THE countdown to Christmas begins in Alton next week with the annual Christmas lights switch on.

Starting at 5.50pm in the Market Square, next Friday's event will include carols, music and seasonal messages from civic dignitaries.

The Alton Salvation Army Band, the children from Alton Infants School and the Alton Community Choir will perform and add another festive touch to proceedings on the stage on the night.

And even Father Christmas is set to pop in to help the mayor switch on the lights.

For full story, see this week's Alton Herald.