EASTENDERS star Anita Dobson turned on the lights at the official opening of the Brighton Christmas Festival.

Dozens of eager festivalgoers were waiting outside the Christmas market in Valley Gardens, Brighton, on Friday morning ahead of its official opening.

The market, which has more than 80 stalls and attractions, will run until Friday, December 31.

The hand-built chalet stalls sell a variety of food and drink, arts and crafts, Christmas trees and souvenirs.

The Argus: Stalls at the Brighton Christmas FestivalStalls at the Brighton Christmas Festival

Among the stalls at the market is one selling Brighton-themed Christmas jumpers.

The trader said: “Every other big city in the UK has a Christmas market, so it’s about time we had one here in Brighton.

“It would have been nice to have a few more traders here, but I’m sure it’ll grow and more will join as the years go on.

“Us traders are open right through until 11pm so make sure to come and check it out.”

Other local businesses taking part include Brighton Gin, Bluebird Vineyard Estates, Classic Truck Coffee Company, Trading Post Coffee Roasters, Pod Experiences, Brighton Beard Company and The Waffle Market.

At 6pm on Friday, former EastEnders actress Anita Dobson, the star of this year's Brighton Centre pantomime Aladdin, switched on the Christmas lights in Community Celebration Square in the festival hub.

David Hill, founder of Hove-based E3 Events, which won a three-year contract from Brighton and Hove City Council to run the festival, said he has been staggered by the response so far.

"It’s an amazing day for Brighton and Hove,” he said. "It is going to be absolutely amazing.

"Now we have got to make sure that Brighton and Hove celebrate Christmas in a way never seen before.

"Brighton Christmas Festival has been a huge project for the team, make no mistake about that, and we want everyone to join in.

"It's the first year that the Brighton Centre has hosted a Christmas panto, and Anita is starring in Aladdin from December 22 to 27. Tickets are literally selling like hot cakes so don't miss out.”

The Argus: Santa's grotto at the Brighton Christmas FestivalSanta's grotto at the Brighton Christmas Festival

The Brighton Christmas Festival site extends south from St Peter’s Church, York Place, to the Victoria Fountain in Old Steine.

From Monday to Saturday, it will be open from 11am until 11pm. On Sundays it will be open from 11am to 6pm.

However, the site will be closed on Christmas Day.

There is no charge for admission to the festival site and tickets are not needed. However, some attractions and entertainment features within the festival will involve an admission charge.

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