The countdown to the festive season will kick off in Croydon tonight when the Christmas lights are switched on.

The turning on of the lights at 6.30pm will be followed by a five-week long programme of entertainment.

The programme is being delivered by Croydon Business Improvement District (BID) with retail giants Hammerson pledging £15,000 towards the festivities.

North End and surrounding streets will be transformed into a twinkling, winter wonderland when stars from the cast of the Fairfield Halls pantomime, led by Eastenders star Laila Morse join forces with Croydon’s Mayor, Councillor Eddy Arram.

As well as the big switch on, there will be performances from Love To Dance, Bubblegum Dance, the Shirley Tappers & The Hot Foot Tappers, Anglo/Maltese singer Sophie and Impulse Bollystreet.

Players from Crystal Palace Football Club will be joined by new manager Ian Holloway at the Whitgift Centre from 5pm.

It will be the first public appearance by the new manager who will be joined by his assistant Keith Millen, Captain Paddy McCarthy and Dean Moxey, Peter Ramage, Joel Ward and Lewis Price.

The club shop will be in the shopping centre all day, full of presents and stocking fillers for Palace fans.