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Huge crowds gather across UK to celebrate start of 2017

Hundreds of thousands of people gathered across the UK on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day to ring in 2017 amid heightened police security.

Dazzling fireworks displays enchanted crowds in London and Edinburgh waiting to celebrate the new year, as the country was on high alert following this year's terrorist atrocities in Europe.

Security was tightened across the UK with fears of a mass-casualty terror plot targeting one of the country's New Year events following the attacks on crowded areas in Nice and Berlin.

To kick off 2017 a movie-themed parade streamed through the centre of the capital, while i n Scotland, swimmers extended their Hogmanay celebrations during a chilly charity dip.

The previous evening, police officers had formed a protective ring around spectators who had gathered along the River Thames ahead of the pyrotechnic midnight display, and additional measures were taken to ensure Sunday's parade was not threatened.

Dan Kirkby, parade spokesman, said extra police and security personnel were on duty, and road closures surrounding the route from Green Park to Parliament Square had been extended.

Hundreds of thousands of people braved the rain to watch 8,500 cheerleaders, marching band musicians and acrobats from across the world dance in the blockbuster-themed parade celebrating the start of the new year.

Characters from some of the movie industry's most memorable blockbusters danced down the road as the streets of London were turned into a giant film set for the Lights, Camera, Action parade.

Cruella de Vil, the evil dognapper from Disney's 101 Dalmatians, waved as she passed families, followed closely by a pack of white and black spotted creatures.

Music from Moulin Rouge and Annie, and the theme tunes for Ghostbusters, the James Bond film Skyfall and the Harry Potter series played as the colourful procession went by.

Mr Kirkby said it was a "kaleidoscopic" celebration that had grown and revolutionised London's former "black hole of culture" on January 1 since its launch 31 years ago.

He said: "We reckon we have about 20 different nations represented, from Bolivia through to the US, and we've got Pakistan celebrating the 70th anniversary of the state of Pakistan, so all sorts.

"It's a kaleidoscopic parade full of culture, music and colour. It's quintessentially quirky, the very best of British meets people from all over the world.

"And it's a testament to the fact that London is open for business," he added.

Elsewhere in the UK, s ome 75,000 people counted down the final moments of 2016 at Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations, which included four rounds of fireworks and a laser show.

Paolo Nutini headlined the Concert In The Gardens, while the traditional Old Town Ceilidh saw 5,000 people dancing through the midnight bells on the Scottish capital's famous Royal Mile.

And on New Year's Day, swimmers braved the chilly waters of the Firth of Forth at South Queensferry as part of the Loony Dook New Year's Day dip.

The celebrations did not pass hitch-free, with t echnical difficulties hitting the London Ambulance Service's system, forcing staff to record details of calls by pen and paper for nearly five hours on one of the busiest nights of the year.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police reported it had made a total of 35 arrests during the 3,000 officer-strong New Year's Eve operation.

Elsewhere in London, a n asthma-stricken woman and a man who cut his hand smashing a window were among around 300 patrons evacuated after a fire broke out at a pub.

The blaze at The Aeronaut in Acton, west London, started at around 12.30am on Sunday and caused extensive damage to the property before firefighters extinguished the flames.

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