Sunderland Illuminations launch attracts huge crowds

Sunderland Illuminations 2016 - Spark Drummers.

Sunderland Illuminations 2016 - Spark Drummers.

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The magic of the Sunderland Illuminations returned to the city at the weekend, attracting hundreds of families who braved the autumn weather to see the launch of the dazzling display of lights.

The annual event, which kicked off on Saturday, saw Roker Park, Cliffe Park and the seafront transformed with a bigger and better lighting display than ever before.

Sunderland Illuminations 2016.

Sunderland Illuminations 2016.

Running for six weeks until, November 5, crowds gathered to see the city bathed in lights at the official switch on event hosted by Ian and Dannii from the Sun FM breakfast show.

This year, the spectacular pirate-themed display was switched on by the Mayor of Sunderland Councillor Alan Emerson, who was joined by Sunderland AFC legends Kevin Ball and Jimmy Montgomery. Paralympic swimmer Matt Wylie and Pennywell youngster Katie Carling were also there for the big switch on.

Last year, more than 300,000 people visited Sunderland Illuminations. This year looks set to be just as successful, as crowds turned out in force on the opening night to see performances including those by drumming and lighting sensations Spark! drummers.

Families were also treated to a performance by St Anthony’s school choir and local singer Chloe Castro, who appeared on BBC’s The Voice.

Sunderland Illuminations 2016 - Spark Drummers.

Sunderland Illuminations 2016 - Spark Drummers.

Highlights this year include the 33m observation wheel, plus the large pirate swing boat and Venetian carousel.

Crowds on the night also took delight in Roker Park’s treasure island, the pirate adventure golf course and the illuminated art displays.

Councillor John Kelly, the city council’s portfolio holder for culture, said: “Last year’s event was fantastic, and our research with visitors told us they’d like to see even more lights and new themes in future years, so that’s exactly what we’ve done for this year.”

Kayleigh Rodgers, 27 from Seaton Road in Springwell, was at the event with her partner Scott Mustard, 29, son Leo Mustard, six, daughter Lucy McCormack, seven, her niece Emily Howard, seven, and her parents.

“We come every year and it’s just a lovely event for all the family,” she said.

“It all looks fabulous.”

For the rest of the event, lights will be switched on from 5pm to 10pm every night. Entry into Roker Park will cost £1 per person, and free for children under two.