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Downton Abbey butler Jim Carter ‘given the night off’ to switch on Steele’s Christmas lights

Actor Jim Carter switches on  Steele's Village Christmas Lights,pictured with The Village School choir Actor Jim Carter switches on Steele's Village Christmas Lights,pictured with The Village School choir

Friday, December 7, 2012
2:17 PM

Downton Abbey star Jim Carter was “given the night off by Lord and Lady Crawley” to switch on the Christmas lights in Steele’s Village.

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Actor Jim Carter switches on  Steele's Village Christmas Lights,pictured with young ballet dancersActor Jim Carter switches on Steele's Village Christmas Lights,pictured with young ballet dancers

Hot on the heels of the Highgate and Hampstead Christmas festivals, this fledgling north London village was determined not to be outdone, packing a real punch with carols, classical music and its own sprinkling of celebrity stardust.

Steele’s Village, between Chalk Farm and Belsize Park, has tried to forge its own identity in recent years – with a bus stop named after the area – and the third annual Christmas festival sought to build on that.

Lynn Whiting, or the “queen of Steele’s Village” who organised the festivities, said: “We are trying to make a village so we have got all the shops on board, all the local schools and using everyone’s talents and it’s all gathering momentum with the bus stop and the petition to have Boris bikes here.”

Mr Carter was joined by wife Imelda Staunton, Shakespearian actor Leonard Whiting and Bridget Jones author Helen Fielding for the countdown to Christmas.

The Downton Abbey butler warmed up the gathered throng, quipping that this event would rival the multi-million pound festive ceremonies.

Jim, who is also chairman of Hampstead Cricket Club, told the Ham&High: “It will be Blackpool and then the Oxford Street lights next for me.

“This is what’s great about London, you live in a big city but you have your own patch. West Hampstead is a village and this [Steele’s Village] is lovely. Just look up and down the street. It looks jolly with the children singing.”

Ms Staunton, of Harry Potter fame, said her “Christmas starts here” and she was already bracing herself for Christmas Day when she has been tasked with preparing a feast for 12 at home in West Hampstead.

The Steele’s Strings quartet kicked-off the festivities with some classical hits at the Legal Café in Haverstock Hill as the mulled wine flowed.

In the build-up to the big switch-on, a choir from Village School in Parkhill Road, Belsize Park, treated the crowds to a collection of carols.

Ms Fielding, who is penning her third book in the Bridget Jones series from her home in Primrose Hill, said: “I have been living in Los Angeles for a long time and it’s really nice to have these small village events like this.

“I don’t think we realise how lucky we are.

“I had a little tear in my eye when they sang Once in Royal David’s City. I nearly burst into tears.”

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