Harry Potter fans brave rail strikes for Back to Hogwarts Day at King’s Cross

Thousands of Harry Potter fans have braved the rail strikes on Friday to gather at King’s Cross station in London for the annual Back to Hogwarts Day.

Donning wizard robes and carrying wands, fans of the franchise travelled to the station to hear the magical loudspeaker call for the Hogwarts Express at 11am, inviting witches and wizards to board the train to Hogsmeade on platform nine and three quarters.

While a host of fans gathered online, thousands crowded in front of the live departure board at the station to see the written display for the fictional platform call, which prompted a cheer from fans of all ages upon its appearance.

The live event was hosted for the second year in a row by TV star, radio presenter and fellow fan, Sam Thompson – who, at one point, invited one fan Manish Pindoria to the stage where he proposed to his girlfriend, Panveet Kaur Bason.

Back to Hogwarts Day
Host and celebrity fan Sam Thompson with 10-year-old Arnav Partukar, who led the live countdown this year (Lucy North/PA)

Celebrity fan Thompson, who has named his two cats Albus and Cedric, encouraged fans to join in with the live countdown for the train’s departure, which was led this year by 10-year-old Arnav Partukar from Chelmsford.

Arnav, who won a competition held by the Wizarding World to find the most enthusiastic fan in the UK, said it was a day he will “never, ever forget”.

“All my friends and family know that I am the biggest Harry Potter fan around, so when my parents told me about a competition to lead the live countdown at Back to Hogwarts, as a proud Gryffindor I just knew I had to give it a go,” Arnav said.

“I have had so much fun, and it has been amazing meeting lots of other Harry Potter fans, just like me.”

Back to Hogwarts Day
Manish Pindoria (right) proposes to his girlfriend Pavneet Kaur Bason during the annual festivities (Lucy North/PA)

Made In Chelsea’s Thompson said hosting the event was a “dream come true” and getting to do so alongside 10-year-old Arnav was “an absolute honour”.

“As my cats, Albus and Cedric can attest to, I love Harry Potter,” he said.

“Being able to come back to King’s Cross to host such a brilliant event, in front of so many like-minded fans is literally my dream come true.

“What I loved about Back to Hogwarts is that you get to see the shared love that this community has for Harry Potter and the magical wizarding world, and hosting alongside Arnav has been an absolute honour.”

Back to Hogwarts Day
Harry Potter fans during the annual Back to Hogwarts Day at King’s Cross station in London (Lucy North/PA)

Speaking about the festivities, one fan in attendance, Eliya Williams, nine, said: “Back to Hogwarts is something I look forward to every time September rolls around, it’s a time I feel really connected to other fans and they haven’t disappointed this year.

“I’m so excited to be here to celebrate with my fellow Muggles, witches and wizards and it means so much that they involved fans in the countdown too.”

The new cast members and creative team behind Harry Potter and the Cursed Child stage play were also in attendance, joining fans in the annual festivities.