Sunderland’s Christmas lights were switched on in Keel Square on Thursday, November 22, marking the beginning of a wide range of festive activities in the area over the next six weeks.
Between 5.30-7pm, a number of familiar faces were involved in lighting up a dark, damp autumn evening in the city centre.
Sun FM’s Simon Grundy conducted proceedings throughout, introducing a range of musical acts that entertained the crowd prior to the event. These included the choirs of Grange Primary School and Benedict Biscop Church of England Academy, as well singers Kate Hilton and Channy Thompson, who performed a variety of both festive and popular tunes.
Richard McCourt – one half of TV duo ‘Dick and Dom’ – and Josh Andrews, who both star in the Empire Theatre’s upcoming Peter Pan pantomime, provided some light entertainment before joining Mayor Lynda Scanlan in pulling the lever that put the lights into action. A fireworks display rounded off the event.
Hadrian’s Tipi, a pop-up attraction new to Sunderland and Keel Square this year, provided food, drink and welcome warmth to those in attendance throughout the evening. Stella Mckevitt, its general manager, said:
“The school performances were really impressive and brought a Christmas feel to the atmosphere.
“The fireworks were amazing: they were a nice way to finish off the evening.”
The pop-up festive attraction, in situ between October 19 and January 7, will continue to offer food and entertainment over the festive period. Stella said:
“We’re open from 12 noon every day. We have seven street trader stalls selling everything from burgers to duck fries as well as chicken wraps, curry, cocktails, crepes and fancy coffees.
“We’ve also got three pit-fires burning real logs and plenty of outdoor heaters, so it’s just as warm outside as inside.”
Live music can also be enjoyed at the venue from Wednesday to Sunday each week. Acts include Taylor Payne, Jamie Lee Harrison, Don James Mcclew, Connor Pattison, Gareth Beddord and The Phil Davids Good Times Band.
The Tipi will soon be joined by the ice rink, which is appearing for a fourth consecutive year, and will be in place from November 29 to January 6, only closing on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Jan Eskildsen, who coordinates the attraction, said:
“Ice skating is a sport that attracts a variety of different people. A lot of people who don’t actually enjoy sport enjoy ice-skating.
“Therefore it’s very appealing to whole families as well and that’s what we enjoy seeing when people are having fun and having a good time.
“We have a wonderful setting here in Keel Square, especially with the light canopy now lit here tonight.”