Page last updated at 04:38 GMT, Thursday, 1 January 2009

England welcomes in the New Year

New Year fireworks in London
The New Year began with a 10-minute firework display in central London

Thousands of revellers braved the cold weather to see in the New Year at events across England.

The largest celebrations took place in London, where crowds lined the banks of the Thames for the city's annual fireworks display.

Firework displays also started 2009 in Birmingham and Manchester, the city's first major firework event since the millennium.

Temperatures fell below freezing in several parts of England.

Up to half a million people were thought to have been at the firework display in central London, with the night one of the busiest of the year for the Metropolitan Police.

Free Tubes

Scotland Yard said it had made 78 arrests during the festivities in the capital, with about 3,300 officers involved in policing the night.

Supt Brian Pearce said the majority of revellers had been well behaved.

"The nature of New Year's Eve in central London has changed. What used to be a relatively low-key spontaneous night is now a world-class event that attracts thousands and thousands of people.

"The atmosphere of the event meant that in the main the crowds were good humoured and there were no major issues reported to police."

Viewing areas for the firework display near the London Eye started to fill up at about 1800 GMT and were closed by 2300 GMT because they were full.

Crowds around Parliament Square and Whitehall in London at New Year
Many people crowded into Whitehall to watch the firework display

Tubes ran until 0430 GMT in an effort to get revellers home.

Extra police were deployed in popular gathering spots, including Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square, where police were on raised viewing platforms to oversee festivities.

Of the 78 arrests, 39 were for public order offences, 18 for assault, 10 for being drunk and disorderly, and others for carrying offensive weapons, robbery, obstructing police, theft, drug possession and sex offences.

A London Ambulance Service spokeswoman said: "It has been quieter than expected in terms of incidents.

"Between midnight and 1am we took 292 calls, compared with 377 in the first hour of New Year's Day last year."

The 10-minute fireworks display began after midnight was sounded by the chimes of Big Ben.

Earlier, the crowds were treated to a series of video messages from celebrities including actors Michael Caine and Helen Mirren, comedian Ricky Gervais, cartoon characters Homer and Marge Simpson, and one from the Mayor London, Boris Johnson.

Manchester's firework display was set off from the top of the Arndale Centre.

In Birmingham, the firework celebrations were centred around Centenary Square.

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London welcomes 2009 with a spectacular fireworks show over the River Thames.



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SEE ALSO
Thousands head for city's display
01 Jan 09 |  Manchester
London set for New Year's party
31 Dec 08 |  London

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Wandsworth Guardian Revellers celebrate despite weather - 19 hrs ago
Khaleej Times London police arrest 78 during New Year's celebrations - 26 hrs ago
Channel 4 News New Year revellers brave the cold - 29 hrs ago
Portsmouth Today Revellers celebrate despite weather Thousands of hardy revellers have braved chilly temperatures to see in the new year. - 31 hrs ago
Western Telegraph Revellers celebrate despite weather - 31 hrs ago



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