The headline in a local newspaper read: "Peter Andre’s son will turn on the Christmas lights and perform a few songs to get residents into the holiday spirit".  

At first, I thought he was turning on the lights at the annual cold, damp, soiree in my village, but thankfully we dodged a huge Yuletide bullet, and he is instead gracing Stevenage with his presence. 

Fascinated by the choice of ‘celebrity’ for a town that birthed arguably the world's greatest ever racing driver, Lewis Hamilton, I wondered how the organising committee came to choose ‘Junior’ Andre. "Right chaps, lets book a one hit wonder to get Christmas underway!". "Great idea Jeremy! but Peter Andre is fully booked up that weekend". "OK…how about his gran, sister-in-law or son then?" 

And so it came to pass, and I, with an open mind, Googled Junior to see what his schtick was - a celebrity, maybe, but for what exactly?  

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Brett Ellis wonders at the cost of hiring a 'celeb' to switch on Christmas lightsBrett Ellis wonders at the cost of hiring a 'celeb' to switch on Christmas lights

It turns out he has embarked on a pop career, ‘following in the footsteps’ of his dad and no doubt hankering after that one hit that will pave the way for a slot on ‘I’m a celebrity’ in 2046.  

His debut single, ‘slide’ did just that as he peaked at number 72 in the official UK single charts. I did, as part of my research, take the liberty of trying to listen to Junior and watch his stagecraft, but sadly the speakers on my phone weren’t working, although he did impress with some manic waving of the arms at Carfest. 

It is a curious event the Christmas light switch on: Not only for villages and towns to fulfil their fetish of employing a ‘C’ lister to flick a switch which, let's face it, could be a task performed by a local mayor or councillor for free.  

Yet, during a cost-of-living crisis, and with councils bleating about making savings, they instead use our hard-earned to entice folk onto the street only for those of my ilk to watch it and state, "Right, that’s that then. Can we go home now?” as others try to pretend they are having fun when patently they are not. 

The true pantheon of Christmas light celebrity greatness lays in one place: The shoplifting mecca of Oxford Street, London. In the 1980s they had true celebs doing the honours including Bob Geldof and Terry Wogan, the Spice Girls in the 90s, Madonna in 2005 followed by Jim Carrey in 2009. 

I just hope my village employs someone I can associate with as a grumpy middle-aged man, and the only candidate therefore is the ‘Grinch’ who I would pay to see in order to equalise the Andre effect.

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher.