AN ALTERNATIVE Christmas lights switch-on event will take place next week.

Brighton and Hove Buses will launch the annual Santa Bus with a switch-on event at the Donatello restaurant in Brighton Place, Brighton, on Thursday, November 14.

With no official switch-on event for the Christmas lights in Brighton this year, the bus company has teamed up with the Italian restaurant to create their own festivities in The Lanes.

The event will begin at 5pm, when Father Christmas will arrive on the Santa Bus to switch on the buses’ 10,000 lights, and count down to the switch-on of the restaurant’s display at around 5.45pm.

The Brighton and Hove Santa Bus, which has raised more than £250,000 since it was launched by the bus company and The Argus Appeal 15 years ago, travels around the city during the run-up to Christmas and collects donations for local charities.

Victoria Garcia, accessibility and communities manager at Brighton and Hove Buses, which organises the Santa Bus, said: “It’s my favourite part of the job and the most magical time of the year. The best thing is seeing people’s faces light up as the Santa Bus goes down their street and Santa stops to give them a wave. I’ve been told by quite a few people that it’s only when the Santa Bus arrives that it feels like Christmas has officially started.”

This year, half of the funds raised by the Santa Bus will be donated to The Martlets Hospice, with the other half going to ten charities including the Motor Neurone Disease Association, Chestnut Tree House and East Sussex Credit Union Foundation.

Hundreds of volunteers, including members of every depot and department at the bus company, will help to spread goodwill on the Santa Bus as it travels around the city over 20 nights before Christmas.

The bus routes have grown since the initiative was launched, with Santa visiting 200 streets, from Peacehaven to Southwick.

Sue Addis, owner of Donatello restaurant, said she was excited to team up with the Santa Bus and host the joint Christmas lights switch-on event.

She said: “We have a big Christmas lights display every year which we love to put up – the children are always really excited when they see the lights. This year we are extra thrilled to have the Santa Bus lighting up our display. I know how much people look forward to the bus coming to their area, and the money they collect is always worthwhile.”

The festivities will continue inside the restaurant after the switch-on as Santa will make a special appearance, as well as members of the cast from the Peter Pan pantomime, which is on at the Hilton Brighton Metropole in December.

Ms Addis said: “We’re also going to have a Christmas colouring competition for the kids and a balloon artist, and all the children will receive a take-home balloon.

“We’ll have our usual snow machine going outside too.

“Often people don’t want to leave the restaurant as it’s so cosy and it really looks like it’s snowing outside as it blows across the windows.”

To book a table for the event, contact the restaurant on 01273 775477 or book online at