THERE may not have been an official city centre Christmas lights switch-on this year – but Brighton and Hove Buses and Donatello restaurant more than made up for it in The Lanes, with a little help from Santa.

The Santa Bus was officially launched when Father Christmas switched on the vehicle’s 9,600 fairy lights and the Italian restaurant’s lights together.

The cast of Peter Pan, this year’s pantomime at The Hilton Metropole, were in attendance to add to the festive spirit.

Sue Addis, owner of Donatello, said: “The Donatello and Santa Bus switch-on was amazing.

“We love to see the children full of excitement to see Santa and the Christmas display. Thank you to all at Donatello and Brighton and Hove Buses and of course Santa.”

Scores of children and their families turned up to meet Santa and his elves and watch the lights go on as a flurry of snow filled the air from the restaurant’s snow machine.

The bus makes its first outing on Monday, November 25, when Santa will visit the boys and girls of Goldstone and Downs Park.

The Santa Bus visits more than 200 streets in Brighton and Hove over 20 nights in the run-up to Christmas, spreading festive cheer

while fundraising for 11 charities.

This year’s charities are: Amaze, Chestnut Tree House, East Sussex Credit Union Foundation, Motor Neurone Disease Association, Moulsecoomb Forest Garden, Ronald McDonald House, Say Aphasia, Take Shelter, The Martlets, Trust For Developing Communities and YMCA Downslink Group.

The bus has raised more than £250,000 for numerous local charities since it began with The Argus Appeal, the newspaper’s charity, 16 years ago.

When it is not out fundraising, the bus transports disabled children to Christmas parties all over the city.

Brighton and Hove Buses’ boss Martin Harris said: “Our brilliant team of engineers has got the bus ready for Santa’s expeditions across the city, complete with lights and music.

“We also have a cheerful crew of volunteer elves and reindeer on standby to help Santa out every night.

“The generosity of people living in Brighton and Hove blows me away every single year.

“Last year we raised more than £30,000. I’m sure we can beat that this year for these 11 charities that make life better for so many people in this city.”

Brighton and Hove Buses’ accessibility and communities manager Victoria Garcia 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 gives them a wave.

“Quite a few people have told me they only feel like Christmas has started when they’ve seen the Santa Bus.”

Volunteer bucket collectors will knock on doors and seek donations as the Santa Bus makes it way around the city and its suburbs.

Envelopes will be posted through every door the day before, which people can display on collection night, if they don’t want anybody to knock on their door.

The Santa Bus will visit the city and its suburbs including Bevendean, Coldean, Downs Park, Goldstone, Hangleton, Hollingdean, Meadowview, Mile Oak, Moulsecoomb, Patcham, Peacehaven, Southwick, Wish East, Wish West and Whitehawk.

Santa will stay on the bus so he can see as many people as possible in one night, just as he does on Christmas Eve, but rest assured he knows where everyone lives.

For a full list of dates and maps of Santa’s routes visit

You can get live updates on Santa’s location on our website using the Santa tracker.

The Santa Bus runs between 5.30pm and 8.30pm until Friday, December 20.