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Animation programme to bring Christmas cheer & local boost to economy

09 September 2020

Members of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Business and Culture Committee yesterday approved budgets and programme development and marketing plans for Council’s Christmas campaign.

Members attending the monthly meeting of the Committee at the Guildhall were informed that the Christmas Campaign will run from 21 November to 16 December focusing on key weekends over this period with a bespoke programme of activity to complement existing events to enhance visitor and shopping experience with a key focus on shopping local and supporting small businesses in a safe and controlled manner to ensure social distancing and adhering to public health guidance.

A report presented to members at the meeting outlined the impact public health guidance in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic has had on events across Northern Ireland and that it is anticipated restrictions will remain in place and will have a significant impact on the type of activity planned for Christmas 2020. Officers however, said they were confident, despite the restrictions, that they can deliver a programme of activities aimed at maximising the economic opportunities as well as creating an enhanced, safe and managed experience for citizens and visitors.

The programme would include a Virtual Christmas Switch On Events in City and Strabane, an Inside Out Christmas Themed animation programme, a Mayor’s Community Christmas Programme, Mayor’s Virtual Christmas Tea Dance and much more.

Members heard that a key element of the Christmas campaign will be a strong focus on shopping local and supporting local businesses with messaging around– “Your small spend makes a giant difference”. The campaign will be targeted locally and regionally and run alongside the Department for Communities funded recovery campaign to instil consumer confidence and encourage shoppers back into the city and town centres to shop and eat out in safe environment.

Head of Culture with Derry City and Strabane District Council, Aeidin McCarter, presenting the report to members outlined a proposed Christmas programming calendar of events that included a Virtual Christmas Lights Switch On in Strabane (21 Nov) and Derry (22 Nov);  an Inside Out Christmas Themed Animation on 21st  and 22nd November and 11th and 12th December,  that will see Christmas themed animation, street dressing and music in both Derry and Strabane town centres.

She explained that there will also be a Christmas themed Walled City Market on 5th December and a weekend of Christmas characters and animation in and around the streets of Derry and Strabane over the weekend of 5th and 6th December, adding that as a result of the restrictions it is not possible to facilitate this year’s Craft Fair but that the planned events going ahead will have all the relevant measures in place to ensure compliance with Government regulations.

As part of the Mayor’s Christmas programme of events during the weekends of November and December, the Mayor will visit and bring festive fun to communities across the Council area with the help of Santa and on 16 December he will host a Virtual Christmas Tea Dance.

It was also agreed at the meeting that officers would explore options for increased funding to be made available for community initiatives and should there be any lifting of the restrictions that the programme and budget would be reviewed .

Approving the budget and the outline programme of activities for Christmas 2020, Business and Culture Committee Chairperson Cllr Rory Farrell said it was important that Council continued to plan ahead for Christmas and every effort was made to promote local businesses and encouraging the public to return to the city and town centres to spend money.

He said the pandemic was having a detrimental impact on local businesses and anything Council can do by animating the streets and enhancing the shopper and visitor experience in a safe and managed environment is extremely important.

He extended his thanks to the teams across Council working collectively to bring forward these plans and said he looked forward to seeing them come to fruition.