David Starkey turned on Highbury Barn’s Christmas lights in front of 200 people on Sunday, at an event which also included carols, mulled wine and mice pies.
Starkey, one of Britain’s leading historians and television stars, said: “I’m astonished by the turnout. I was expecting two and half people to be here.
“I moved to Islington 30 years ago on the 1 July 1983. Since then I’ve walked past Highbury Barn every day of my life. To have the Christmas lights switched on here – at the centre of the community – is an excellent idea.”
Mr Starkey joins a long list of Islington celebrities who have switched on the lights over the previous seven years, including comedian Clive Anderson, author Nick Hornby, Madness frontman Suggs and BBC political editor Nick Robinson.
Terry Stacy, Highbury East ward councillor, said: “Highbury Barn is at the centre of our community and this is a great way to bring residents together and celebrate our neighbourhood.
“Earlier this year we recognised the importance of the Highbury Barn to community life, so we decided to class it formally as a community asset. This stopped a Sainsbury’s branch taking its place.
Each year councillors in their wards are allocated £20,000 worth of funding to assign to projects in their area. Highbury East Liberal Democrats have chosen a wide range of projects in the last three years including the Christmas lights, holiday play schemes and Islington people’s plaques.
Michelle Lovell, owner of Mrs Lovell’s fruit and vegetable shop, said, “It’s great to see the community come together to celebrate Christmas. We have seen a historic celebration today.”
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