A NEW Christmas festival is set to light up Witney town centre when it begins on Friday.

The first ever Witney Wonderland launches at St Mary's Church at 6.30pm, after the town's Christmas lights switch-on at the Market Square.

A special evening attended by Witney MP Robert Courts and mayor Brenda Churchill kicks off the five-week festival, featuring performances from comedian Pam Ayres, big bands and roaming performers.

During the celebrations, 12ft Christmas trees and magical illuminations will be displayed around the church.

There will also be an ‘I love Witney’ photography exhibition, with a public vote to select the winner, and three carol concerts.

Carol singing around the piano takes place at 12pm, 2pm and 4pm on Saturday, December 8, before a carols by candlelight service by choir The Cotswold Voices at 7pm on Tuesday, December 11.

A 'Mayor's Carol Concert' will be held at the same time on Friday, December 14.

All events are at the church or on Church Green, offering mulled wine, mince pies and a licensed bar.

The free festival is the brainchild of Dianne Parkes, founding trustee of charity Joss Searchlight and Toby Wright, area dean of Witney.

The children's cancer support charity was set up by Mrs Parkes and her husband Nigel after the death of their 10 year old son Joss to cancer.

She said: "We hope this community festival becomes a tradition.

"It’s raising awareness of our small charity and the work we do, drawing a new audience to St Mary’s and giving a great platform for local children to get involved with art performance.”

The festival is open to visitors from 9am to 5pm every day until Saturday, January 5.

Visit witneywonderland.co.uk for details.