Festive bar, Bjorn the Bear and Santa arriving for Derry’s Christmas 2017

Santa flys over the crowd with the help of the Fire and Rescue Service during the Christmas Lights Switch on in Derry in 2016. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 17.11.16
Santa flys over the crowd with the help of the Fire and Rescue Service during the Christmas Lights Switch on in Derry in 2016. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 17.11.16

A winter themed Christmas market and bar, a life-sized animatronic bear and film projections in the city centre are all planned for this year’s festive season in Derry.

Derry & Strabane Council have now confirmed the details of their Christmas programme for 2017, kicking off with the Big Christmas Lights Switch On at Guildhall Square on Thursday, November 23.

The Big Switch On in Derry will include music, entertainment, animation and the arrival of Santa Claus.

The programme emphasis will be on providing family based entertainment while ensuring the safety of the attending crowds of around 8,000 expected to attend.

Strabane’s Christmas lights will be switched on on Saturday November 25, with a full day of activities planned.

The Council’s Business & Culture Committee was told at the Guildhall on Tuesday that there would then be a focus on staging events over the weekends running up to Christmas.

The Sound of Light and Christmas Procession will take place on Friday and Saturday, December 1 and 2.

Building on the 2015 and 2016 processions this, the committee was told, will be the highlight of Christmas celebrations in Derry and is “designed and timed to maximize and complement the city’s Christmas shopping experience”.

Audiences will be invited to follow the Sound of Lights trail through the historic quarters of the old city bringing in the Christmas Spirit with great music and characters.

Taking part in this year’s Sound of Light Christmas Procession will be Steldzen Illuminated characters, comprising of flowers and butterflies twinkling in the twilight and darkness.

A Strabane Christmas Fayre will take place on Sunday, December 3, featuring local food and craft market stalls, shopping and festive entertainment.
Christmas ‘Wonder Windows’ will be returning over the weekends of December 7-9, 14-16 and 22-23, with details of locations yet to be announced.

A Christmas Illumination Projections will take place on December 7, 8, 14, 15, 21 and 22.

A Council officer stated: “Magical Christmas projections will light up the wall of St Columb’s Hall to delight late night Christmas shoppers with images of iconic Christmas Movies and falling snowflakes.”

Meanwhile the Lost in Frost Mayor’s Christmas event takes place on Saturday and Sunday, December 9 and 10 at the Alley Theatre, Strabane and Saturday and Sunday 16 and 17 at Echo Echo Dance Theatre, Derry.

An atmospheric and mysterious winter fairy-tale “which will surprise and delight audiences of all ages”.

“Through movement, dance, storytelling and video projection the audience are taken on a journey of magic and adventure,” the officer’s report stated.

A Christmas Market Guildhall Square will be held from Friday December 15 to Monday 18.

A winter-themed Christmas market with bar serving craft/artisan drinks, live music and kids entertainment is planned.

Bjorn the Bear will sway into town for a two day stay on Saturday and Sunday December 16 and 17, making his home at Guildhall Square Come.

Local families can come and meet the magical animatronic life size bear and experience an unforgettable festive show.

This year’s Christmas marketing campaign will be a joint approach incorporating Visit Derry and other key stakeholders, the Committee was told.

Derry’s Christmas campaign will get under way on October 9 and will include a highlight flyer and website, with a key objective to attract approximately 60,000 people to the city and district to experience the Christmas events.

A total budget for the Christmas programme for the events will be £110,000, with £35,000 towards marketing.

Grant assistnace and support to develop festivities are expected to be issued to outlying villages and towns as part of the Christmas Festival.

The Business & Culture Committee endorsed the plans, with deputy chairman UUP Councillor Derek Hussey abstaining from the vote due to some concerns over levels of funding for some parts of the city and district.

Sinn Fein Councillor Brian McMahon welcomed the programme, particularly the allocation of grants to £3,000 to communities.

He asked whether the Winter Windows would be looking at derelict properties in the city centre area of Derry and whether it would be worth looking at a similar option for Strabane.

A Council officer said there were ongoing discussions about replicating some of the programming in Strabane.

SDLP Councillor Martin Reilly said there were only 103 days to go to Christmas and said welcomed the showcasing if the city and district.

“It is good to see it developing into more than one single Switch On event,” he said.