Hamilton Square Christmas Lights switch on

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On Friday night I went down to Hamilton Square in Birkenhead to watch the Christmas lights being switched on along with a lot of other people keen to soak up the festive atmosphere.

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This was the first time for ten years that the Square has had Christmas lights.  This year’s event was organised by Birkenhead First and Wirral’s Chamber of Commerce.

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Birkenhead First is a Business Improvement District (BID) which enables businesses within a designated area to fund initiatives and improvements over and above those provided by the local council.

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The Business Improvement District is a partnership between local businesses and Wirral Council, led by a private sector steering group.  Birkenhead First aims to encourage more visitors to and greater investment in Birkenhead town centre. As part of its approach to brightening up Birkenhead they sponsored and funded the Christmas lights this year.

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There were a range of local stores selling everything from chocolate to locally made gin as well as a range of entertainment.  This included a number of attractions for children including Santa and his sleigh, characters from the film Frozen, Fusion Dance Academy and drumming displays from Wirral Samba.

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The team from Wirral Radio entertained the crowds and there was music and Christmas carols from local schools.  Liverpool FC and England footballing legend John Barnes switched on the Hamilton Square Christmas lights at 6pm.

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The couple walking on stilts around the crowd were popular as were the street merchants selling lights and lanterns.  As well as the lights and a Christmas tree outside the town hall there were lights in the trees and on the Square’s ornate street light columns.

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The area around the town hall was certainly jam packed so much so that I couldn’t get anywhere near the stage, but I did manage to get a few shots of the lights and activities around the Square.

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Liverpool Santa Dash 2013

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Another belated post as I catch up in uploading my photos.  On 1st December the tenth Liverpool Santa Dash saw increased entries taking part in what is now the U.K’s biggest festive fun run.  The event is open to runners, joggers and walkers and everyone has to take part in the Santa suit provided.  As well as the main 5K Festive Fun Run, there is a 1K Mini Run for under 12s which takes place immediately afterwards.  There was a sea of Santas waiting by the start at Liverpool’s Pierhead.

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This year the event organisers were targeting 10,000 runners in a bid to reclaim the world title for the biggest number of Santas taking part from Las Vegas.  Last year, the US rivals beat Liverpool by just 714 runners despite a record turnout of 8,500.

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Olympic champion Beth Tweddle and Everton FC legend Joe Royle got this year’s event underway from the starting point outside the Cunard Building on Liverpool’s Pierhead.  Big Brother’s Craig Philips along with former X Factor star Chris Maloney started at the head of the crowd.

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The run raises money for charities.  The official event charity was Claire House children’s hospice, with supporting charities Walking with Giants and Liverpool Unites for Alder Hey children’s charity.  The Santas made quite a scene as they made their way up Water Street from the river.

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In keeping with the footballing traditions of the city around 500 participants are able to wear blue Santa outfits for those staunch Evertonians who just wouldn’t be seen in red.

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Everyone can take part and many got in to the spirit of the event which included dogs dressed up in outfits, some pushing prams with babies in and others taking part in wheelchairs.

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Some people were dressed in very different attire including one man in a kilt.

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The Santa Dash is not just for hardened athletes most people were just out for a good time supporting worthwhile charities and having time for a good chat with friends.

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Some couldn’t resist taking their own photographs of the event as they went round.

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There was a sizeable crowd viewing the event from all sorts of vantage points.

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The local Batala Liverpool Samba drumming band were on hand on the last corner before the finish to spur the participants on.

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With such a number of competitors taking part many of the city centre roads were closed to traffic.

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A key part of the route is the Churchill Way flyover that took the runners from Dale Street up to Islington on the other side of the city centre.  It was quite a sight to see so many Santas thronging the flyover.

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The runners were greeted by a very tall reindeer at the finish outside the Town Hall in Dale Street.

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After finishing and collecting their medals it was a long walk back to the car, train or bus to get home.

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Liverpool was hoping to reclaim the world record of the largest gathering of Santas from Las Vegas who hosted their own Santa dash on 7 December.  Liverpool last had the title in 2010.  A party from Las Vegas flew into Liverpool to witness the event.  The Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Cllr Gary Millar was joined by Carolyn G. Goodman, the Mayor of Las Vegas, at both the start on the Pier Head and the finish line on the balcony of the Town Hall in Dale Street.

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Despite Liverpool’s bumper turnout of 10,299 runners, the city narrowly lost the title for staging the world’s largest Santa dash once again to rivals Las Vegas who kept the crown again this year with 11,201 participants in their fun run.  Representatives from both cities welcomed singer Shania Twain, who served as “grand marshall” at the Las Vegas dash when the numbers of entrants were revealed.

Santa comes down our road tonight…

Every year in December the local Wirral Lions Club take Santa out on his sleigh in the two weeks leading up to Christmas.  They tour around the local area going around the houses in the evenings encouraging people to donate to charity. Tonight Santa came down our road.

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The Lions Clubs are an international group founded in the USA which brings business people together to improve their communities.  The Lions provide financial and practical help to individuals and to a range of local, national and international charities.  Wirral Lions raise money by means of the Christmas sleigh and also through bedding plant sales, helping to run a Food Festival, a sponsored walk, charity collections, raffles and other events.  They give money and practical help to people in the community including the disabled, the elderly and others in need.  Last year, in spite of icy and cold weather, the Wirral Lions raised £9,000 through their Christmas collection, which was given to a variety of local charities and other good causes.

It is always exciting for our children (who are old enough to know better) when Santa comes down our road in his sleigh.  We can hear him getting closer as the Christmas carols and songs echo around the streets near our house before he actually turns into our road.