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Issued by: Make It York - 11 November 2016

York Christmas Lights Switch On
Marks Launch of the York Christmas Festival

A sparkling evening in York is promised on Thursday 17 November, when the Christmas Tree lights in St Helen’s Square will be switched on by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, as well as favourite characters from this year’s pantomime at York Theatre Royal. The Lord Mayor will be joined in St Helen’s Square by stars performing in Cinderella, who will together lead the traditional countdown to illuminating the St Leonard’s Hospice ‘Light up a Life’ Christmas Tree and Christmas lights around the square.

The Lord Mayor, Cllr Dave Taylor said, “The Christmas lights switch-on marks the start of York’s seasonal celebrations, as well as the city’s late night shopping. We’re expecting a magical evening of lights and sparkles, with thanks going to the Shepherd Group’s brass band, local choirs and members of the pantomime for making it such a fun and family event.”

Kate McMullen, Head of Tourism, Make It York, said, “We’re looking forward to a busy Christmas season with five themed weekends on the run up to Christmas. Visitors flock to York in their thousands to do their Christmas shopping and that’s because of our very special mix of high street and independent retailers, all in the most beautiful surroundings. It is a vital time of year for retailers and we’ve put together the fullest Christmas Festival programme yet to ensure the season is our best ever.”

The Switch On, which will be led by BBC Radio York’s award-winning Breakfast Presenter, Georgey Spanswick and broadcast live on the BBC’s Facebook page, marks the start of late night Christmas shopping and the York St Nicholas Fair, which will be open every day until 6pm and until 8pm every Thursday, Friday and Saturday up until Christmas.

Adding to the festive ambience in Shambles Market, the newly opened Food Court will also be opening late on these nights. Over twenty independent retailers have also joined together at The Judge’s Lodging on Lendal, offering authentic gifts and crafts, as part of a Small Business Christmas Market.

Approximate timings for the switch on will be:

• From 6pm: The Shepherd Group Brass Band will play Christmas carols and favourite Christmas music in St Helen’s Square
• 6.10pm: The Lord Mayor and pantomime characters will be briefly interviewed by BBC Radio York’s Breakfast presenter, Georgey Spanswick, and will start the public countdown
• 6.15pm/6.20pm: The St Leonard’s Hospice Christmas tree lights will be officially switched on. The Brass Band continues playing and local choirs will sing

Residents and visitors can also enjoy the Christmas lights at the Coppergate Shopping Centre which promises to thrill and delight, while white lights will also decorate a real Christmas tree displayed in Parliament Street. Parliament Street will also see the return of York’s popular Scandinavian style tipi and snug wooden chalets. Returning on 26 & 27 November, school and community choirs will be popping up all around York’s streets and squares in a choral celebration of Christmas. Brass bands and choirs will also add another musical note to late night shopping.

York Christmas Festival and York St Nicholas Fair runs for 37 days: 17 November - 23 December with a return of the Ice Trail and Scandinavian Tipi and a brand new Living Advent Calendar. With a new twist for this year, five themed weekends will add to the Christmas festivities; a brass bands weekend (19 & 20 November), a choir’s weekend (26 & 27 November), a family weekend (3 & 4 December), the Ice Trail weekend (10 & 11 December) and a Shambles Market Christmas Party celebration weekend (17 & 18 December). First York will also be extending Park & Ride services on Thursdays from 17 November for late night shopping with services every 15 minutes.


Notes to Editors:

Father Christmas and his friends will be settling in to his magical and cosy traditional wooden grotto in Shambles Market from 3 - 24 December, just around the corner from York’s Chocolate Story.

Bringing ice back to the city centre, as part of York’s Christmas Festival, businesses from across York are being invited to sponsor thirty specially commissioned hand carved ice sculptures, designed by Glacial Art. The Ice Trail weekend will offer live ice carving for a magical experience.
Thor’s Tipi (17 November – 2 January) will offer a festive experience, where friends and family can sit on cosy furs around a roaring fire, all in a beautiful giant tipi. Designed and delivered by the team behind PapaKåta and Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland (home of The Ice Factor), Thor’s Tipi will be serving a delicious outdoor winter BBQ, homemade sweet treats, festive hot chocolate, mulled wine, draft ales and Christmas cocktails.

Over one hundred stallholders at the St Nicholas Fair will once again be selling a range of gifts including jewellery, ceramics, homewares, crafts and Yorkshire produce such as locally made wines and cheeses. This year’s Christmas celebrations will run from 17 November right through to 23 December; all part of the York Christmas Festival. The St Nicholas Fair will run for the full 37 days too, with extended late night shopping opening times: 10am to 6pm Sunday to Wednesday and 10am to 8pm every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, not to be missed!

In advance of your stay telephone Visit York to request your free guide to Christmas in York or to find out more about York telephone the Visitor Information Centre on 01904 550099, email or check out

Photo and Interview Opportunities:

Festive First Night - Thursday 17 November
6:00 – 6:30pm – The Christmas Tree lights in St Helen’s Square will be switched on.

For further information please contact:

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

KEY DATES – York St Nicholas Christmas Festival 2016

St Nicholas Fair – now 37 days – 17 November – 23 December
Thor’s Tipi – 17 November – 2 January
Medieval Christmas Experience at Barley Hall – 17 November – 5 January
York Minster Advent Procession – 27 November
York Minster Christmas Carol Concerts – 15 and 16 December
Ice Trail – 10 & 11 December
Made in Yorkshire Festive Fayre, Guildhall – 26 November – 13 December

Santa Sightings

Father Christmas is making a special appearance at a variety of locations around York this festive season…
Santa’s Grotto in partnership with York’s Chocolate Story, Shambles Market, York
Santa’s Arrival and Sleigh Parade & Breakfast with Santa, Stockeld Park
Father Christmas’s Grotto, Fountains Abbey
Santa Specials, North Yorkshire Moors Railway
An Audience with Father Christmas, Castle Howard
Santa’s Grotto, The Ice Factor, York Designer Outlet

The popular St Nicholas Fair, a part of the York Christmas Festival, will run for 37 days from Thursday 17 November to Wednesday 23 December, featuring gifts and crafts from across Yorkshire and the UK as well as the very best in local farm produce. The St Nicholas Fair is one of the most popular Christmas markets in the UK, with thousands of visitors coming to York to experience it. The Fair offers crafts and the very best in local farm produce and the city comes alive with bustling stalls, carol singers and buskers. Mulled wine, brandy-laced hot chocolate and chestnuts roasting on the street corner will all add to the festive feel.

Traditional candle-lit carol services take place in majestic York Minster and in York’s smaller churches. Local museums and galleries offer a blend of both traditional and modern exhibitions and York’s theatres come alive with pantomimes and other Christmas plays. For relaxation, visit the city’s stylish café bars, with a ‘cool Yule’ atmosphere that’ll chill out even the most fraught of Christmas shoppers. For regular updates on what’s happening in York over Christmas, or a free guide to Christmas in the City, visit or email

York Castle Museum – 26 November – 24 December
Victorian Christmas at the Castle

Experience the magic of a Victorian Christmas this December, surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of the festive season in days gone by. Stroll along the beautifully decorated cobbled street Kirkgate and meet the shopkeepers and characters as they prepare for the big day. Take part in festively themed family crafts and make traditional decorations to take home with you. On certain days Father Christmas will be flying in from the North Pole to meet children to offer traditional gifts and spread Christmas cheer. Back by popular demand, Chris Cade’s unique one man family performance of A Christmas Carol will be performed under the garlands on the Victorian street as Ebenezer Scrooge discovers the true meaning of Christmas. Please note that the family crafts and Father Christmas Experience will be at the museum on December 3,4,10,11 and 17-24 while A Christmas Carol will be shown throughout the day on 10,11 and 17-24 December.

Made in Yorkshire Fayre (24 November – 18 December, The Guildhall, St Helen’s Square)

Made in Yorkshire has been bringing together like minded designer artists for over 16 years and is keen to show visitors what great talent our county has to offer. A superb variety of exhibitors will offer everything from ceramics to fine art Yorkshire prints. If you have a passion for arts or an appreciation of fine craftsmanship, why not visit to see the displays and demonstrations by design makers from around Yorkshire.

For further information regarding the Made in Yorkshire shows and for a list of the exhibitors, please visit

York Early Music Christmas Festival: 8 – 15 December

York Early Music Christmas Festival showcases beautiful festive music from different parts of the world every December. More details to follow in 2016. Public contact: Call 01904 632220 or 01904 658338 or visit the website for full programme and tickets at Press contact: Shona Galletly, email:, Tel: 07813 796 733.

York Minster Christmas Carol Concerts – 15 & 16 December

York Minster is the largest gothic cathedral in Northern Europe and the most visited cathedral in the north of England. It holds a dedicated season of services to celebrate the birth of Jesus and a reminder of the true Christmas message. For a full listing of services, events and activities at York Minster, visit Press contact: Sharon Atkinson, Director of Communications. Tel: 01904 557248. Email:

Medieval Christmas Experience at Barley Hall – 17 November – 5 January

This winter discover medieval Barley Hall for a unique festive experience. One of York’s hidden secrets; this medieval townhouse, tucked away in the centre of the city will be decorated for the season so you can explore the history and traditions of Christmas. Public contact: Visit or call 01904 615505. Press contacts: Paul Whiting, Marketing Officer for JORVIK Viking Centre, DIG, Barley Hall and Micklegate Bar. Tel: 01904 543433. Email: OR David Scott, Head of Marketing for JORVIK Viking Centre, DIG, Barley Hall and Micklegate Bar. Tel: 01904 543426. Email:

The Lost Traditions of Medieval Christmas Rediscovered – Barley Hall
17th Nov 2016 to 5th Jan 2017

Join the lady of the house, Joan Snawsell of Barley Hall, as she prepares her household to welcome the great and the good of York into her home for the festive season. Experience the lost traditions of medieval Christmastide as you sample the fayre on offer to visitors both grand and humble. Plus, expect to see much greenery and colour as you are transported back in time to explore the beautifully decorated rooms of Barley Hall, each dressed to reflect the different activities that would have taken place in the home and around the city in Lady Snawsell’s time. Public contact: Visit or call 01904 615505. Press contacts: Paul Whiting, Marketing Manager for Barley Hall (Part of The JORVIK Group of Attractions). Tel: 01904 543433. Email: OR David Scott, Head of Marketing Email:

Fairfax House

Experience Fairfax House in all its splendour as it celebrates The Keeping of Christmas with a magnificent festive installation inspired by the traditions of the eighteenth century. See the Georgians’ love of the natural world as they decorated their homes for Christmas, as well as their festive food, extravagant dining table displays, elegant decorations, and remarkable Twelfth Night Cake.

Shop and Skate at York Designer Outlet

Take a trip to York Designer Outlet this festive season, for all your gift and fashion must-haves under one roof. You’ll be spoilt for choice with over 120 high street and designer brands including Reiss, The Kooples, LK Bennett, Jaeger, Ted Baker, Kurt Geiger and French Connection – all with savings of up to 60%. Not only will you find your favourite brands, there is also fun for the whole family at Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland, with an award-winning Ice rink, funfair and Santa’s grotto open. To find that perfect gift or party outfit and also enjoy a day of skating, visit for further information. Press contact: Natalie Flint Interim Marketing Manager. Tel: 01904 682705. Email:

A Chocolate Covered Christmas

Visitors to York’s Chocolate Story will be in for more than just chocolate treats this Christmas. Visitors will be swept back in time on the fully guided Christmas-themed tours to the York of Christmas past where the founding families of the UK chocolate industry walked the cobbles.

Castle Howard at Christmas – 19 November – 23 December

Enjoy a truly magical Christmas with a visit to Castle Howard, Yorkshire’s finest stately home, this festive season. The 300 year old home will flicker with the light of hundreds of candles and roaring log fires, whilst soaring trees and traditional twigs glisten with hundreds of baubles. The 1,000 acres of parkland take on a beauty of their own in the winter months and will twinkle with the lights of Christmas trees which line the drive. Indulge in festive menus at the cafés before browsing the gift shops, farm shop and garden centre which are filled with everything you need for a perfect Christmas. For the latest information on all these events, visit


York Theatre Royal – Cinderella
8 December – 28 January

As always, expect fabulous costumes, stunning sets, toe-tapping music, breath-taking transformations and magic spectacle. Berwick Kaler stars as the UK’s longest running pantomime dame, now in his 38th year. Book your tickets at or call Box Office 01904 623568.

York Theatre Royal – The Mischief Before Christmas
3 – 24 December

A magical adventure for 3 to 7 year olds and their grown-ups, with music puppetry and plenty of festive charm. Book your tickets at or call Box Office 01904 623568.

Grand Opera House York
Aladdin – 9 December – 1 January

Three Bears Productions will be flying into York this Christmas with Aladdin, starring Suzanne Shaw as the beautiful Princess Jasmine.
To book call Box Office on 0844 871 3024 or book online at

About 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.

About Visit York

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.

York Tourism Facts

£608 million annual tourism spend
6.8 million visitors annually
20,300 jobs supported by tourism