FESTIVE spirit was in the air as R&B singer Lemar delighted crowds at The Rock’s Christmas light switch-on this evening.

The musician, who shot to fame on Fame Academy, treated the hundreds of families gathered at the shopping centre to a performance of his greatest hits, before Father Christmas himself pressed the all important button to get the holiday season under way.

CBeebies presenter Andy Day and his band, the Odd Socks, kicked off the festivities, and proved a hit with the hordes of young fans who had wrapped up warm to come along and watch.

The evening's entertainment also included performances from a number of local acts, including groups from the renowned Carol Godby Theatre Workshop and Bolton singer Emilia.

The switch on was hosted by Tower FM, and families took advantage of the free event to sample an early dose of Christmas spirit.

And it was an extra special night for Liam Swarbrick, aged 23, from Radcliffe, who won a family trip to Disneyland in the The Rock's ‘Christmas Unwrapped’ competition.

Throughout the evening visitors could collect a silver gift from Tower FM’s gift stations and they had to keep hold of it until the presenters said it was time to open them.

The event marked the beginning of the Christmas season for The Rock. The centre’s Santa’s Grotto will officially open at the shopping centre on Saturday, November 24, following the Santa’s Arrival parade in the morning.

The Rock's centre director, Arnold Wilcox-Wood, said: “Our Christmas Lights Switch On is the biggest event in our calendar and we’re thrilled that once again we’ve been able to make the event bigger and better than the year before.

"It is always so wonderful to see so many happy, smiling faces enjoying the show. Andy and the Odd Socks and Lemar really wowed the crowds and we’re so happy to have been able to include local talent from The Carol Godby Theatre Workshop in our line up.

"Thank you to everyone who made the trip out – we hope they had as much fun as we did.”

Speaking after his 30-minute set, Lemar, who to date, has had seven UK Top 10 singles and sold more than two million albums worldwide, said: “It was really, really nice out there.

“The Christmas lights stuff is always nice because it is very family-oriented. I have got kids myself, so it is nice to see the kids out there enjoying it before all the Christmas festivities start.

“It is my first time up here in Bury and everyone has been really nice and hospitable.”

The 40-year-old is currently in the process of completing his eighth studio album, which is expected to be released in the new year.