THE LIGHTS are going up, the temperature’s going down and the giant tree is standing proud at Leicester’s Clock Tower – and that means the countdown to Christmas is well under way.
With just a week to go before the Christmas lights are switched on, the city council and its partners are busy putting the finishing touches to Leicester’s festive programme of events.
This year, visitors to the city centre will be invited to have a 'Festive Adventure' by following a trail that will lead them around all of Leicester’s Christmas attractions (pictured).
Amongst this year’s highlights is the return of the city’s spectacular real ice rink (2 Dec–3 Jan), which will join the beautiful Wheel of Light in Jubilee Square once again.
Santa will also be back, setting up home in his snow-covered grotto in Green Dragon Square, where he’ll welcome young visitors with a small gift (4-23 Dec).
There will also be festive events at Leicester’s museums, including an exhibition inspired by The Snowman™ and The Snowdog at Newarke Houses Museum from Saturday (13 Nov) and a Christmas Craft Fair at the Guildhall (27-28 Nov).
But the festive fun really gets going next week – on Thursday, 18 November – when 16,000 twinkling lamps will light up Leicester for Christmas.
With COVID-19 rates still high, there will be no stage programme on Humberstone Gate this year. Instead, a countdown across five locations – played out on speakers at 6.30pm – will herald the switch-on of Leicester’s fabulous Christmas lights.
At the Clock Tower, the city’s real Christmas tree will sparkle with white lights and coloured baubles, while the city’s traditional nativity scene, a festive tableau scene – featuring a new augmented reality experience for youngsters – and live music will bring Town Hall Square to life.
From 5pm on switch-on night, families will be able to enjoy some free films in Green Dragon Square. Festive favourite The Snowman™, at 5pm, will be followed by The Snowman™ and The Snowdog, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. There’ll be more family films on the Corn Exchange outdoor screen on Friday 19 and Saturday 20 November.
On Humberstone Gate, there’ll be a festive funfair (18 Nov-2 Jan), while a 22m-high ‘Happy Wheel’ – which opens at 7pm on Friday 12 November – will take visitors for a spin in Jubilee Square. Over in Orton Square, BID Leicester has sponsored a spectacular overhead light installation, Rhizome, which is set to captivate visitors from 18 November until 5 January.
Costumed characters and street entertainers, including some illuminated penguin puppets, will create pockets of fun throughout the city centre, and there’ll be live music from brass band collectives, carolling choirs and local steel pan players as part of the switch-on night programme.
People heading for the city centre from outside the city are encouraged to use Leicester’s three Park & Ride services. Two of the services – from Birstall and Enderby – have been specially extended for switch-on night. The last buses back to Birstall and Enderby will leave the city centre at 9pm and 9.05pm respectively on 18 November. The last bus to Meynell’s Gorse will depart at 7pm as normal. A return ticket for up to five people in one car costs just £3.
City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “After last year’s scaled-down Christmas programme, it’s great to be able to bring back attractions like the ice rink that help create such a wonderful festive atmosphere in Leicester.
“Although things feel more normal this year, COVID hasn’t gone away, so we’ll be keeping an eye on local infection rates as we head into winter, just in case we need to amend the programme to keep people safe. But our intention is to celebrate Christmas in style this year, and give families and friends plenty of opportunities to have fun together in Leicester city centre.
“I hope that people will enjoy everything the city has to offer this Christmas, whether they’re skating on ice, shopping for gifts, watching a show or simply enjoying Leicester’s fabulous Christmas lights.”
Deputy city mayor Cllr Piara Singh Clair said: “We’re looking forward to welcoming people to Leicester city centre on Thursday (18 November) for what should be a wonderful evening.
“The fun starts at 5pm, with festive films and fairground rides, before our fabulous Christmas lights are switched on at 6.30pm.
“It should be a great opportunity to catch up with friends, enjoy a meal with the family or maybe even make a start on your Christmas shopping!”
Tickets for Leicester’s spectacular real ice rink are now on sale, with heavily discounted tickets available for preview sessions on 2 December (5pm-9pm) and 3 December (11am-9pm). Tickets at these sessions will cost just £5.
Standard ticket prices remain unchanged from 2019, with individual adult and child tickets priced at £10 and £8.50 respectively. Group tickets (four or more people) will benefit from discounts, so an adult with three children can skate for £33, while skating at off-peak times is a flat rate of £7.
To book your tickets, or to find out more about Christmas in Leicester, go to christmasinleicester.co.uk
Leicester City Council is grateful for the support of its sponsors this Christmas: Octopus Energy, Goldsmiths, CityFibre and Gem.
Christmas in Leicester 2021
‘£’ denotes a charge applies or a ticket is required:
12 Nov–end Nov: ‘Happy Wheel’ in Jubilee Square (£)
13 Nov: The Snowman™ and The Snowdog: Family craft day at Newarke Houses Museum
13 Nov–20 Feb: The Snowman™ and The Snowdog: Exhibition at Newarke Houses Museum
18 November: Switch-on of Leicester’s Christmas Lights: entertainment from 5pm; lights go on at 6.30pm
18 Nov-2 Jan: Christmas tableau & nativity scene in Town Hall Square
18 Nov: Festive films in Green Dragon Square. 5pm: The Snowman™; 5.45pm: The Snowman™ and The Snowdog; 6.40pm: How the Grinch Stole Christmas
18 Nov–2 Jan: Billy Bates’ Festive Funfair on Humberstone Gate (£)
18 Nov–5 Jan: BID Leicester presents Rhizome in Orton Square
18 Nov: Let it snow at Highcross
19 Nov: Festive films in Green Dragon Square. 5pm: The Snowman™; 5.30pm: The Snowman™ and The Snowdog; 6pm: Frozen
20 Nov: Festive films in Green Dragon Square. 5pm: The Snowman™; 5.30pm: The Snowman™ and The Snowdog; 6pm: Home Alone
End Nov- 2 Jan: Wheel of Light in Jubilee Square (£)
27-28 November: Christmas Craft Fair at the Guildhall (£)
27 Nov: Festive film in Green Dragon Square at 5pm: Christopher Robin
2 Dec–3 Jan: Christmas ice rink in Jubilee Square (£)
4–23 Dec: Santa in the Square (Green Dragon Square)
4 Dec: Festive film in Green Dragon Square at 5pm: The Polar Express
4-5 Dec: Christmas Craft Weekend at Newarke Houses Museum (£)
5 Dec: Clarendon Park Christmas Fair
5-24 Dec: Let it Snow at Highcross
11 Dec: Frosty Fun Day at the Guildhall (£)
11 Dec: Festive film in Green Dragon Square at 5pm: Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
11-12 Dec: Christmas Craft Weekend at Newarke Houses Museum (£)
12 Dec: The Muppet Christmas Carol at the Guildhall (£)
12 Dec: Magical Christmas Film Shorts at the Guildhall (£)
12 Dec: It’s a Wonderful Life at the Guildhall (£)
15 Dec: Two Ghost Stories by MR James at the Guildhall (£)
18 Dec: Festive film in Green Dragon Square at 5pm: The Santa Clause
18-19 Dec: Christmas Craft Weekend at Newarke Houses Museum (£)
23 Dec: A Christmas Carol with Gerald Dickens. The Guildhall (£)
1-31 Dec: The Smeds and The Smoos at Curve (£)
3-31 Dec: A Chorus Line at Curve (£)
4 Dec: Christmas Music by Candlelight at Curve (£)
4 & 8 Dec: Christmas with André – stage on screen at the Phoenix (£)
10-11 Dec: Santa’s Best Ever Christmas at the Y Theatre (£)
10 Dec – 2 Jan: Cinderella at the Little Theatre (£)
11 Dec–3 Jan: Sleeping Beauty at De Montfort Hall (£)
19 Dec: Adam Kay: Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas at Curve (£)
19 Dec: Bolshoi Ballet: The Nutcracker – stage on screen at the Phoenix (£)