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Leicester gets ready to light up for Christmas

Published on 21 November 2017

High Street Christmas lights

THE COUNTDOWN to Christmas begins this week, with the switch-on of Leicester’s glittering Christmas lights.

The fun gets under way at 5pm on Thursday (23 November), with an opportunity to meet some of the cast of De Montfort Hall’s Christmas pantomime and enjoy the live entertainment on the Humberstone Gate stage.

Three members of the Beauty and the Beast cast – Dick and Dom’s Richard McCourt, Heartbeat’s David Lonsdale and broadcaster Martin Ballard – will pose for photos outside the Visit Leicester centre on Gallowtree Gate until 6pm.

On the Humberstone Gate stage, Radio Leicester’s Jo Hayward and Jonathan Lampon will get the party started at 5pm, introducing a packed programme of entertainment before the Lord Mayor of Leicester, Cllr Rashmikant Joshi, starts the countdown to the big switch-on at 6.30pm.

As the Lord Mayor flicks the switch, a flurry of real snow will fall over the crowds on Humberstone Gate, the city’s 50ft Christmas tree – freshly dusted with snow that morning – will light up with thousands of white and blue pea lights, and Leicester’s shopping streets will be bathed in the glow of 13,000 festive lamps.

Under the Christmas lights in Town Hall Square, a brass band will play carols while visitors enjoy the traditional nativity scene and a tableau depicting The Chronicles of Narnia.

In Leicester’s new market square, 40 cosy wooden chalets will be open for business, packed with gift ideas, homemade crafts and delicious food and drink as the month-long Christmas Market gets under way.

In St Peter’s Square at Highcross, ‘Frostival’ will feature Swan Lake ballerinas, winged dancers and a friendly Snow Lion, while costumed performers will be popping up all around the city centre, including Elsa from Frozen, a Snow Queen in her ice chariot, and some stilt-walking Icicle Queens.

People will also be able to enjoy spectacular views of Leicester and its illuminations from the Wheel of Light – the giant ferris wheel that is back in Jubilee Square as part of the Christmas celebrations.

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

Those arriving after 6pm can park for free at the city council’s two multi-storey car parks. Both Newarke Street and Haymarket car parks are waiving evening charges until 29 December to encourage people to enjoy the city centre’s festive atmosphere and late-night shopping opportunities.

On switch-on day itself, 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 within the ZoneOne area after 4.30pm on Thursday 23 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 Thursday (23 November). The £5 ticket is also valid for return journeys from the city centre.

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 9pm on Thursday (23 November). Those parking their cars after 4pm will pay just £2 for return travel for a group of up to five people on switch-on night.

Full details of Leicester’s programme of events for Christmas are available at www.visitleicester.info

They are also listed in a free Christmas guide 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 23 NOVEMBER

Christmas Market, new Market Square: 40 Alpine-style chalets selling gifts, crafts and food. Hot drinks and licensed bar.
Daily from 11am from Thursday 23 November until 23 December

Panto cast walkabout, Visit Leicester, Gallowtree Gate: 5pm-6pm.
Meet members of the Beauty & The Beast cast for autographs and selfies. Dick and Dom’s Richard McCourt, Heartbeat’s David Lonsdale and Radio Leicester’s Martin Ballard will be in full costume for the event.

• Christmas gift ideas at Visit Leicester: Book your tickets for Leicester’s real ice rink (in Jubilee Square from 9 December) or buy them as a Christmas gift. Choose from a wide range of Leicester-themed gifts, including gorgeous hand-painted baubles and Christmas cards. Open till 8pm on Thursday 23 November.

Christmas lights switch-on ceremony, Humberstone Gate West stage: 5pm-8pm (Lights switch-on at 6.30pm)

Please note: all timings are approximate and subject to change.

5pm-5.05pm            Welcome from BBC Radio Leicester’s Jo & Jonathan

5.05pm–5.25pm      Studio 79 dancers

5.30pm-5.50pm       Ska Amanga

5.55pm-6.15pm       Bullfrog Arts: Fostering Voices Choir and Taiko drums

6.20pm-6.25pm       Cast members from Beauty and the Beast

6.30pm-6.40pm       The Lord Mayor of Leicester, Cllr Rashmikant Joshi, switches on the Christmas lights

6.40pm-7.05pm       Nikki Pope

7.05pm-7.15pm       Jo & Jonathan

7.15pm-8pm            Paradimes

• Traditional Christmas in Town Hall Square:
Enjoy a family-friendly atmosphere in Town Hall Square, with a traditional nativity scene and a tableau scene featuring the Chronicles of Narnia.
5.30pm: Oh Happy Days – Children’s Choir

6.30pm: Wigston Enterprise Band

• Frostival, St Peter’s Square, Highcross: 5pm-9pm
A magical celebration of snow, ice and light, featuring Swan Lake ballerinas, a stilt-walking Ice Prince, winged ice dancers and a friendly Snow Lion

Wheel of Light, Jubilee Square: Enjoy a bird’s eye view of the Christmas lights from the 110-ft ferris wheel

• Street entertainers, city centre locations: 4pm-8pm
Look out for the Snow Queen in her chariot, the stilt-walking Icicle Queens, Elsa from Frozen, and a 7ft tall Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia.

• Rudolph and Father Christmas: say hello to Rudolph and his friends from Leicestershire Fire and Rescue.