Sunderland children with special educational needs enjoy sneak preview of the Festival of Light
Children across the city with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) were given a sneak preview showing of this year’s eagerly anticipated Festival of Light.
Free tickets were sent to all schools who then invited children and their families to attend the illumination extravaganza at Roker Park which saw around 1,500 visitors enjoying the specially arranged event.
The Bramall family received their tickets from Farringdon Academy who provide specialist support for autistic children.
Daughter Delaney, 15, who has been diagnosed with autism, said: “I came here before when I was much younger but I’ve really enjoyed this year’s lights. My favourite was the fire and water show.
"I was really happy and excited when I got the tickets to bring my family along.”
Sister Bethany, 13, added: “I’m really pleased my sister got the tickets and we were able to come along. It has been brilliant and I particularly liked the whales and turtle display.”
To cater for the needs of some of the children in attendance, the preview event was designed to be less crowded and noisy than when it fully opens to the public on Thursday (October 14).
Mum Gemma Bramall, 41, said: “We’ve been here before when it has been really busy and so I think having a calmer and less crowded experience for the children and their families is a splendid idea.
"I had already booked tickets for the Bonfire Night event and so it’s great to be able to come along and have a sneak preview."
While many of the classic illuminations such as Frozen and the much-loved giant tap are still on display, there are a range of new shows to enjoy including a fire and water show and a spooky Halloween display.
Sandhill View Academy pupil Faris Grants-Sinclair, 11, said: “My favourite is the giant bumble bee. I’m really pleased we got the tickets.”
Alexia Finley, 13, who attends Biddick Academy in Washington, added: “This is the second time I’ve been and I really like the reindeer lights.”
For Alexia’s mum, Diane, 36, the event provided a welcome relief following the restrictions of the Covid pandemic.
She said: “It’s really nice to be able to be out and enjoying something as a family again after what we’ve all been through. I’ve really enjoyed it and I think it’s a fantastic idea to invite the children along to this event.”
Also enjoying the preview was Sunderland City Mayor, Cllr Harry Truman who said: “I think it’s a fantastic idea to invite these children with special educational needs to tonight’s event and it’s great to see them all enjoying themselves.
"The lights look fantastic and my particular favourite is the fire and water display.”
For Sunderland City Council’s Assistant Director of Culture and Events, Victoria French, it was a relief to see the return of the traditional event after last year’s curtailment due to Covid.
Victoria said: “I’m very pleased we can host this event once again – it’s one of the city’s traditions and will be enjoyed by thousands of visitors.”
The festival will officially open on Thursday (October 14) and run every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday until Saturday 13 November, including every day over half term.
Tickets can be purchased on the City of Sunderland website.