Father Christmas brings cheer to hundreds as Hartlepool turns out to welcome him to his festive grotto

Santa Clause is gathering together Christmas lists from children across Hartlepool after his arrival to his shopping centre grotto.

Scores of families lined the Middleton Grange Shopping Centre as Father Christmas arrived on a sleigh pulled by members of the town's Round Table.

Father Christmas chatted to children to find out what they hope to get in their stocking this December 25.

Father Christmas chatted to children to find out what they hope to get in their stocking this December 25.

Dancers from Nadine's Academy of Performing Arts Hartlepool and members of the Hartlepool Hawks Cheerleading Academy were joined by Bishop Auckland and District Pipes and Drums and Mayor of Hartlepool Allan Barclay for a parade to the main square.

There, Santa asked what they hoped for this Christmas, all with the help of Radio Hartlepool, who compered the event.

First in the queue to meet him once he entered his grotto was Aurora-Rose Wallas, two, who was visiting the centre with grandparents Deborah Radics, and husband Michael, both 56.

Deborah said: "She really enjoyed it

The parade setting off through the Middleton Grange Shopping Centre.

The parade setting off through the Middleton Grange Shopping Centre.

"We came down to the play area, but saw this was happening, so Michael took her round to watch and I waited and we ended up being first.

"She asked for a doll and a pram and a bike."

Also among those at the head of the queue was Brougham Primary School pupil Lucy Hurst, six, and her sisters Mia, two, and Amy, seven-months.

They were taken to the celebration by dad Daniel, 30, Amy's mum Becky, 19, and grandparents Sarah Pedder, 47, and Alan Pedder, 50.

Hartlepool Hawks Cheerleading Academy joined in the fun.

Hartlepool Hawks Cheerleading Academy joined in the fun.

Lucy said: "I asked him for a doll that cries and a Hatchimals Baby.

"I was really excited to meet him."

Sarah said: "I was brilliant, just to see their smiling faces."

Centre manager Mark Rycraft said: "This event has gone from strength to strength and it's massively important to us.

Members of Nadine's Academy of Performing Arts Hartlepool performed at the celebration.

Members of Nadine's Academy of Performing Arts Hartlepool performed at the celebration.

"We don't have a traditional lights switch on, but we do have Santa arrive at the centre and it's a big day and really brings everyone together.

"We've had a bigger crowd this year than ever before and this year we have got new decorations around the centre.

"We've had members of staff come in on their day off especially for this and it couldn't happen without their hard work in helping make it a safe and enjoyable day."

He added his thanks to the St John's Ambulance for being on hand during the event.

Santa will be in his grotto from 10am to 4.30pm from Thursday to Sunday and will be in residence from 10am to 4pm on Christmas Eve.

The centre will welcome schools for carol singing on Monday, December 17, Tuesday, December 18, and Wednesday, December 19, with times to be posted on the centre's Facebook page.