£200,000 budget for Derry Christmas lights programme

Derry City and Strabane council’s Christmas programming will get underway on November 26 with the Christmas Lights Switch On in Strabane and Derry’s the following day on Saturday, November 27.

Details of Derry's Christmas programme have been unveiled.
Details of Derry's Christmas programme have been unveiled.

Members of the Business and Culture Committee gave their approval at their September meeting this week and praised council staff for a report outlining ‘another spectacular Christmas event’.

Due to the success of last year’s format when Santa and his festive companions travelled through the streets with the Christmas Lights switching on in their wake, this year’s event will proceed in this way again.

Santa’s Switch On Procession will consist of festive characters, NI Fire and Rescue Service, Panto Characters and beautiful bespoke Christmas themed mobile installations and members of the public will be able 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.

Other planned events include the Walled City Market on Saturday, December 3; the Christmas Market from Friday, December 16 to Sunday, December 18 18; the Guildhall Craft Fair from November 25 to 27; the Mayor’s Christmas Tea Dance on December 7 and the Mayor’s Community Christmas Programming.

Members were informed that council have a wider budget for Christmas illuminations in excess of over £200,000 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/trading areas to enhance and attract shoppers and visitors into these commercial areas.

Council's Head of Culture, Aeidin McCarter informed members that the Christmas Market which will be open from 11am to 6pm each day, will accommodate 20 traders, and that ‘no alcohol will be served so as not to compete with local public houses’.

She added: “Based on 2021 figures the Christmas Market can expect to attract footfall of in excess of 38,000 visitors to Guildhall Square which represents a 107% increase on normal expected footfall at this time of year in the same location.”

Describing last year’s council programme as ‘absolutely fantastic’, SDLP councillor Rory Farrell said: “The highlight for me was the Christmas Lights Switch On, the parade and the procession through the city was a welcome departure from the usual switch on in Guildhall Square, so I’m really glad that this Covid innovation is going to be replicated this year.”

Agreeing DUP Alderman Maurice Devenney added: “It’s a huge piece of work to put on all of this in the run up to Christmas. I look forward to it unfolding, let’s have another spectacular Christmas event.”

Aontú councillor Emmet Doyle asked about provision for those with sensory needs requesting there be ‘specific marketing around that’.

He continued: “Unfortunate as it is we did have a lot of difficulty last year in terms of vandalism of the lights in Guildhall Square and some of the installations there. Have we had any discussions with community safety teams or stakeholders or wardens so we can try and address that this year?”

Ms McCarter replied: “There will be sensory provision which the majority of our events and certainly the Christmas procession and switch on events will have that and we will be publishing all of those details.

“In relation to vandalism we haven’t had specific discussions within our own officer team but its probably something to pick up on and we can relate that to our colleagues in Environment who would specifically look after the lights.”

With all members approving the programming, Committee Chair Sinn Féin councillor John McGowan added: “Every year we are getting better and better. It’s great because it brings shoppers to the city and it brings a smile to people’s faces.”