Children and families from Special Educational Needs (SEN) schools enjoyed a special preview evening of the Festival of Light in Roker Park.

With large numbers of visitors expected in the park over the coming weeks of the Sunderland Illuminations (18 0ct – 18 Nov), the preview evening is a chance for the children and their families to have a little more time and space to enjoy the displays which stretch throughout the park.

Among the visitors were Ashley Dowson and her family with sons Chase, 6, and Lewis, 8, who are both on the Autistic Spectrum.

Ashley said: “I think the preview evening is a very good idea, and there’s a real chance for the children to take their time and see everything.

“It’s a lot less hectic and the numbers of people aren’t so overwhelming for people who might struggle with the crowds and noise.”

Lewis added: “I really enjoyed it, and the lights were amazing.”

Also in the park with her family was Tracy Kearney who said: “It’s a great idea to have a special night like this, it gives the bairns more chance to enjoy the lights.”

This year the Festival of Light features new attractions including an 18m high ‘Sunderland Sphere’ illuminated dome which gives visitors the chance to have messages to loved ones displayed on the huge spherical screens.

There is also the new Winter Wonderland feature and the mystical Underwater Kingdom Projection for visitors to discover for the very first time.

The Mayor of Sunderland, Councillor Lynda Scanlan said: “I was delighted and proud to be invited to welcome families and children into Roker Park for yesterday’s preview evening for the Festival of Light.

“I hope they all enjoyed it, I certainly did meeting everybody and listening to their reactions to the all the amazing displays.”

For children of all ages, there’s established favourites such as Disney characters including the Frozen and Alice in Wonderland displays, Witches and Wizards, Doctor Who and Pirates.

The spectacular, illuminated ‘Fabulous Fountains’ return to light up the lake, where visitors will also find the iconic ‘Sunderland Tap’.

To find out more information about the event and book tickets online please visit the See It, Do It website at: which also includes details of car parking, Park’n’Ride, and pedestrian and vehicle access to help people plan their journeys to the event well in advance.

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