FAMILIES crowded into a chilly Ilkley town centre on Saturday to welcome home young Chronicles of Narnia star, Georgie Henley, as she officially lit up the town for Christmas.

The former Moorfield School pupil and Ilkley Upstagers member, who played Lucy Pevensie in Disney's blockbuster movie The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, was the special guest invited to switch on Ilkley's Christmas lights.

Georgie thrilled the many families who packed onto The Grove with decorative hats and light-up toys to celebrate the beginning of the festive season.

The young actress, who also recently appeared in a television production of Jane Eyre, told the crowds how she has always enjoyed seeing the annual Christmas lights in Ilkley, her favourite features being the colourful peacock lights display and the giant Christmas tree standing overlooking Brook Street.

"I've travelled a lot in the past two years," she told the crowd on The Grove. "I've been to New Zealand, America, Japan, Europe, to many beautiful places, I've met lots of lovely people, but the nicest place for me is Ilkley."

She was welcomed onto the stage in front of Christchurch by Ilkley Parish Council chairman, Brian Mann, and town crier, Chris Richards, who gave a special speech in her honour.

Georgie Henley stayed on after the lights ceremony to sign autographs for some of the young fans who came to the event.

The build-up to the official ceremony began before 5pm, as crowds gathered to hear festive brass band music, and join singer Shirley Britton who has become a mainstay of the annual lights switch-on in some Christmas carols and seasonal singing.

The Grove was closed off in the afternoon and stalls took to the streets selling novelties. The traditional parade set off from Springs Lane, led by the town crier, with air cadet musicians playing a lively accompaniment.

Father Christmas was joined by a team of fairies, aboard a carriage pulled by white horses.

Many youngsters heeded last week's call by Councillor Mann for schoolchildren to join in the parade, which made its way along to The Grove ready for the lights switch on.

Coun Mann was also pleased to announce for the first time that Ben Rhydding is also getting Christmas lights this year. He said he hoped this display will grow in years to come.

One of the organisers of the Christmas lights switch-on, shop owner David Giddings, thanked everyone who made the evening a success.

He said: "I'd like to say thank you to everyone who came along for the lights switch-on. A lot of people came out and showed fantastic support for the town."

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