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News release - Issued by Visit York

Spectacular Winter and Christmas Lights Switch On in York

  • Christmas tree lights switched on by panto stars Berwick Kaler and Martin Barrass, joined by Patricia the Cow, BBC’s Clare Frisby and the Lord and Lady Mayoress
  • First night of late night shopping and bigger and better St Nicholas Fair
  • New - Christmas in the Museum Gardens Experience
  • Enhanced Winter Lighting – thousands of LED lights light up historic bar walls
  • Lendal and Ouse bridges lit for first time in biggest city-wide lighting scheme yet

A sparkling evening in York is promised on Thursday 16 November, when the Christmas tree lights in St Helen’s Square will be switched on by the Rt Honourable Lord Mayor of York, Councillor Barbara Boyce and Lady Mayoress Mrs Valerie Clark and panto stars Berwick Kaler and Martin Barrass, performing in Jack and the Beanstalk at York Theatre Royal. Panto favourite Patricia the cow will also be making a stage appearance.

BBC Presenter Claire Frisby will lead the traditional countdown to illuminating the St Leonard’s Hospice ‘Light up a Life’ Christmas Tree and Christmas lights around the square, accompanied by Lucy's Pop Choir and the Shepherd’s Brass Band. Minster FM breakfast presenters Ben and Ellie will be on stage too from 6pm, getting the crowd in the mood for the traditional countdown.

A magical city-wide winter light experience, using over 160,000 LED lights, will see York awash with lights in white and warm white, creating a magical atmosphere in keeping with the architecture of the city. York’s four historic Bars, Micklegate, Bootham, Monkbar and Walmgate, the traditional gateways to the city since medieval times, will be illuminated with thousands of tiny twinkling white lights.

These winter lights, returning for a second year, after a successful pilot by York Business Improvement District (BID) in 2016, will brighten the city throughout the York Christmas Festival (16 November - 22 December) and continue right through to the end of February.

York BID and Make It York, the city’s Destination Management Organisation, have joined forces this year to roll out the city’s best ever winter and Christmas lights display. New plans this year will see for the first time the illumination of Lendal and Ouse bridges as well as the city’s famous gateways. One hundred four foot Christmas trees and twenty five real trees will be brightly lit too and be dotted around the city. The traditional Christmas tree switch-on in St Helen’s Square will take place on Festive First Night, Thursday 16th November, when the city’s winter lighting will also be turned on.

Andrew Lowson, Director, York BID, said: “The winter months are a vital time of year for local businesses and the tourism industry. York’s winter lights and new Christmas lights are part of our commitment to enhancing the inviting atmosphere and will be a must see for residents and visitors alike.”

Sally Greenaway, Head of Visit York, said: “York promises a festive experience like never before. With new winter and Christmas lighting, a cram packed festival programme, a bigger and better St Nicholas Fair and the new Christmas at York Museum Gardens Experience, we hope all our visitors will enjoy a magical visit and see some of York’s stunning architecture lit up in all its glory.”

Festive First Night will mark the start of late night Christmas shopping as well as the ever popular York St Nicholas Fair, which will be open every day until 6pm and until 8pm every Thursday, Friday and Saturday up until 22 December. Adding to the ambience in Shambles Market, the newly opened Food Court will also be opening late on these nights, offering delicious street food, Thor’s Tipi will be inviting visitors to sample their mulled wine and sit by the roaring fire and a brand new illuminated trail in the Museum Gardens will offer a magical experience for all the family.

Maria Farrugia, General Manager, Lunchbox Events said: “We have always wanted to work inside York Museum Gardens and are truly privileged to be given the chance to showcase this new event in such a wonderful setting. We have invested over £500,000 on lights, installations and activations and hope everyone who visits will enjoy it.”

First York will also be extending Park & Ride services on Thursdays from 16 November for late night shopping with services running every 15 minutes.


Notes to Editors:

York Business Improvement District (BID) and Make It York, the city’s Destination Management Organisation, will roll out the city’s biggest and best ever winter lights display, consisting of:

  • 15km of lights (if laid end to end)
  • 160,000 individual LED lights
  • Illumination of bridges, lamp columns and buildings
  • 100+ 4ft Christmas trees with lights
  • 25+ real trees with lights

Ingredients for the best York Christmas Festival yet:

The Switch On marks the start of the York Christmas Festival and late night Christmas shopping, as well as the start of the York St Nicholas Fair, which will be open every day until 6pm and until 8pm every Thursday, Friday and Saturday up until Christmas.

Approximate timings for the lighting switch on will be:

18:00: Minster FM on stage
18.30: Choir will sing and band will play Christmas carols in St Helen’s Square
18:45: BBC Presenter, Clare Frisby will interview panto stars and Lord and Lady Mayoress
18:55: The public countdown begins

The St Leonard’s Hospice Christmas tree lights will be officially switched on. The
choir will sing.

Note: the city-wide winter lighting will be switched on during the day so visitors to the ‘switch on’ in St Helen’s Square can enjoy the ambience of the thousands of white lights across the city….


19:00: Opportunities for filming at Thor’s Tipi in Parliament Street, at the St Nicholas Fair and in the York Museum Gardens.

Christmas at York Museum Gardens opens at 16:45 and the media are invited to experience the attraction from this time. If you are interested in visiting the attraction for a review please contact Sara Merritt – to organise your tickets in advance of the evening. Sara will allocate time slots when booking your tickets.

New for this year is the Christmas at York Museum Gardens experience (16 November – 1 January), a spectacle of light installations and illuminations. Opening on Thursday 16 November, the gardens will be filled with light, colour and music. Home to over 10 acres of stunning botanical gardens in the heart of York, the award-winning York Museum Gardens are famed for their fantastic collection of trees, plants and historic architecture, set against the stunning backdrop of the medieval ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey and the City’s prized Yorkshire Museum. From musical trees to tunnels of light, a scented fire-garden and a glimpse of Santa in his workshop, Christmas at York Museum gardens has something for everyone to enjoy. Tickets are on sale at

Press Contact: Sara Merritt, Account Manager, Bonner & Hindley, 0113 243 4713 @BonnerHindley

Winter Lighting photo opportunities:
St Helen’s Square – Christmas tree with curtains of light on Bettys Café Tea Rooms and The Ivy restaurant
Harkers, St Helen’s Square, icicles along the building
Lendal, Zig Zag cross-street swag running the length of the street
Blake Street, cross-street decoration
Stonegate, cross-street decoration
Ouse Bridge – looking down to Low Ousegate
Panoramic shot from Nessgate corner, taking in Ouse Bridge, Low Ousegate, Spurriergate and High Ousegate
Walmgate – looking over Foss Bridge and down Fossgate

Make It York
Make It York’s purpose is to develop and promote the city and its surroundings – nationally and internationally - as a vibrant and attractive place to live, visit, study, work and do business. The company’s remit covers leisure and business tourism, city centre management, festivals and events, business support and inward investment.

Visit York is a part of Make It York and is the leisure tourism brand
Under the brand Visit York, Make It York’s aim is to market York as a must-see world-class destination to the leisure visitor and ensure investment to develop the quality of tourism in York.

Key tourism facts:
6.9 million visitors annually, £564 million total visitor spend, supporting 19,000 jobs

For further information please contact:
Kay Hyde – Head of PR and Corporate Communications – Make It York
Direct Line: 01904 554451
Mobile: 07506 048852