CHRISTMAS KICKS OFF IN STRATFORD AS FATHER CHRISTMAS TREATS THE MAKE A WISH WINNERS
The magic of Christmas landed in Stratford at the weekend, with three lucky winners of the town’s Make a Christmas Wish Competition enjoying a magical carriage ride with Father Christmas himself. The winners were taken on a festive tour of Stratford Town Centre by Father Christmas, followed by an afternoon cream tea and special gifts. With the main man’s reindeer resting up ahead of their busiest time of year, the carriage was pulled by Shire Horses in a magical moment captured on camera by onlookers lining the town centre’s streets. The competition, organised by Stratforward BID and Magic Alley and supported by BID members WHSmith, Huffkins, Hathaway Tea Rooms and The Arden Hotel, saw entrants make a wish for someone else and enter those wishes for a chance to win.
Joseph Baconnet, Stratforward BID Director, said: “We knew that it would be a special day, but judging by the feedback of the winners and their families and the public on the street, we’re going to have to ask Father Christmas to come back early again next year! This competition wouldn’t have happened without the extraordinary wishes of all our competition entrants and winners. Stratforward also wants to give a huge thank you to all our BID businesses who supported the competition.” Stratforward caught up with Father Christmas as he munched on a leftover mince pie from one of the cream teas. “I am so pleased to be able to make Stratford-upon-Avon the town that grants Christmas wishes,” he chortled. “I look forward to returning in the not-so-distant future...”
The Stratford Make a Wish Competition is just the start of an array of festive fun set for Stratford in the run-up to Christmas. The town’s stunning Christmas lights - one of the best displays in the country - will be officially switched on this Thursday (November 23rd), along with the lights in brand new development Bell Court.
The first of several late-night festive markets on Waterside will take place on the same day, returning every Thursday until Christmas, attracting people to Stratford from far and wide for all their Christmas gift-buying, and this year also sees the arrival of a Victorian Christmas Market from December 8th-10th, complete with vintage fairground rides, stalls and entertainment.
The Stratforward Christmas brochure has already hit the streets, showcasing everything the town has to offer over the festive period, from shopping for the perfect gift to the places to go for a pre-Christmas bite to eat or drink, or what to visit and where to stay. With 42,000 copies going to homes in the area, plus 8,000 to town centre businesses, they’re guaranteed to tempt people to the town this festive season.
On top of that, culture vultures can get into the Christmas spirit with an array of arts activities across the town, from the RSC’s production of A Christmas Carol to popular panto Jack and the Beanstalk at the Stratford ArtsHouse. And from December 13th-17th, Shakespeare's New Place will be transformed into a magical dance-circus spectacular by performers from award-winning dance-circus company Motionhouse.
“The weekend proved a great start to the Christmas period in Stratford,” added Mr Baconnet. “But it’s only the beginning. Our town really is the place to be this festive season, with great shops, restaurants, hotels and bars, not to mention our festive markets and entertainment. If Father Christmas loved it, we’re pretty confident everyone else will too.”
1. Images is of Father Christmas in Stratford-upon-Avon with the lucky winners on rides around Stratford Town Centre.
2. The Stratford Make a Christmas Wish Competition was organised by Magic Alley and Stratforward BID, with support from BID members WHSmith, Huffkins, Hathaway Tea Rooms and The Arden Hotel. Winners were Leon Triquart, five, Emily Coxson, four, and Jacob Mclachlan,12.
3. The Stratford Christmas lights switch-on will take place on Thursday, November 23rd at 4.30pm. It will be preceded by carol singing starting at 4pm. It will also include a free santa’s grotto at the Town Hall, an appearance from a special visitor on the balcony, late-night shopping, entertainment and music. For more information on the Stratford Christmas Lights, visit http://stratforduponavonchristmaslights.co.uk/
4. On the same day, Stratford’s biggest Christmas Tree lights will be switched on in Bell Court by Father Christmas ahead of his residency at Magic Alley. Celebrations organised by Magic Alley will see snow start to fall in Henley Street at 3pm ahead of the lights switch-on at Bell Court by Father Christmas and his reindeer. At 5pm Father Christmas will walk to Magic Alley in Henley Street, where there will be carol singing lead by a local children’s choir followed by a performance of A Victorian Nativity in Henley Street by The Magic Alley Players. At Bell Court there will also be a brass band playing Christmas carols, as well as performances from Rosie T Dance Academy and Everyman Cinema will be hosting a festive screening of popular Christmas classic Elf, at 6pm, as well as giving out free hot chocolate to people visiting Bell Court.
5. A selection of late night Christmas shopping markets will take place on the last five Thursdays up to Christmas in Stratford. This year’s markets will be located on Waterside and will take place from 11am to 8pm on Thursday 23rd & 30th November and 7th, 14th, & 21st December. The markets will offer a range of stalls from seasonal gifts to fine foods, tree decorations, vintage, fairtrade and ethnic products along with mouthwatering street food and a selection of hot and cold alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Entertainment will include live statues, stilt walkers, and ‘Snowballs’ the market Snowman.
This year a new three-day traditional Victorian Christmas market opens in Stratford on Friday 8th, Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th December in the town’s main shopping streets. Around 150 stalls will fill the town’s historic streets, with traders dressed in Victorian costume selling gifts and festive local produce, homemade crafts, handmade cakes and bespoke decorations, as well as traditional roast chestnuts, warming mulled wine, and ciders and gin. Entertainment will include a Victorian carousel and barrel organ as well as choirs, instrumental performances, chimney sweeps, dance displays and Victorian themed stilt walkers. For more information on Stratford’s markets, visit http://lsdpromotions.com/christmas-markets
6. Stratforward Business Improvement District (BID) represents nearly 450 shops, cafes, pubs, restaurants and businesses in Stratford town centre. As part of its annual programme of events, Stratforward promotes the town over the festive period. For more information, visit http://www.stratforward.co.uk/events/christmas-upon-avon. The Stratforward Christmas brochure is part of this and includes events, business listings and product pages. An online version is available at http://www.stratforward.co.uk/events/christmas-upon-avon/christmas-brochure