Walking in a winter Sunderland

an image from last year’s Christmas events package.

an image from last year’s Christmas events package.

Sunderland has Christmas wrapped-up this year with 150 festive fun activities for all the family.

The amazing line-up of events features everything from ceilidhs to comedy, funfairs to football and candlelit carols to Kylie Minogue tribute acts, as preparations begin to bring Christmas cheer to the city.

The newly transformed Keel Square is to become a festive Frost Village, complete with 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.

And scores of other great events and activities will leave people in the city spoilt for choice over Christmas. The lists of almost everything happening across the city can be found at www.vibemagazine.co.uk, www.experienceithere.co.uk and www.seeitdoitsunderland.co.uk/christmas.

Sunderland Business Group chairman, Gary Hutchinson, has urged city businesses and organisations to help take the list beyond 150, creating a comprehensive line-up of city activities to make Sunderland the centrepiece for Christmas in 2015.

“We are determined to make this the best Christmas across our city,” said Gary. “Few cities will be able to boast the variety of strong events that are planned across Sunderland and fewer still who have had the wherewithal to pull everything together to help people plan their party season.

“But this is just the beginning. We want the shops, community groups, businesses, musicians, sporting organisations, restaurateurs…everyone with an interest in bringing vibrancy to the city centre and beyond to let us know what they have planned and we will add it to the list and help them promote it to the widest possible audience.”

The programme started with the illuminations, but will truly ignite with the Christmas Lights Switch On, organised by Sunderland City Council, on Tuesday November 17, Special guest X-Factor finalist, Andrea Faustini, is joining the Mayor, Councillor Barry Curran, to flick the switch, with a full stage event beginning at 6:30pm.

Coun Curran said: “When the people of Sunderland put their minds to it, anything is possible and it is fantastic to see our residents, businesses and local authority all working together to promote our festive season offer.

“Whether it’s Carmen at the Empire or Stoke City’s visit to the Stadium of Light, we want to make sure everybody is aware just what is happening right across Sunderland this Christmas.”

Highlights of the programme include a one-man version of A Christmas Carol at the Canny Space, the Mayor’s Carol Service at Sunderland Minster, crown-making at the Winter Gardens and the annual Christmas Grotto in the Bridges, giving little ones the chance to meet Santa Claus.

Gemma Dishman, marketing and communications manager at Sunderland BID, said: “There will be a touch of the North Pole about the city centre when the Frost Village and ice rink make their magical appearance in Keel Square.

“We know that the people of Sunderland absolutely love city centre Christmas shopping, but I am certain this incredible list of events and activities will bring in visitors from across the region and further afield. I would urge people who haven’t been to Sunderland before or haven’t visited the city in a while to come back and let us show you what we have to offer – you might find our city is the best Christmas present of all.”

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 added: “Excitement is starting to build as we look forward to Christmas. With the City of Culture bid, the emerging arts and culture hub around the old fire station and work earmarked to start on the former Vaux site in the new year, it feels like the jump-off point for Sunderland to finally realise some of the vast potential we all know exists here.”

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.

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 mark.hodgson@ashmoreconsulting.co.uk or by calling 0191 500 8585.

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