NOT even the rain could dampen the spirits of thousands of screaming teenagers who turned out to help kickstart the countdown to Christmas at Merry Hill.

For the first time the shopping centre held its annual Christmas lights switch-on event outside in the car park, with live performances by boyband Lawson, Tyler James from The Voice and Britain’s Got Talent contestant Mr Zip.

Shoppers lucky enough to have got their hands on some of the 5,500 free wristbands were entertained for three hours, with the proceedings hosted by Free Radio presenting duo Sam Nixon and Mark Rhodes.

At the end of the evening the acts switched on mall’s indoor Nutcracker-themed Christmas lights with a giant button, as a spectacular firework show and confetti cannons covered the crowds outside.

Speaking before the show, four-piece Lawson, who have just released their debut album, said they were “honoured” to be at Merry Hill after having an “amazing year” and were looking forward to all returning home for a Christmas break.

Tyler James, who came runner-up on the BBC talent show, said he too was looking forward to Christmas after having had the “most mental year” after signing a record deal two days after finishing the show, spending the last 14 weeks in the studio writing and recording new material.

While Mr Zip, who sang his catchy ‘Where me keys, where me phone’ song, revealed to the News how he has a room decorated for Christmas all year round.

Kelly Reed, marketing manager at Westfield Merry Hill said: “The Christmas lights switch on was a huge success.

“Despite the typically British weather, thousands of visitors turned out to see the unveiling of the Christmas lights.

“There was a great buzz about the place to get everyone in the festive mood!”

For more video interviews with Lawson, Tyler James and Mr Zip click here.