Festive line up announced as Christmas celebrations return for 2021

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A PACKED festive programme will bring sparkle to Riverside Sunderland, as the city’s Christmas celebrations return for 2021.  

Keel Square will once again be lit-up with a twinkling canopy of light, shining a spotlight on Sunderland’s popular ice-rink which will return from Saturday, November 27 – this year under cover to ensure the weather won’t get in the way of festive fun – a family-friendly fair ground, and Santa’s Grotto is once again returning to the Bridges shopping centre for little ones to get in the Christmas spirit.

The news follows the announcement of plans for the city’s Christmas Lights switch on, which will take place on November 18. 

The Christmas programme is being delivered in partnership between Sunderland City Council and Sunderland Business Improvement District (BID), and the plans will be welcome news for residents and visitors to the city, who were unable to enjoy the usual festivities last year due to tight Covid restrictions.

The activities are concentrated around the Riverside Sunderland site, which has undergone a dramatic transformation since the last major festive programme in 2019, with construction of City Hall now complete and the new Holiday Inn Keel Square taking shape.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “It’s been a tough few years, and I think many people are looking forward to enjoying Christmas in a way they were unable to in 2020.  Though we all need to be responsible, with transmission of Covid-19 on the rise, we’re pleased to be able to reintroduce events and attractions that will make it feel like Christmas for all the family.

“To be able to host activity in and around our transforming Riverside Sunderland is wonderful. For those who haven’t been to the city for a while, they will see such a difference.  It’s a brilliant time to be in Sunderland, and our Christmas programme will showcase the best of the place.”

Residents will be pleased to see the return of the ever-popular outdoor ice rink.  It has proven a hit in previous years with 12,500 people putting their skates on in 2019, and this year, there will be a range of festive packages for groups and businesses to draw more people into the city centre to enjoy their Christmas celebrations. 

A host of new cafes, bars and restaurants have popped up in Sunderland since the last Christmas celebrations, meaning visitors can enjoy great food and drink, as well as a retail experience in the city’s independents and high street stores.

Sharon Appleby, chief executive of Sunderland BID said: “Christmas comes round so quickly, but - having missed out on the usual festivities last year – I think lots of people will be more excited than ever about enjoying the build-up to December 25 with family and friends.

“We’re delighted to be bringing back a packed festive programme that will ensure that Sunderland residents have a fabulous Christmas in the city centre.”

There’ll be a fun-fair, rides and food stalls just a stone's throw away from Keel Square in Crowtree Road throughout the festive period.  And the Fire Station will be running its first Christmas programme, as the newly constructed Auditorium welcomes visitors for the first time.  New lighting has also been installed around the city centre, reflecting the city's history and heritage. 

Other popular attractions include Sunderland Empire Theatre’s Christmas Panto, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which will run between December 10 and January 2. 

In view of the continuing high numbers of Covid infections in the city, members of the public planning to attend the Christmas Switch On and other festive events are advised to take precautions such as wearing a face covering, adhering to social distancing where possible and taking a lateral flow test before attending, to keep themselves and others safe.


For further information on the Christmas programme in the city, visit: https://www.mysunderland.co.uk/christmas and to book the ice rink, visit www.sunderlandicerink.co.uk.

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