THE dark winter evenings are set to get a bit brighter in Leicester as final preparations are made for the annual Christmas lights switch on.
From 5pm on Thursday (17 Nov), people will be able to enjoy entertainment and activities around the city centre including food and free festive films in Green Dragon Square, funfair rides on Humberstone Gate, live music in Town Hall Square and street entertainers near the Clock Tower Christmas tree.
At Green Dragon Square, from 5pm, children will have the chance to take to the stage with their best festive funnies and Christmas cracker jokes at the pop-up Joke Spot, hosted by The UK Kids Comedy Festival and compered by local comedian Tony Cowards. Families will also be able to enjoy a free outdoor Christmas movie night with a special outdoor screening of all four Wallace and Gromit short films. The first screening begins at 5.30pm.
There will be refreshments, hot food and seasonal snacks available from a range of street food vendors in Green Dragon Square from 5pm until 9pm.
In Town Hall Square, people can enjoy carol singing choirs and live music while taking in the traditional nativity scene. There will also be a chance to sneak an early peek at the new Christmas grotto ahead of Santa’s arrival on Saturday 3 December.
Costumed characters and street entertainers, including bouncing reindeer, a living snow globe and the Christmas bubble fairy will create pockets of fun throughout the city centre, and a marching brass band will be treating shoppers with their funky take on some festive favourite tunes.
At the Clock Tower, the city’s traditional Christmas tree – a 46ft tall Sitka spruce from Kielder Forest in Northumberland – will be ready to sparkle with hundreds of pea-lights. This year, the tree is generously sponsored by TalkTalk, which is currently rolling out full fibre, the UK’s fastest broadband, across Leicester.
At 6.30pm, those enjoying the fun will be invited to share in the build-up to the big switch-on by joining in with a countdown led by BBC Radio Leicester and broadcast on speakers across the city centre, before 16,000 colourful lamps light up Leicester’s squares and shopping streets, marking the start of the Christmas celebrations.
For visitors with a head for heights, the massive Wheel of Light in Jubilee Square will offer a birds-eye view of the festive lights from its highest point of 110ft above the city centre.
And the festive fairground in Humberstone Gate will add to the magical atmosphere.
Deputy city mayor Cllr Piara Singh Clair said: “We’re looking forward to welcoming people to Leicester city centre on Thursday (17 Nov) for what should be a wonderful evening.
“Christmas in Leicester will provide plenty of opportunities for friends and family to have fun together and enjoy the festive atmosphere in our city centre.”
People heading for the city centre from outside the city are encouraged to use Leicester’s 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 8.30pm on 17 November. The last bus to Meynell’s Gorse will depart at 7pm as normal.
The Christmas Lights Switch On marks the start of a busy programme of festive fun and activities in Leicester.
People can enjoy free screenings of festive favourites films in Green Dragon Square on Friday (18 Nov) and Saturday (19 Nov).
The popular Jubilee Square ice rink will be open from Thursday 1 December until Monday 2 January, with sessions available seven days a week except Christmas Day. Tickets can be booked in advance online at www.ChristmasInLeicester.co.uk or in person from the Visit Leicester Centre located at the King Richard III Visitor Centre, at 4a St Martins.
And children will be able to see Santa at his new home in a magical grotto at Town Hall Square, which will be open with free admission from Saturday 3 December.
A festive trail map showing the location of all the key Christmas attractions, along with further details of events and activities, is available online at www.ChristmasInLeicester.co.uk
Low energy LED bulbs are used in all of Leicester’s Christmas decorations. This helps keep down the costs of their running and maintenance. Last year, the total energy cost for the Christmas lights was just over £3,000.