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News release - Issued by Make It York and the York BID

Spectacular Winter and Christmas Lights Planned for Historic York

A magical winter light experience, using over 160,000 LED lights, is being planned for historic York this year. The city will be awash with lights in white and warm white, creating a beautiful and magical atmosphere in keeping with the architecture of the city. York’s four historic Bars, the traditional gateways to the city since medieval times, will be lit with thousands of tiny twinkling white lights. These Winter Lights, returning for a second year, will brighten the city throughout the York Christmas Festival (16 November - 22 December) and continue right through to the end of February.

York Business Improvement District (BID) and Make It York, the city’s Destination Management Organisation, have joined forces to roll out the city’s best ever winter and Christmas lights display. New plans this year will see the illumination of Lendal and Ouse bridges as well as the city’s famous gateways. York Bar Walls are the most complete examples of Medieval city walls still standing in England and this winter the main gatehouses or ‘bars’, Micklegate, Bootham, Monkbar and Walmgate, will be transformed into shining 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.”

The Lord Mayor of York, councillor Barbara Boyce, will be joined in St Helen’s Square by stars performing in Jack and the Beanstalk, Berwick Kaler and Martin Barrass from York Theatre Royal, who will, together with BBC Presenter, Clare Frisby, 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 the Lucy Mclean Choir.

Sally Greenaway, Head of Visit York, a part of Make It York, said: “York’s new lighting will create a really special atmosphere in the city. It will be wonderful to see York lit by thousands of tiny white lights. The Bar lighting means that whichever gateway you pass through into York, you’ll see these beautiful structures in all their glory. We hope visitors and locals alike will enjoy them this winter.”

The months running up to Christmas are a vital time of year for tourism businesses, especially retailers and organisers hope that this new lighting will add to the Christmas Festival programme to ensure the season is York’s most successful yet. Christopher Stille, Managing Director, Gala Lights, said: “We designed York’s new lights to complement the important and historic nature of the city, whilst extending the display to areas previously unlit. The display will illuminate many of York’s bridges, trees and buildings, as well as include decorations across streets and on lamp columns.”

Steve Brown, Managing Director, Make It York, said: “This is a really good example of Make It York and the BID joining together and pooling resources to create a much better Christmas experience for the city.” 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.


Notes to Editors:

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

Elliot Sawyer
Operations Manager
York Business Improvement District
Tel: 01904 809 970

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

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

In addition to the new Christmas lighting scheme, York’s Winter Lights will return by popular demand. York BID piloted ‘Winter Lights’ in December 2016, with the illumination of the Medieval city Wall Bars with a cascade of shimmering drapes on Micklegate Bar, Walmgate Bar, Monk Bar and Bootham Bar. These ‘shining gateways’, which were well received by visitors, residents and local businesses last year, will once again lead visitors to York’s historic attractions as well as to local businesses in and around the city walls.

Photo and Interview Opportunities:
Festive First Night inc. Winter Lighting turned on and Christmas Lights Switch-on in St Helen’s Square. Thursday 16 November. 18:30 – 19:00

19:00 onwards – Photo opportunities at Thor’s Tipi, St Nicholas Fair, Bar Walls lighting and York Museum Gardens

Christmas at York Museum Gardens: experience the magic after dark – by Lunchbox Events

  • Tickets on sale now
  • York’s newest Christmas attraction
  • The first ever enchanted trail through York Museum Gardens at Christmas
  • A spectacle of beautiful light installations and illuminations along the trail
  • An after-dark explosion of festive colour and twinkling lights

Thursday 16 November 2017 – Monday 1 January 2018
4:45pm – 9:30pm daily (except Christmas Day)

Bootham Bar
Although much of Bootham Bar was built in the 14th and 19th centuries, it also has some of the oldest surviving stonework, dating to the 11th century. It stands almost on the site of porta principalis dextra, the north western gate of Eboracum.

Monk Bar
This four-storey gatehouse is the tallest and most elaborate of the four, and was built in the early 14th century. It was intended as a self-contained fort, and each floor is capable of being defended separately. Monk Bar houses a museum called the Richard III Experience and retains its portcullis in working order.

Micklegate Bar
The southern entrance to York, Micklegate Bar, is a four-storey-high gatehouse. Its name is from the Old Norse 'mykla gata' or 'great street', and leads onto Micklegate. 'Gate' is Norwegian for 'street' remaining from Viking influence in York. It is the traditional ceremonial gate for monarchs entering the city, who, in a tradition dating to Richard II in 1389, touch the state sword when entering the gate.

Walmgate Bar
Walmgate Bar was built during the 14th century, although the inner gateway dates from the 12th century. It was originally called Walbegate, the word Walbe possibly being an Anglo-Scandinavian personal name. The Bar's most notable feature is its barbican, which is the only one surviving on a town gate in England. It also retains its portcullis and 15th century oak doors.

About York BID
The York Business Improvement District is:

  • A business led partnership which aims to deliver improvements to the centre of York;
  • Voted in by businesses (in York’s case 76% majority)
  • Not local authority led; schemes and programmes are in addition to services provided by City of York Council
  • Funded by a modest levy which goes into a fund to be spent on improving the centre of York
  • Now one of 200 operational BIDs across the UK including Leeds and Sheffield

The consultation with businesses identified demand for particular improvements across the city and from this a prospectus was produced with four identified areas of focus; 1) Cleanliness & Environment; 2) Safety & Security; 3) Events & Festivals; 4) Business Support. The BID prospectus was distributed to businesses across the BID area in preparation for a ballot that was held in November 2015, with 76% voting in favour. The current BID area includes the streets in City Centre and the areas of Micklegate, Walmgate, Fossgate, Gillygate, Goodramgate, Lord Mayor’s Walk, Monkgate, Foss Islands as well as Paragon Street and part of Fishergate.

About Gala Lights
Gala Lights is one of the UK’s major providers of Christmas lights and festive lighting solutions, designing and manufacturing everything from tree lights, street decorations and lamp column motifs, through to schemes for shopping centres, architectural lighting and bespoke 3D figures.
For further information, visit:

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