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Leicester’s big Christmas switch-on just days away

Published on Friday, November 11, 2016

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

From Monday (14 November), people arriving after 6pm can park for free at the city council’s two multi-storey car parks. Both Newarke Street and Haymarket car parks will waive evening charges from Monday until 30 December to encourage people to enjoy the city centre’s festive atmosphere and late-night shopping opportunities. 

On Thursday (17 November) – 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 on switch-on day. The £5 ticket is also valid for return journeys from the city centre.

And 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 is always popular with the public, with around 25,000 people enjoying last year’s events,” said Cllr Piara Singh Clair.

“With large crowds expected again this year, we want to make it as easy as possible for the public to travel to and from the event, so I hope that people will make use of the special park and ride services, or that they choose to travel into the city centre by bus. 

“There’s a packed programme of festive events lined up from 5pm, including a 10ft-tall dancing snowman, a live performance from Sam Bailey, traditional Christmas songs, and – of course – the switch-on of Leicester’s Christmas lights.”

Leicester’s countdown to Christmas gets under way on Thursday (17 November) with live entertainment on the Humberstone Gate stage from 5pm, an opportunity to meet the cast of De Montfort Hall’s Christmas pantomime, and the switch-on of the city’s Christmas lights at 6.30pm.

Broadcaster Martin Ballard, who plays Dame Trot in Jack & The Beanstalk, will be joined by fellow cast members Sinead O’Callaghan (Jack) and Miracle Chance (Princess Tamara) outside the Visit Leicester centre from 5pm until 6pm.

Elsewhere in the city centre, a giant dancing snowman will entertain children with his soft-shoe-shuffle, while Mr Scrooge will be making music on his tinsel euphonium.

On the Humberstone Gate stage, Lord Mayor Cllr Stephen Corrall and Sam Bailey – the star of the De Montfort Hall panto – will flick the switch that lights up Leicester at 6.30pm, before the cast of Grease – Curve’s Christmas show – take to the stage for a festive sing-along of songs from the show.

Sam Bailey will then return 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.

From Highcross, it’s a short walk to Jubilee Square, where families can enjoy views of the Christmas lights from the giant Wheel of Light.

Family tickets (two adults and two children, or one adult and three children) for the big wheel cost £15.

The switch-on of Leicester’s Christmas lights will signal the start of a festive weekend in the city, with family events in Jubilee Square on Saturday (19 November), a funfair on Humberstone Gate, and the return of the city’s popular Winter Food and Drink Festival, which will fill Leicester Market with delicious local food and drink 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 

• 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.

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