Leicester Christmas lights switch-on draws record crowds

By Conor de Smith

Leicester’s annual Christmas lights switch-on saw record crowds as the city got the festive season underway last Thursday night.

About 22,000 people attended the event in Humberstone Gate and the area surrounding the Clock Tower to witness the illuminations.

The on-stage entertainment was headed by ITV Central News presenter Matt Teale and featured a host of celebrity guests including X Factor winner Sam Bailey, BBC Radio Leicester’s Martin Ballard, and band the Simpletones.

The switch-on itself was conducted by Leicester Lord Mayor Cllr Ross Grant and ‘Santa Claus’ before a rendition of White Christmas was performed by Bailey, who won the X Factor in 2013.

How Leicester City Council decorated the city.

Leicester City Council has spent an extra £50,000 on festivities having updated the stock of decorations over the last three years. The £170,000 comprehensive budget was distributed between 16,000 lights across 15 city centre streets, a 14m Christmas Tree by the Clock Tower, the Wheel of Light, and an Alice in Wonderland themed tableau, amongst other activities.

The giant ice rink, which will be 50 per cent larger than last year, opens on Saturday, December 8, while there have been decorations erected in St Martins for the first time due to extra funding.

Sarah Harrison, City Centre Director for Leicester City Council, said: “It’s really nice for people to come together. It’s the start of the Christmas season and we get more and more people every single year so we must be doing something right.

“We start planning in February. It is a very long process because there is so much to organise like the ice rink, ordering the Christmas tree, refurbishing the lights, changing the old lights to LEDs, and building the table. It takes a good six months to get Christmas organised.

“With the amount of time and investment we put into Christmas, the city centre looks fabulous to the point where even the most ‘bah humbug’ of people can’t help but smile. We now have these wonderful new public spaces which is why we have so many activities this year.”

Leicester tree lights up sky.

A street food event managed by Canteen UK was also held in New Market Square, allowing the public to enjoy an array of foods such as gourmet burgers, hot dogs, curry, and cheesecake.

Sarah Ventre, owner of curry stall Full of Chaat, said: “We were on board as soon as Canteen UK asked us to do it. We love Leicester and there is a really nice atmosphere here. We have been here since 10.00am and we have really enjoyed it.

“The community feel is another reason why we chose to take part. We’re from Birmingham and do a lot of local events which we enjoy doing, such as our city’s own Christmas lights, and this is very similar.”

The ever-improving event seemed to be a hit with crowds. Christina Allan, 20, a Leicester resident, said that this year’s spectacle has been the best yet.

“I really enjoyed the Christmas lights switch on,” she said. “My favourite bits were the Alice in Wonderland display and the reindeer in St Peter’s Square. It was much better lit than last year and it looked as though they made much more of an effort with the decorations this time around.

“The turnout was a lot larger for the switch-on itself which made for a better night and a much better atmosphere, even if it did take a while to leave the city centre after it had all ended.”

Christmas tree will erected in Oadby this week due to generous donations

By Conor de Smith

Oadby will have a Christmas tree on display this year after two businesses donated to pay for it last week.

The town was set to go without a festive tree after two previous trees were heavily vandalised last year, rendering them unusable.

An appeal was launched by Love Oadby last Thursday morning asking for local businesses, individuals and volunteers to help fund a 20ft tree.

Knightsbridge Estate Agents and Oadby Plastics promptly responded to ensure that a tree will be anchored in Oadby’s town centre shopping precinct.

After working with Oadby and Wigston Borough Council, the tree is set to be erected this week with lights and tinsel.

Luke St Clair, co-founder of Love Oadby, said: “I am pleased to say that two local businesses have come forward to help fund the Christmas tree that will go up in the precinct. It is going to be a fantastic tree so a big thank you to those two companies.

“We have been working with the local council to get it all organised so, all being well, we should have a tree in Oadby this year so everyone can come and enjoy it.”

Leicester’s first real ice rink begins construction

By Holly Hume

The construction of Leicester’s first real ice rink has now begun in Jubilee Square next to the recently erected Wheel of Light.

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The 30 by 15 metre rink is opening on December 9 and will be the first one of its kind in the city centre, instead of the Glice rink which is often used in cities.

The rink will be covered by a clear roof, offering skaters a view of the Ferris wheel, whatever the weather.

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Mayor Peter Soulsby told the Leicester Mercury: “There was the suggestion we could have used this Glice, but I wanted the real thing.

“It’s more expensive but it will be better.”

Surrounding the rink in the city centre there will be concession stalls and the seasonal Christmas market for all to enjoy.

The rink itself will be open up until January 8.

Tickets cost £8 per adult and £6.50 for children between 11am and 4pm Monday through to Friday, with prices increasing to £9 per adult and £7.50 for children during all other times.

There will be several themed nights in the lead up to Christmas to get into the festive spirit, such as Christmas Disco, Santa on Ice and Christmas Jumper night.

The themed nights will run on Tuesdays and Thursdays only.

The rink itself will also be available to hire for big parties wishing to reserve the ice for themselves.

Smaller groups can also save money as there are discounts of up to 15 per cent on parties of 11 people.