Dame Kelly to ring in the changes at New Year party

    Hug Many

    Triple Olympic gold-medallist Dame Kelly Holmes will kick off the celebrations at the New Year’s Eve “Hug-Many” event in Tunbridge Wells.

    Dame Kelly, pictured centre, from Tonbridge, will appear in front of thousands of people with other acts, including bands Bloco Fogo, The Blues Brother’s Little Brother, Jokin’ Apart and singer Charlotte Bartholomew.

    Local DJ and party planner Simon P will be there and a bagpiper will play Auld Lang Syne as the clocks chime midnight and a massive array of fireworks fill the sky.

    Town insurance broker Ian Andrew thought up the open air celebration and funded it himself last year, with the event held in aid of the Pickering Cancer Drop in Centre. The other charity this year will be ellenor.

    “I put the money up front because I knew it would be a big success,” he said. “A lot of townsfolk just didn’t have anywhere good to go on New Year’s Eve, and from the start we wanted it to be a family event,”

    “We broke even after last year’s opening party, and my company put in a further lump sum to ensure there was enough for the charities.

    “There were a lot of naysayers when we first revealed the idea. Some people feared it would turn into the kind of drunken revellelry you see in Trafalgar Square. But that is not what we wanted, and we were delighted it was such a friendly, family event.

    “This year we are starting an hour earlier, at 7pm, precisely so parents can bring their children for a few hours and the whole family can have a great evening out, even if they have to leave before midnight to get the kids to bed.

    “Many young parents end up being stuck indoors because they can’t get a babysitter. Now they can bring the kids with them. Adult tickets will be £10, but entry is free for children under 12 and we will have a kids’ disco.

    Tunbridge Wells Hotel owner Julian Leefe-Griffiths helped organise the event.

    He said: “It took a heck of a lot of work to get it off the ground but it was worth it, it was fantastic vibe. I never really liked New Year’s Eve before! But I do love it when something works so well.

    “And this year we will have much more food and drink, including a specially-brewed beer – Larkins’ Hug-Many Ale – roasted chestnuts, hot chocolate, soup and pork.”

    MP Greg Clark has said he is also going to try to appear on stage briefly.