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Tuesday, 14 November, 2000, 20:40 GMT
Billie turns on Christmas lights
Regent Street lights
The sparkling lights were brought to life by the teenage singer
Thousands of people turned out to see pop star Billie Piper switch on this year's Christmas lights in London's Regent Street.

The singer was joined by London Mayor Ken Livingstone on the second floor balcony of the shop Austin Reid to flick the switch.

Wearing a festive red jacket and black jumper, Billie welcomed her fans and wished them a happy Christmas and New Year.

Billie said in a statement afterwards: "I love the great vibe in Regent Street when the whole world is out rushing about trying to get presents and I am delighted that I am here to switch the lights on in the Millennium year."

I am delighted that I am here to switch the lights on in the Millennium year

Billie Piper
A giant video screen was installed in the street so that everybody could see the pop star close up.

Mr Livingstone said meeting Billie was a breath of fresh air.

"I have just finished a committee meeting on waste materials so it is a delight to now be meeting a pop star like Billie," he said.

The 18-year-old singer joins a long list of famous faces who have pressed the button at the annual ceremony.

Last year French footballer David Ginola did the honours, while All Saints flicked the switch in 1998 and former prime minister John Major performed the task in 1997.

The Regent Street illuminations have a rich tradition and are considered by many to be one of the top festive attractions in the capital.

The history of the famous outdoor decorations goes back nearly 50 years.

Ken Livingstone and Billie Piper
London Mayor Ken Livingstone joined Billie Piper in the Christmas celebration

Regent Street was first lit up in 1954.

Prompted by a newspaper article on how dull London looked at Christmas, the traders which made up the Regent Street Association organised and financed the first display.

Oxford Street, with the aid of its corresponding association of retailers and businesses, followed suit five years later.

This year, teenage opera star Charlotte Church will be turning on the Oxford Street lights, while Jerry Hall will press the button on Bond Street.

2000 has been a bumpy ride for Ms Piper - with plenty of highs and lows.

Earlier this year kidney problems caused her to pull out of a string of European dates and she collapsed after recording the BBC children's programme, FBi.

In June she was rushed to hospital after collapsing in a London nightclub.

The Swindon schoolgirl shot to fame in July 1998, aged 15, with the hit Because We Want To - the youngest female to reach number one for 38 years.

Originally known as just Billie, she returned to the spotlight with a more adult image earlier this year with the release of her single Day and Night.

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See also:

01 Sep 00 | Entertainment
The Pied Piper of Swindon
14 Aug 00 | Entertainment
Billie's kidney problems return
19 Jun 00 | Entertainment
Billie out of hospital
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