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On Thursday 15th November, the Winchester Christmas Lights were switched on by three local heroes who were nominated by the local public to push the button to illuminate the city ready for the festive season.

The Christmas lights, event and local heroes competition was organised by Winchester BID (Business Improvement District).
Winchester BID invited members of the public to nominate their local heroes to switch on the Christmas Lights and for the event to have more of a community focus. There were more than 200 nominations and three local heroes were selected based on their citations.
The three heroes were Maddy Thompson, Anita Clarke and Mitch Allen.

Paul Spencer, BID Manager said: “We are delighted to have coordinated the switch on festivities again and really wanted to make it more of a community centred event this year. With so many incredible public nominations, we felt that there should not be just 1, not 2 but 3 heroes celebrated.

“We saw it as the perfect opportunity to shine the spotlight on our community heroes, which is why we ran the ‘Nominate Your Local Hero’ campaign so that well deserving local people could be celebrated and help switch on this year’s lights.”

In no particular order, the first hero of the night was Maddy Thompson. An inspirational lady who received an overwhelming number of nominations, all of which praise her continuous effort both for her work, her fundraising and her constant kindness.

Maddy is a clinical matron in the NHS palliative care team working out of Royal Hampshire County Hospital.

Many of her citations said she works tirelessly for those needing end of life care and provides incredible support to their families and loved ones. They included:

“Maddy has been instrumental in getting the new Winchester Hospice up and running that will open next year, for which she is a continuous driving force and is forever fundraising for.”

“She constantly goes above and beyond the call of duty providing her patients and their families with exceptional comfort and dignity and endless energy and makes an amazing difference every single day to those she works with.”

When asked how it felt to be switching Winchester’s Christmas lights this year, Maddy said:

“I can’t quite believe it really! It’s extremely humbling to light up this beautiful city and what a tribute to the dedication and incredible work of our Winchester Hospice supporters and fundraisers. Thank you all so much. We really need your support to help us get the hospice up and running!”

Anita Clarke was the next local hero – a truly inspirational lady, who volunteers tirelessly and with incredible enthusiasm. She has dedicated over 50 years supporting the most disadvantaged people within Hampshire.

Anita moved to Hampshire with her husband and two children in 1966. Over 30 years, she fostered and cared for a number of seriously disabled children – many of whom had life-limiting conditions – integrating them into her own family.

In the early 70s, Anita helped found the ‘Christ Church Opportunity Group’, which gave support to mentally and physically disabled young children and their families. She was also involved in setting up the ‘Breast Care Group’, which supported a number of cancer patients.

Anita still volunteers four full days a week at Emmaus Hampshire, a local, social community for homeless individuals. Working as Head of Merchandise, she sorts, prices and displays bric-a-brac, houseware, toys and other treasures donated by the local community.

In the last eight years, Anita’s efforts have single-handedly raised over £400,000 for Emmaus Hampshire. She was appointed Vice President of the charity in 2016 in recognition of her contribution to the organisation and her immeasurable legacy within Hampshire.

Nigel Samuels, CEO of Emmaus Hampshire said: “Anita has a heart big enough for the whole of Winchester! She is one of the most compassionate, considerate and caring individuals you could ever meet in this World. We feel blessed to know her and that she chose to dedicate her time to Emmaus Hampshire in support of our work with homeless people”.

Last but not least, the final hero of the night was a young local gentleman who again received an amazing amount of nominations for the time and energy he devotes to supporting young local children and children with additional needs to dance.”

His nominations praised his motivational attitude, helping children in Winchester to enjoy dance and build their confidence. He is cited as being a source of constant inspiration, a strong and positive role model with a solid and dedicated work ethic and brilliant fun! They also included:

“He’s committed to improving the lives of those around him, by fundraising and raising awareness for local charities, he recently walked a marathon for one of his students who was diagnosed with type 1 Diabetes.”

Mitch is commended as going above and beyond for all of his students, building their confidence and strives to also teach kindness, team work, self acceptance and inclusion.

Mitch said; “I feel so honoured to have been nominated as a Winchester local hero alongside these two amazing people to turn on this year’s Christmas lights.
“I was coming to the event anyway with my dance group Dynamic who performed on stage, however I didn’t imagine that I would be getting called up here to turn them on myself.

“I’ve lived in Winchester all my life and have attended the light switch on for as many years as I can remember. I’m so thankful that I have been chosen to do this and the kids I teach are here to witness this special event.”

More than 12,000 people attended the event, which took place on Thursday 15th November at The Broadway between 4pm and 7pm and was hosted by Heart Radio’s Rich Clarke.

The evening’s entertainment was all provided by local groups, with carol singing from the Winchester Cathedral Choristers, the Pilgrim’s School Chamber Choir and Harestock Primary School.

Other live acts that entertained that the crowds were the University of Winchester Busking Society, the Theatre Royal’s Beauty & The Beast cast, The Spitfire Sisters, Integr8 Dance and Body Translation Dance groups. Winchester Round Table helped by providing their sleigh to Santa so that he could attend the party too.

The annual event was kindly sponsored by Berkeley Homes Knights Quarter Development and kindly supported by The Brooks Shopping Centre this year.

The chosen charity for the night was Winchester’s Basics Bank, a project whereby the local churches, Winchester City Council, the Citizens Advice Bureau, Trinity, Housing Associations and other local organisations identify those in need and issue them and their families with a voucher for either food, clothing, or both in the form of food parcels with a weeks’ food, or the appropriate clothing.
Basics Bank have helped over 400 local families, 2,000 individuals. In a year, we have issued over 14,000 days’ worth of food since last November.

Stilt walkers and volunteers held collection buckets on the night and the charity project hosted a stall to share information with potential new supporters.

On the night, the countdown began at 6pm, when the three local heroes were announced and invited on stage to press the giant switch on button that lit up the heritage city.

Festive market stalls lined the Lower High Street in the run up to The Broadway, where the main stage, giant screen and Santa’s sleigh, kindly provided by Winchester Round Table, were located.

Paul Spencer, BID Manager, said: “We would like to say thank you to everyone who was involved and to the public who attended, we hope you all had a fantastic night and can now start to enjoy all that Winchester has to offer this Christmas.”

As part of the Christmas initiatives that Winchester BID are working with Winchester City Council to provide free Park & Ride on Sundays for 6 weeks in the run up to Christmas: 18th & 25th November and 2nd, 9th 16th and 23rd December.

Visitors who are driving to the city should use the free, local Parking app – PARK WINCHESTER available for download at the Apple Store or Google Play, which provides real time parking space availability for all car parks across the city.

Paul summarised: “We hope that our Parking App and taking advantage of the free Sunday Park & Ride scheme will encourage visitors from near and far to come and enjoy Winchester and all it has to offer this Christmas.”

For more information please visit: Follow #WinchLights #FestiveWinch and @winchesterBID on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram

• Winchester BID: Winchester’s Business Improvement District (BID) is the collective business-led organisation, that works to raise the profile of the City, maintain a safe and secure environment, provide additional and improved services and facilities and helps to create a flourishing environment for the City. For more information about Winchester BID see

• Winchester Hospice: will support patients with life limiting illnesses, and their families, through a number of palliative and end of life care services delivered by Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. With no hospice currently situated in the city, Winchester Hospice will mean that patients and their families local to Winchester spend less time travelling to receive care or visit a loved one, and more time enjoying special moments together. By converting Burrell House on the site of the Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester, the hospice will become a hub for specialist palliative and end of life care both in the hospice and in the community. The hospice will contain 10 inpatient beds with ensuite facilities, as well as space for day therapy services and outpatient facilities.There are plenty of ways to get involved, including becoming a Winchester Hospice Ambassador, fundraising or helping us to spread the word. To find out more visit For all press enquiries for the hospice – please contact:

• Winchester Basics Bank: A charity project collective of local churches, Winchester City Council, the Citizens Advice Bureau, Trinity, Housing Associations and other organisations work together to identify people with require help with emergency food and clothing. With sites in Highcliffe, Stanmore and Weeke, they have helped over 400 local families, 2,000 individuals. In a year, we have issued over 14,000 days’ worth of food since last November. They receive food donations from the public at collection points at Sainsburys in town and at Badger Farm, Waitrose in Weeke and Co-op in Alresford. Fore more information, please visit:

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