The voices of St Peter’s School children rang round Tavistock Parish Church bringing smiles to the proud faces of parents and others as they marked the ceremonial switch-on of the Christmas Tree Festival last Friday.

The 13th annual festival features 63 individually dressed trees designed and created by charities, businesses and community groups.  It is organised by the Friends of St Eustachius’ Church and sponsored by 14 organisations, including local businesses and groups, also supported by Tavistock Town Council. The event last Friday afternoon, hosted by Fr Matt Godfrey, parish priest, with guest town mayor Paul Ward, was part of the Dickensian Evening, the official beginning of Tavistock’s Christmas celebrations.

Teacher Jo Hodgkiss led the children as they sang to the packed pews, covering Away In A Manger, Silent Night, It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas, and Joy To The World.

She said: ‘We’ve been practising since mid November and it all came together today. They were wonderful. They’re always wonderful and seemed to enjoy it as well.’

Cllr Ward praised the children’s singing and said the Christmas Tree Festival ‘got better and better’ each year. ‘There isn’t a better place to have lovely singing and a tree festival than this beautiful church, we’re so lucky to have it. The festival raises money to help the upkeep of the church which is the cultural centre of the town. It’s a wonderful event to kick off the Dickensian Evening.’

Fr Godfrey said: ‘I love the period of Advent and this event and others mark the coming together of the community of Tavistock in prayer and worship accompanied by fun and celebration and anticipation.’

The Christmas Tree Festival runs until December 11, open between 10am and 4.30pm. On Sunday, December 11 there is a Christingle Service in the church at 4pm. The trees were decorated by a number of people in the community.

Festival coordinator Pat Morrison said she always had a waiting list.

‘We encourage people to decorate the tree to reflect what they do as an organisation. It does get better and better every year and they get more innovative all the time. It looks absolutely lovely.’

Anne Johnson, chair of the festival, said: ‘We have been delighted to welcome so many people to the Christmas Tree Festival. The opening day saw more than 2,000 view the trees. We look forward to welcoming many more people to the festival which continues until December 11.’