Newcastle - planning a Merry Christmas
PUBLISHED: 15:31 15 November 2011 | UPDATED: 20:19 20 February 2013
With December just around the corner, Louise Brown looks at Newcastle, its retailers and venues and finds plans and preparation well advanced for the Christmas period
The print version of this article appeared in the November 2011 issue of North East Life
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Christmas, it has been said, is just like a day in the office you do all the work and the big guy in the suit gets all the credit! While the big guy in the red suit is yet to make his seasonal bow, much work has already been done and continues to be done in preparation for the festive season by those whose contribution generally receives little, if any, recognition.
For shops and other retail outlets Christmas and the festive period
can rarely have been of greater importance. Seeking to recover from the ravages of the economic downturn amid gloomy predictions as to the commercial future, for some this is a make or break time.
Preparation is crucial to effective execution and, recognising this, as December approaches Newcastles planning for the festive season is well advanced, roundly impressive and guaranteed to deliver yet another memorable Christmas
Illuminating the city and its seasonal spirit, Newcastles main shopping streets will again sparkle to the incandescent gleam of the Christmas lights. Switch-on will take place on November 17 and will herald a packed programme of events, to be enjoyed by all family members, making it the ideal start to the season.
The switching on of the citys lights will be closely followed by the Eldon Square launch, taking place on November 20, and to be performed by ITV Tyne Tees Pam Royle and Ian Payne, with supporting cast of characters from Dick Whittington, The Tyne Theatres pantomime.
Festive music to accompany and enrich the occasion will be provided by the Newcastle City Temple Salvation Army band. The Square will provide seasonal entertainment for its shoppers throughout the festive period with regular performances by choirs based in the region to raise money for charitable causes.
In these austere times when councils and retailers, no doubt with heavy hearts, tighten their belts, losing or reducing Christmas lighting in the process, it is to the credit of our decision makers and the benefit of the region that Newcastle will again enjoy the bright lights of Christmas.
For many, it is the Christmas movie showing at cinemas locally which represents conclusive proof of the onset of the festive period. Tapping into this and anticipating the draw of a true classic at this most traditional of times, plans are in place at the Tyneside Cinema to return the ultimate Christmas movie, Its a Wonderful Life, to the big screen.
For a festive bash in true cinematic style, the Tyneside Cinema is also available to hire. Partygoers can enjoy a night in the Tyneside bar, Digital lounge, or even exclusive viewing of a festive film on one of the cinema screens.
For those opting for theatre over cinema, pantomime teams across the region have been working long and hard to bring a string of fairy tales to Newcastle. Long-time favourite for North East pantomime-goers, the Theatre Royal will this year play host to Sleeping Beauty - The Pantomime of Your Dreams, the first to be shown in the theatres multi-million pound restored auditorium.
The reason our pantos have stood the test of time when others have faltered is because of their sheer quality, remarked the theatres Communications and Press officer Marianne Quayle. We have the best pantomime producer in the country, Michael Harrison - hes based in the West End of London but comes back to his home town of Newcastle every year to produce our panto.
We also have the finest Dame in the region, Chris Hayward, who has none other than 14 costume changes in this years pantomime - all made by him, and each one more extravagant than the last.
With advanced laser technology being introduced, this years Theatre Royal pantomime is set to be bigger and better than ever, a fitting festive curtain call for the beautifully restored Theatre Royal.
Shopping is widely regarded as the principal Christmas activity but it can prove to be truly a trying task. Over the coming weeks, centres and stores will fall under consumer siege when surly shoppers risk life and limb to complete the list or bag a bargain. Newcastle, thankfully, has plans in place to de-stress your seasonal shop and make life an awful lot easier.
The festive fairs and markets taking place in the Greys Monument area on Grey Street and Grainger Street offer a chance to escape the High Street hordes in favour of a more authentic shopping experience. A Continental Market will be held between Monday, November 21 and Saturday, December 3, serving up a diverse range of European fare from currywurst to crepes and pastas to paellas, with an impressively wide range of tastes catered for.
Providing a range of traditional food, drink and local crafts, the Christmas Market has your secret Santa sorted. Open from Wednesday to Sunday, December 7 to 11, the market showcases the best in local food, offering home-made jams, cakes and hand-made chocolates with beers from local microbreweries and mugs of mulled wine providing welcome retail lubrication.
To ensure optimum shopping time or maximise the shopping experience, Eldon Squares opening hours are extended for the Christmas period. From Thursday, December 1, the Square will be open from 9am to 9pm on weekdays, 9am to 7pm on Saturdays 2011and 11am to 5pm on Sundays.
Enjoying a First Noel this year, Laura Lea Boutique, situated in Old Eldon Square, will open for business in November. Co-owned by Jenny Briggs, a talented young designer who graduated from Northumbria University with a BA Honours degree in fashion, the boutique will operate in association with Leigh Hetherington Bridal Boutique, run by Leigh herself, who also graduated from Northumbria with the same degree.
Leigh and I are both so excited to be opening our dress boutique, said Jenny, adding, We offer a beautiful range of designer dresses suited for any occasion. Our collections include eveningwear, prom wear and bridesmaids dresses. To complement these, we have an eye-catching range of accessories including tiaras, hair combs, jewellery and cocktail rings. With the party season fast approaching, Laura Lea Boutique will be opening at just the right time to select your outfit.
Few things symbolise Christmas in the North East more than Fenwicks Christmas window. At the time of going to print, this years theme was still to be announced but it is a given that queues will form to enjoy the time-honoured walk along the length of the window display as parents and grandparents recreate for their youngsters the thrill which they themselves enjoyed by visiting the animated display in their own childhood days.
Ice-skating in the city has come to play a key role in the urban festive experience and Newcastle has for many years adopted the activity, with final preparations now under way at the Centre for Life, which will transform its Times Square into an open-air ice rink. From November 12 to February 19, Skating@life will host a series of ice-based activities, including courses run by former Dancing on Ice professional skater Susie Lipanova, and a Mince Pies, Mulled Wine and Mistletoe event to be enjoyed, post-skate, at Lifes Times Square Caf. Anything New York can do......