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City ready for the big Christmas switch-on

Published on Wednesday, November 16, 2016

LEICESTER begins the countdown to Christmas tomorrow (Thursday, 17 November), with the switch-of the city’s glittering Christmas lights.

The fun gets under way at 5pm, with an opportunity to meet the cast of De Montfort Hall’s Christmas pantomime and live entertainment on the Humberstone Gate stage.

Members of the Jack and The Beanstalk cast – including broadcaster Martin Ballard, who plays Dame Trot, Sinead O’Callaghan (Jack) and Miracle Chance (Princess Tamara) – will pose for autographs and selfies outside Visit Leicester until 6pm.

Dancing his way around the city centre will be a 10ft-tall snowman, who’ll be entertaining children with his soft-shoe shuffle while his friend, Mr Scrooge, makes music on his tinsel euphonium.

On the Humberstone Gate stage, Radio Leicester’s Jim and Jo will get the party started at 5pm, introducing an hour of live music and dance before Lord Mayor Cllr Stephen Corrall and Sam Bailey – the star of Jack and The Beanstalk – flick the switch that lights up Leicester at 6.30pm.

The cast of Grease – Curve’s Christmas show – will then take to the stage for a festive sing-along of songs from the show, before Sam Bailey returns to the stage at around 7pm to perform ‘O Holy Night’.

Leicester band Johnny & The Goodtime Boys will provide the grand finale to the stage show at 7.15pm, with some classic soul and Motown hits to get everyone dancing – while in St Peter’s Square at Highcross, neon birds and stilt-walkers will help create a ‘Snowtopia’ winter wonderland until 9pm. 

Anyone planning their trip into Leicester to watch the switch-on of the city’s Christmas lights can make the most of some special travel offers this week. 

Those arriving after 6pm can park for free at the city council’s two multi-storey car parks. Both Newarke Street and Haymarket car parks are waiving evening charges until 30 December to encourage people to enjoy the city centre’s festive atmosphere and late-night shopping opportunities.

Tomorrow – switch-on day – families heading for the city centre on Arriva bus services can benefit from the company’s ‘Kids Go Free’ promotion. The Arriva offer is valid for bus journeys to and from Leicester city centre after 4.30pm on Thursday 17 November only.

First will also be making it easier for families to join in the celebrations. Any group of five people travelling together – regardless of age – can do so for £5 on First buses after 4.30pm tomorrow (17 November). The £5 ticket is also valid for return journeys from the city centre.

Additional Park & Ride services will be running from Meynells Gorse, Enderby and Birstall for the Christmas switch-on, with the last buses leaving the city centre at 10pm on Thursday (17 November). 

The switch-on of Leicester’s Christmas lights will signal the start of a festive weekend in the city.

Saturday (19 November) sees the return of the Christmas funfair to Humberstone Gate, while over on Jubilee Square there will be plenty for families and young children to enjoy. Santa’s – real – reindeer will be in Jubilee Square from 11am until 4pm, and staff from Twycross Zoo will be on hand to answer questions about the animals in the zoo.  

Visitors will also be able to enjoy views of Leicester and its illuminations from the Wheel of Light – the giant ferris wheel that is back in Jubilee Square as part of the Christmas celebrations. Family tickets (two adults and two children, or one adult and three children) cost £15.

On Sunday (20 November), the city’s popular Winter Food and Drink Festival will fill Leicester Market with delicious local food and drink.

Now in its eighth year, the festival promises to be bigger and better than ever, with more than 150 stalls selling handmade chocolates, homemade fudge, cheese, bread, jams, pork pies and homemade cakes.

Celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli will make a special appearance, entertaining the crowds with demonstrations of his award-winning skills at 1pm and 3pm, while the Red Hot Santas will bring their unique blend of music and fun to the festival, with performances throughout the day.

There will be plenty of delicious hot and cold food to choose from, including organic burgers, Spanish paella, Thai food, Indian specialities and a hog roast – with plenty of options for vegetarians.

Sweet treats ­– such as hot chocolate and freshly-made crêpes – will also be available.

The festival’s licensed drinks zone will offer real ale, craft beers, mulled wine and a range of ciders, together with a wide selection of non-alcoholic drinks.

There will also be over 20 craft stalls, where Christmas shoppers looking for the perfect gift will find handmade jewellery, quirky clocks, greeting cards, artwork and prints, découpage and Christmas decorations.

This year, for the first time, the festival has teamed up with The Community Giants to host a Youth Market, offering young people the chance to take their first steps into the world of business. Their ‘Happy Earth Market’ will focus on fairtrade, ethically-sourced and environmentally-friendly products, including jams, chutneys, gifts and cards. 

The Winter Food & Drink Festival at Leicester Market runs from 11am until 6pm on Sunday 20 November.

Full details of Leicester’s programme of events for Christmas are available on

They are also listed in a free Christmas guide to shopping and dining in Leicester that is widely available from city centre shops and bars, and from the Visit Leicester centre on Gallowtree Gate.

Events in Leicester city centre: Thursday 17 November

• Visit Leicester, Gallowtree Gate: 5pm-6pm

5pm-6pm                  Meet members of the Jack & The Beanstalk cast for autographs and selfies. Broadcaster Martin Ballard, who plays Dame Trot, will be joined by fellow cast members Sinead O’Callaghan (Jack) and Miracle Chance (Princess Tamara).

• Humberstone Gate West stage: 5pm-8pm

Please note: all timings are approximate and subject to change:

5pm-5.05pm            Welcome from BBC Radio Leicester’s Jim & Jo

5.05pm–5.25pm      Studio 79 dancers

5.30pm-5.55pm       Bullfrog Arts: Fostering Voices Choir and Taiko drums

6.05pm-6.15pm       La Bella Ukulele

6.15pm-6.30pm       Cast of De Montfort Hall’s panto, Jack & The Beanstalk, including Queen of the Flower Fairies, Sam Bailey

6.30pm-6.40pm       The Lord Mayor of Leicester, Cllr Stephen Corrall, and Sam Bailey switch on the Christmas lights

6.40pm-7pm            Cast of Grease – sing-along with songs from the show

7pm-7.15pm            Sam Bailey performs ‘O Holy Night’

7.15pm-8pm            Johnny and the Goodtime Boys


• City centre locations: 5pm-8pm

The Snowman and Mr Scrooge: meet the 10ft tall dancing snowman and Mr Scrooge and his tinsel euphonium

The Naughty Christmas Tree: help Mrs Butterworth put decorations on the tree that won’t stand still… 

Rudolph and Father Christmas: say hello to Rudolph and his friends from Leicestershire Fire and Rescue.

• Town Hall Square: 6.30pm-7.30pm

Wigston Enterprise Band: enjoy Christmas songs from the Wigston Enterprise Band and visit Leicester’s traditional nativity scene in Town Hall Square.

• St Peter’s Square, Highcross: 5pm-9pm

Snowtopia: Spark drummers, light walkers and a Snow Queen come together in a winter wonderland.

Events in Leicester city centre: Saturday 19 November

Jubilee Square – Meet Santa’s Reindeer (11am – 4pm); Wheel of Light

• Humberstone Gate – Christmas funfair

• City centre locations – The Dancing Snowman and Mr Scrooge

Events in Leicester city centre: Sunday 20 November

• Leicester Market – Winter Food & Drink Festival (11am – 6pm)

• Humberstone Gate – Christmas funfair