enduring a challenging few weeks after troubles with his health.

Toby, from Stretton, was born with a hole in his heart and it was decided hat to give him the best chance possible, he should gain a certain amount of weight before doctors operated.

Toby’s family waited anxiously for him to be in good enough health but when the youngster turned three, they were given the devastating news that he had a second hole in his heart.

Last month, after months of turmoil, Toby, who is in reception at William Shrewsbury school, had open heart surgery and his mum said he had been very brave and put a smile on all the nurse’s faces.

Sam, who is also mum to Megan, eight, and Riley, two, said: "Toby has been so strong, brave and beaten every challenge even when he has been in pain.

"He has laughed and he has cried, mainly because he was missing his brother and sister and as a little boy who loves his bike and football and pretending to be a dinosaur, it has been particularly hard on him not being able to do anything physical.

"However, if you didn’t know about his condition you wouldn’t think that he had been ill – he is a typical four year old in many ways - you tell him no and he will do it anyway!"

Sam said Toby loved Christmas and the family were over the moon that he got selected to switch on this year’s lights.

She said: "I was more than surprised when we got the call to say Toby would be turning on the lights, I didn’t expect it at all.

"I don’t show my emotions much but I was so excited especially because Toby understood what was going on. I explained that the man on the radio thinks he is very brave and now that his heart is mended he was going to get a special treat. He was so excited to see Santa and press the big button to turn on the lights.

"We are very proud of him."

The youngster turned on the lights alongside Simon Gaskin, Mayor of East Staffordshire before the crowd erupted with cheers of joy at the stunning firework display, which was courtesy of Pyrotex Fireworx.

But that was not all that East Staffordshire Borough Council lined up for the event.

The annual celebration, also saw plenty of food vans, funfair rides and even winter fairies embark on the town.

Local musicians including Neve Hardy and Stacey Lynn were among some of the local acts belting out festive favourites to keep the crowds entertained all day long, while children were delighted to see the Ice King and Queen taking part in a special ice parade in Coopers Square Shopping Centre.

The pair captivated the little ones attention and were joined by ice angels and acrobatic elves at their favourite time of year.

There was a special visit from the Ice King and Queen to mark the occasion. Pictured is Myah Lowndes , 10, meeting the Ice Queen Picture: Ian Hodgkinson / Picture It

Of course, the Christmas lights switch on would not be the same without a guest appearance from the big man himself and Santa Claus brought along Bretby Rotary Club to help him meet Burton's best behaved girls and boys.

While characters from a galaxy far, far away showed that they were also fans of the festive season, after Star Wars characters were drafted in to make sure everyone was behaving and entertain the film fans in the crowd.

Touch FM breakfast DJ Mark O'Sullivan, 35, who hosted the event, told the Burton Mail that he looked forward to the lights switch on every year as it was one of the biggest events on the calendar.

He said: "November is always a really busy month but this is one of the big events I always look forward to. There is always a great turn out and so much to see for all different sorts of people."

Mark, who has been involved with the lights switch on since 2006 said that despite receiving loads of amazing entries there was something about Toby that stood out.

Burton Christmas lights switch in the Market place with radio DJ’s Mark O’Sullivan and Liam Clarke and the light been switched on my four year old Toby Holloway.

He said: "We have had celebrities and Burton Albion footballers do the light switch on in the past but this year we wanted to shine the light on local people and what better way than to ask them who they would like to see turn on the lights.

"It was great to have the privilege to see the nomination stories but a really difficult task to decide a winner. There were so many amazing kids but there was something that stood out about Toby.

"There was more than one entry for him and he is really brave. When I spoke to his mum she was close to tears and it was really nice that he got the chance to turn on the lights because otherwise he would not have been able to come along. His recent surgery means he needed to be out of the way of people in case they accidentally banged or knocked into him so I am glad he got this opportunity. He was a very worthy winner."

Check out the other events in the area


Swadlincote Lights Switch On will be held at the Delph on Friday, November 24 when the lights will be switched on by a special guest before a spectacular firework display.

A festive fair and themed markets will line the high street, meaning residents could pick up the perfect Christmas present for loved ones.


Ashby's Christmas Fair and Lights Switch On will be held on Saturday, December 2 in Market Street from 10.30am.

Local schools, community groups and choirs will perform throughout the day to entertain the public until the lights are officially switched on at 4.45pm, followed by a snowflake finale.

Reggie May, four, was captivated by the Ice King and Queen Picture: Ian Hodgkinson / Picture It


The Tutbury Christmas Festival will take place on Friday, November 24 from 5.30pm on High Street. Mulled wine, mince pies and children's rides will all be available to keep everyone happy.

The firework show will end the evening at 8.30pm.


The Switch On event in Uttoxeter will be held on Friday, December 1 from 4pm at Uttoxeter Town Hall.

Santa and his reindeer will be on hand to keep little ones entertained and the Victorian market will make a return before the lights are illuminated at 5pm.