Ben-mania hit Blackpool as X-Factor winner Ben Haenow brought the wow factor to the Christmas lights switch-on.
The former white van man, who triumphed in ITV’s showpiece talent hunt last year, rocked the resort with his Christmas Number One and a taste of his new single.
But his top-of-the-bill performance in a three-hour showbiz extravaganza in St John’s Square was interrupted by technical gremlins which left Ben singing Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer with the huge crowd while the backing track was repaired.
“It’s a big honour to be invited to Blackpool to switch on the Christmas lights,” he said. “It’s a fantastic event.”
Ben’s performance was the crowning glory in a star-studded switch-on show. He opened with his X-Factor hit Something I Need, which shot to number one last December and, after the technical hitches had been ironed out, he treated the crowd to his new release Second Hand Heart which comes from his new album which soared straight into the album charts when it was released last week.
Many in the audience, particularly hordes of teenaged girls, had braved the winter chill and wait patiently from before three o’clock to see the chart-topping idol who is now one of Simon Cowell’s star stable.
Having recently returned from Los Angeles where he spent months putting together his debut album, Ben admitted his thoughts were with this year’s wannabe pop stars who are currently battling on Saturday and Sunday nights to succeed him as champion.
“This time last year on a Saturday tea-time I was sitting nervously waiting to go on stage in the live shows, wondering what my future would be,” he said. “So I know what they are going through.
“For me it has been an absolutely incredible year.”
Ben was the headline act in a huge programme of performers, many of them, like Ben, discovered on either X-Factor or Britain’s Got Talent.
Amongst them were Jack Pack who came fourth in series eight of GBT, the father and sons group the Neales who reached the final this year and Lucy Spraggan from the 2012 show.
MOBO winners Stooshe sang their hit Black Heart, and there were performances from pianist AJ Brown and Blackpool hip hop combo Myth of Unity. But one of the crowd’s favourites was 15-year-old singing talent Chloe Moyle from Fleetwood.
Eileen Ormand, of the Blackpool BID group who staged the show, said: “It has been our best switch on yet. The crowd was certainly bigger than we’ve ever had.
“We are all delighted with the way it all came together. What a show.”