SUNDERLAND is set to receive the best seasonal gift ever, with a packed programme of entertainment to mark the festive season.
An ambitious Festival of Light at Mowbray Park and the return of Hadrian’s Tipi are just some of the highlights that local people and visitors can experience as part of Christmas in the city.
And the hope is the exciting activities will also prove a huge boost for the local economy, bringing in visitors from across the region and beyond.
The Festival of Light will see a whole range of new light installations and events at Mowbray Park every Thursday to Sunday from November 21 to December 22.
And the popular Hadrian’s Tipi is also set to return and take up residence at a new base at the former Crowtree Leisure Centre site, alongside a marquee which will stage live entertainment.
The ice rink – now a firm annual fixture – will also return to Keel Square with a fun fair installed at High Street West, Market Square and at Crowtree, while the Reindeer Dash and the Business Shopping Night are also set to make a welcome return.
The city’s BID and Sunderland City Council have jointly created the programme with something for everyone, starting with the switching on of the Christmas lights on 21 November.
Sharon Appleby, Head of Business Operations at Sunderland BID, believes the packed programme will give retailers in the city the opportunity to make it a bumper Christmas.
“We know how many visitors went to the Festival of Light when it was at Roker Park and how many people came to the tipi last year,” she said.
“We hope that retailers will take advantage of this increased footfall in the city centre to benefit their businesses.”
Cllr John Kelly, Sunderland City Council Portfolio Holder for Communities and Culture said: ” There’s always lots going on in and around the city centre over the Christmas period, and this year looks to be the best one yet.
“We’ve made the decision to move the Festival of Light into Mowbray Park, where it will be a completely new experience for visitors to enjoy.
“They’ll also all have the opportunity to enjoy everything else the city centre has to offer, whether it be food and drink, ice skating, shopping or the traditional pantomime.”
Neill Winch, CEO of Danieli Holdings, which operates Hadrian’s Tipi, said he was delighted to be returning to the city.
“We were overwhelmed by the positive response by the public last year who came and visited the tipi, and fully embraced the pop-up winter experience,” he said.
“The overall leisure experience in Sunderland is improving every year and we are proud to support the city’s ambitious Christmas plans by offering a fantastic winter experience for all of the family.
‘We look forward to bringing the tipi back and delivering something even bigger and better than last year.”