Today is the day that Southampton celebrates the 50th anniversary of its city status.

Dignitaries will gather this evening for a special service at St Mary’s Church, while the mayor will open his chambers to the public this morning. Schools are being urged to celebrate the landmark with a song and dance at a special event, which will be officially launched today.

February 24, 1964, was the date when Southampton officially became the UK’s newest city, following a successful petition to the Queen.

Today city mayor Ivan White was hosting a special reception at his chambers in the Civic Centre.

Children and teachers were invited and every school in the city will be presented with a special 50th anniversary plaque.

Later today, at 5pm, St Mary’s Church will host the special commemorative service which is free for anyone to attend.

School pupils across Southampton are being encouraged to use the anniversary to showcase musical talents as an extravaganza of song, dance and drama is to be staged. Schools are being offered a raft of opportunities for their students to enjoy as part of the 50 @ 50 event that is launched today.

Fifty musical experiences are being staged and schools are being invited to sign up to them in preparation for a month of performances in June.

One school that has already signed up is Sholing Technology College which is hosting an evening inspired by 1964, involving drama, art, textiles and music students. A host of other events will take place in the city to mark the anniversary over the coming months.

On March 23 Guildhall Square will play host to the Sainsbury’s Sport Relief Mile, while the Queen’s Baton will visit the city on June 4 as part of its relay tour ahead of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Other cultural events will take place in the summer, including a specially commissioned event in Guildhall Square, the details of which remain a closely-guarded secret.