Ice rink to open in Keel Square as date announced for Sunderland Christmas lights switch-on

Gary Hutchinson of SAFC and Gemma Dishman of Sunderland BID are looking forward to Christmas in the city.
Gary Hutchinson of SAFC and Gemma Dishman of Sunderland BID are looking forward to Christmas in the city.
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Skaters will be soaring round Sunderland’s new Keel Square as the city is transformed into a frost village.

The open air ice rink, a funfair and traditional Christmas market are the main attractions on a packed programme running up to Christmas.

Keel Square will be transformed into a frost village, with the fair rolling into town on November 26. It will run until Christmas Eve on the former Vaux site.

If your little one can’t wait to meet Santa Claus, they can find him in the Christmas Grotto at The Bridges – or if you have a little crafter on your hands, why not take them to bauble blowing classes at the National Glass Centre.

The Christmas programme, which is bigger and better than ever this year, is delivered by Sunderland BID and supported by the city council.

The Vibrancy Partnership, which is made up of the city’s biggest hitters including Sunderland AFC, Sunderland College and Sunderland Live, coordinates Christmas promotion in the city.

Gary Hutchinson, commercial director at Sunderland AFC, who chairs the collective and Sunderland Business Group, said: “Christmas is a special time for people young and old, so the line-up of events and activities taking place to mark the festive period is always hotly anticipated.

“This year’s programme really is bigger and better than any we have seen in the city before, so – though it may seem to be a while away – the excitement is starting to build as we look forward to a Christmas that will live long in the memory.”

This year’s Christmas lights switch on will take place on November 12, starting at 6.30pm in Keel Square. Make sure you head along to catch the chosen special guests with Coun Barry Curran, the city’s mayor.

If you’re keen to get the Christmas shopping done, car parks run by the city council will be free after 3pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. This initiative will start on November 12 until January 1.

Free parking will also run at The Bridges from December 7 until December 23. This will be valid Monday to Friday, between 5.30pm and 9pm.

Gemma Dishman, marketing and communications manager at Sunderland BID, added: “The BID team started our Christmas 2015 planning in January, so for us, the festive season has been a long time coming, and we can’t wait to show people what we have in store for the city.

“We’re delighted to be bringing a real ice rink to Keel Square this Christmas. It will be a really important feature of the winter activity in the city centre, attracting visitors from across the region and further afield for a magical day out in Sunderland.

“The Traditional Christmas Market and Fun Fair will be a huge addition to Sunderland’s Christmas offer and will encourage additional footfall during the festive period, something that will also support the economy of the city centre business.”

For more information about the Sunderland Christmas programme visit, and

If your business is hosting a separate event and you would like it added to the festive guide online, contact or call 0191 500 8585.