X Factor finalist Jahmene Douglas came back to Swindon on Wednesday 5 December in advance of his night with destiny in front of millions of television viewers on Saturday evening – and the town turned out in vast numbers.
In freezing temperatures some 28,000 people jammed into Wharf Green and surrounding pedestrian areas to catch a glimpse of their hot hero and his X Factor mentor Nicole Scherzinger, as well as sports stars from the town.
The evening organised by inSwindon had originally been planned for the end of November but bad weather forced a two week delay. The reorganisation resulted in a far more spectacular event than ever envisaged. On stage were members of the Swindon Town team that gained promotion earlier in the year and Swindon Robins speedway manager Alun Rossiter in recognition of the team’s first Elite League win in 45 years.
Also present were volunteers from Swindon and surrounding areas who carried the Olympic and Paralympic torch in May and June. Jahmene re-enacted the lighting of torches with the bearers of the flame using candles instead of gas.
The highlight of the evening was Jahmene performing three songs to the adoring crowd after Nicole had whipped them into a frenzy of excitement. He started his audition number Etta James’ classic At Last before getting people jumping with a mix of Tears Dry On Their Own by Amy Winehouse and Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Diana Ross.
To end Jahmene brought his mum Mandy on stage to serenade her with Robbie Williams’ Angels, sung with great tenderness and a few tears in the crowd who were aware of the hard times they’ve had to endure together in the past.
Nicki Styles, pictured on the far right above, was the only Paralympic torch bearer present and described the evening as brilliant. "I was so glad that the organisers asked the Olympic and Paralymic torch bearers to be part of the lights switch on. As I carried the Paralympic torch because of my charity work for Great Ormond Street Hospital and Naomi House hospice, I hadn’t met any of the Olympic torch bearers.
"There was an amazing turnout even though it was freezing. The excitement was electric, it was a real celebration of Swindon." Read about Nicki here.
inSwindon chief executive Simon Jackson said he was delighted with the way the evening had gone: "It was a wonderful night and tremendous to see so many people turn up for the event. The entertainment in the build up during the evening was fantastic and it was great to have Jahmene and Nicole with us.
"We’re all looking forward to seeing the coverage on X Factor on ITV this weekend. Jahmene is such a fantastic ambassador for Swindon and I’m sure the light switch on will demonstrate another positive thing to have been delivered from the town."
Earlier in the day Jahmene flew into town by helicopter with his mentor Nicole Scherzinger to be met by cheering children at Abbey Meads Primary School and having their picture taken with staff at Butterflies Children Centre.
Hundreds of people – including Jahmene’s mum Mandy – had waited in the cold for a couple of hours at the North Swindon Centre for Jahmene and Nicole to arrive. There were cheers, tears and lots of screaming as he waved and hugged people he used to work with.
Asda colleagues presented him and Mandy with a £10,000 donation to Woman’s Aid in recognition of the support it gave the family during very violent times in the past. Mandy works with Women’s Aid and writes a hard-hitting, campaigning blog. See pictures taken at North Swindon here.
The cavalcade moved onto Gorse Hill Community Centre where Jahmene met friends in the Bible Life Church which he attended and sang with choir, which he credits with helping him overcome his the fear earlier in his life from a brutal father who terrorised his mother.
Watch the Wyvern Theatre video of the Christmas lights switch on here
Photos: Richard Wintle ©Calyx Multimedia, 41, Churchward Avenue, Rodbourne Cheney, Swindon SN2 1NJ • 01793 520131 MOB: 07836 205196 www.calyxpix.com