Derry’s Christmas Lights switch on will take place on Sunday, November 21, 2021 with several councillors describing the proposed programme as ‘fantastic’ and SDLP Councillor Rory Farrel saying he would be ‘up the front as excited as Buddy the Elf waiting to see Santa for the first time since the onset of the pandemic’.
Unlike 2020, which was an online event, this year it is proposed to return to an outdoor event in an adapted form costing £27,000, with Santa and his festive companions travelling through the streets with the Christmas Lights switching on in his wake.
Members of the Business and Culture Committee approved the programming and necessary finances and programming which will see Santa’s Switch On procession consisting of festive characters, NI Fire and Rescue Service, Panto Characters and beautiful bespoke Christmas themed mobile installations.
This proposal will allow members of the public attending the Switch On event to view Santa switching on the Christmas lights from a series of city and town centre streets which will allow for the maximum number of people to safely line the routes.
The Strabane Switch on will take place on Saturday, November 20 at a cost of £15,000.
The report before Members which noted that the Walled City Market is expected to be on December 4 whilst two weekends are currently being investigated for the Christmas Market – either Friday, December 10 to Sunday, December 12 or Friday, December 17 to Sunday, December 19.
Depending on budget available, the three day Christmas market is likely to comprise of wooden cabins and traders mobile units surrounding a covered performance area
Unfortunately the Guildhall Craft Fair, which traditionally kicks off the festive season for Christmas shopping in the city and the Council’s Christmas Campaign looks unlikely to happen due to the continued indoor Covid-19 restrictions.
Aeidin McCarter, Head of Culture explained: “We looked at a number of alternative options but nothing will really allow us to get the throughput that is required to enable it to be viable particularly for the traders involved.”
Members were reassured that the ‘local craft community will form an integral part of the focus for the ‘Shop Local’ Christmas campaign to remind shoppers there is a lot of quality crafts available locally.’
The traditional Mayor’s community Christmas programming will take place in December with a series of activities that will enable the Mayor to bring festive fun to communities in Derry City and Strabane District.
Referring to the marketing campaign Ms McCarter said: “There will be a heavy focus on the Shop Local Derry and Strabane website and associated promotion.”
The report noted that a wider budget, in excess of £270,000, is available for Christmas illuminations across the City and District and ‘officers will work to ensure that the Christmas lighting displays achieve maximum impact with regard to supporting business and visitor growth with schemes provided within the main business and trading areas so as to enhance and attract shoppers and visitors into these commercial areas.’
Proposing the recommendations, DUP Alderman Maurice Devenney welcomed the endorsement of the ‘Shop Local’ strategy saying: “It’s very important in the difficult times we are in that we do help our local businesses.”
Sinn Fein Councillor Sandra Duffy described the proposed programme as ‘fantastic to see’.
She said: “I know last year the Shop Local campaign made a huge difference to people who were really struggling so I’m really excited to see that campaign kicking off again.
“The whole programme is really exciting. In terms of the Christmas lighting I think it’s a fantastic idea to spread the love so to speak. I know from talking to traders in the past they were afraid of not getting a bite of the cherry in terms of when people were coming into town, so the fact that the Christmas switch on is going to happen across various streets can only be welcomed.”
Seconding the report and welcoming the programme detailed in it, SDLP Councillor Rory Farrell said it was ‘good to see a return to some semblance of normality with plans in place for an actual physical lights switch on’.
He added: “Historically it’s a fantastic event and it’s a cherished moment in every child’s social calendar.
“It’s going to be a switch on with a difference and it’s not going to be focussed on the Guildhall Square but I’m sure it’s going to be no less impressive than previous years. I’ll be up there at the front as excited as Buddy the Elf waiting to see Santa for the first time since the onset of the pandemic. It seems like a fantastic programme.”