THE angels shone and the lights twinkled but the brightest part of Swindon's Christmas switch-on were the hundreds of young smiles.

The town centre Christmas lights were officially switched on last night in a ceremony with a sprinkling of Swindon sport stars and some designer decorations.

Even without Commonwealth gold medallist boxer Jamie Cox, who pulled out as part of a peace deal to attend the Old Town lights next week, sports fans were left with plenty of autographs to hunt.

Olympic swimmer Jaime King, Paralympic champion Louise Hunt, junior European swimmer Jazz Carlin and junior European kickboxer Ryan Embling joined team manager Alun Rossiter and rider Lee Richardson from Swindon Speedway, and members of Swindon Wildcats ice hockey team and Town striker Royce Brownlie on the stage.

The crowd of hundreds counted down with town crier Fred Ferris before the lights came on with a blast of fireworks and foam.

Residents from across the town were drawn to the celebration in the Parade.

Silviya Taperek, from Town Centre joined Alisha Garsidy, eight, at the switch-on.

"It's good to see so many people together," warehouse worker Ms Taperek said.

Alisha, from Purton, said she had liked "everything" about the show.

Cheney Manor mum Celia Richings, 41, took daughters Kirsty, nine, and Amy, six, along to watch the lights.

"We came along to see the lights come on," Mrs Richings said.

"I enjoyed the singing."

She said the flashing rabbit ears on sale had been a hit with both the girls.

"We didn't come last year but we came the year before," Mrs Richings said. "It's a really good, fun night."

This year's lights were extra special thanks to the designs of world famous kite designer Carl Robertshaw, who created a dozen eye-catching "angels" among the decorations.

The angels soaring over the Parade and Regent Street were an initiative of the Swindon-based Bible Society.

Society arts development officer Luke Walton said the designs touched all faiths.

"The angels are a brilliant way of bringing the Christmas story to life in a contemporary way," Mr Walton said. "Angels are important to a number of faiths so we're pleased to be able to give the people of Swindon a unique set of decorations of which they can be proud."