X-FACTOR star Sam Callahan helped to spread festive cheer by marking the start of the Christmas countdown in Keighley.

More than 1,500 ‘Callafans’ flocked to Airedale Shopping Centre to see the former barman switch on the town’s Christmas lights on Sunday.

Sam spent more than an hour meeting and greeting his fans, signing autographs and having his photograph taken.

The singer-songwriter Ben wowed the audience with tracks such as She Looks So Perfect, Iris, Bigger Things, Rock n Roll and Photograph.

He was joined on stage by Santa Claus and Keighley town mayor Cllr Graham Mitchell to turn on Keighley’s Christmas lights.

As the lights were turned on, the stage erupted with fireworks, and confetti bombs burst into the night sky.

Sam’s appearance rounded off a day-long event, sponsored by Airedale Shopping Centre and the Keighley Town Centre Association, which launched the hunt for Keighley’s Champion Christmas Elf.

The contest sees young shoppers getting dressed up as Santa’s newest recruits, with face painters on hand ready to transform the children before having their pictures taken.

The Elves images are now on the Airedale Shopping Centre’s Facebook page where shoppers are being encouraged to vote for their favourites.

The young Elf who gets the most likes will win a Christmas hamper of goodies from stores at the Airedale Shopping Centre.

Airedale Centre manager Steve Seymour said: “We are at the heart of the Keighley community so we wanted to play our part in making the town’s annual Christmas lights switch on a fantastic, festive success.

“There was a brilliant turnout with so many families getting involved in all the activities, not to mention the many hundreds of fans who came to watch Sam perform and switch on the lights.

“Santa was really busy in his Grotto on Brunswick Arcade with over 150 children visiting him during the day.”

Among the families who joined in the fun was parent, Luke Watson, who was out shopping with seven-year-old Liam Halligan and Kieran Watson, aged four.

Mr Watson said: "We came into town to get involved with all the Christmas activities. It's been great getting into the festive spirit.”

Throughout the day, Pulse FM’s roadshow was in full swing with presenters Danny Mylo and Rosie Madison.

Local choirs performed festive favorites and carols, and there were activities such as balloon modelling.

Sam, who was performing his first-ever Christmas lights switch-on, said he would be spending Christmas Day with his parents in Essex.