Sunderland is hosting a packed programme of festivities, as preparations begin to bring Christmas cheer to the city. The newly transformed Keel Square is to become a festive Frost Village, with a real frozen open air ice rink and traditional Christmas Market, and the former Vaux site will be home to a Christmas fun fair between Thursday, November 26 and Christmas Eve, all delivered by Sunderland BID. The Bridges will also run its annual Christmas Grotto, giving little ones the chance to meet Santa Claus and the National Glass Centre is holding bauble blowing classes for Christmas crafters.
The city programme ignites with the Christmas Lights Switch On, organised by Sunderland City Council, on Thursday, November 12. Special guests are joining the Mayor, Councillor Barry Curran, to flick the switch, with a full stage event beginning at 6:30pm in Keel Square.
Gemma Dishman, marketing and communications manager at Sunderland BID, said: “The BID team started our Christmas 2015 planning in January, so for us, the festive season has been a long time coming, and we can’t wait to show people what we have in store for the city.
“We’re delighted to be bringing a real ice rink to Keel Square this Christmas. It will be a really important feature of the winter activity in the city centre, attracting visitors from across the region and further afield for a magical day out in Sunderland. The Traditional Christmas Market and Fun Fair will be a huge addition to Sunderland’s Christmas offer and will encourage additional footfall during the festive period, something that will also support the economy of the city centre business.”
The delivery of the Christmas programme in the city is being led primarily by Sunderland BID with the support of Sunderland City Council, and the promotion of the city’s Christmas activity is being coordinated by a collective of the city’s biggest hitters, known as the Vibrancy Partnership. The partnership brings together the Bridges shopping centre, Gentoo, Sunderland AFC, Sunderland BID, Sunderland College, Sunderland Live and the University of Sunderland, with the backing of Sunderland City Council and the team is helping to put together a comprehensive list of the festive fun taking place in the run up to December 25.
Gary Hutchinson, commercial director at Sunderland AFC, who chairs the collective, as well as Sunderland Business Group, said: “Christmas is a special time for people young and old, so the line-up of events and activities taking place to mark the festive period is always hotly anticipated.
“This year’s programme really is bigger and better than any we have seen in the city before, so – though it may seem to be a while away – the excitement is starting to build as we look forward to a Christmas that will live long in the memory.”
Sunderland City Council car parks will be free after 3pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from November 12 through to January 1, making it easier and cheaper for people to enjoy the festivities. And The Bridges will ensure late night shoppers can save cash for Christmas, with free parking Monday to Friday between 5:30pm and 9pm from December 7 to December 23.
Sunderland Illuminations are already helping get the city’s winter events underway. A host of family activities are part of this year’s event, including a funfair, road train and roller rink.
The illuminations are running until Sunday, November 1, and lighting up the city’s seafront with bigger and better displays than ever.
Councillor John Kelly, the city council’s portfolio holder for public health, wellness and culture, said: “The events organised for Christmas are really strong, so the festive period is going to be fantastic.
“The illuminations provide a perfect warm-up to the city’s festivities, and we’re sure people from across Sunderland and beyond are going to make their way to our beautiful seafront to enjoy them, and get themselves in the spirit for the events programme in the run up to Christmas.”
Full details of Sunderland’s Christmas programme can be found online at sunderlandvibe.com, experienceithere.co.uk andsunderland.gov.uk, with updates as more details about the fair and ice-rink opening times, prices and capacity are announced. Businesses or organisations that have their own events and activities organised should contact Ashmore Consulting to have them added to the online festive guide at at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0191 500 8585.