More than 80,000 attended Sunderland Illuminations' Festival of Light, figures reveal - but chiefs remain tight-lipped on profits

Council chiefs have revealed final ticket sales figures from the Festival of Light – but have stopped short of confirming whether the event was profitable.

Friday, 19th November 2021, 5:04 pm
Crowds at the opening weekend of the Festival of Light.

The annual attraction moved back to Roker Park this year, for the first time since 2018, where it proved a hit with many weeks completely selling out.

Despite the event’s huge popularity, financial figures on whether it was profitable have not yet been released.

“The Festival of Light was open for 22 evenings in October and November,” said councillor Linda Williams, cabinet member for Vibrant City on Sunderland City Council.

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“21 evenings sold out with the overall ticket sales of 80,169 – that number does include tickets for under 2s which were free.

“The event just concluded on Saturday gone so the final financial accounts are yet to be concluded as the detail of the overall expenditure is still to be confirmed.

“We met prior to the festival opening with residents and we will be coming back out to meet with them as officers and members in early December, so part of that discussion would be around this and to look at how well or otherwise the festival has gone.”

The Labour councillor was speaking at a full council meeting on Wednesday, November 17 in response to a question from Joshua McKeith, Conservative councillor for St Peter’s ward.

This included queries about ticket numbers for the Festival of Light and how much profit was made, given many weeks were sold out.

Cllr McKeith went on to ask whether preparations were being made for events in 2022 for “possible sponsorship to subsidise any loss” and for any profits to be “reinvested into the communities affected.”

Cabinet member Cllr Williams responded: “At the moment we don’t have the overall financial return from that [Festival of Light], we haven’t made any plans for next year because we need to listen to feedback from residents as to how that will operate.

“That will begin when the financial figures come in and we look at if there is a profit, we have to bear in mind the cost – if even the lights alone were £140,000 which is rather a lot of money but well worth it in my view- and then we need to see where we go with that feedback.

“I had feedback from the first night that there were some of the lights which weren’t working, which isn’t good enough basically, but other feedback I have had since then was that it went well.

“So we will have to look at it in the round, you will be part of that and decisions will be made moving forward.”

The Festival of Light was last held in Mowbray Park in 2019 – with council bosses making the shift from Roker Park in an effort to compliment the city centre Christmas offer.

After the 2020 event was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the event returned to its original location on Sunderland’s seafront.

Speaking in August in the run-up to this year’s event, Cllr Linda Williams said the Festival of Light was a “firm family favourite” and that “many people will be delighted to see the festival returning to Roker Park.”