‘Sunderland seafront lights will pull in thousands of visitors’

SUCCESS: Roker Park lights in 2012
SUCCESS: Roker Park lights in 2012
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BIGGER, better, brighter.

A dazzling new set of lights is set to thrill visitors to Roker Park this autumn.

The Alice in Wonderland theme display will include a 20ft long, 15ft high Cheshire cat and giant white rabbit.

Coun John Kelly, responsible for public health, wellness and culture, said that the opportunity to buy the new lights from French company Blachere was too good to miss.

“Purchasing new lights at a massively reduced rate means the display will hugely improve this year,” he said.

“Between 50,000 and 70,000 visitors came to view the lights last year.

“After that, and the discussions with seafront traders, we decided to bring them back.

“It is a project that, subject to funding, we would like to keep developing and extend into the city centre in coming years.”

Sunderland Live, organising the illuminations on behalf of the council, said the display – from Bungalow Cafe to the park gates, and around the park – will revolve around the Wonderland theme.

“We are looking at illuminating the park in different ways,” said Jessica Regnart, creative development manager at Sunderland Live.

“So we have features such as the giant playing cards that light up, and the Cheshire cat statue, among other surprises.

“I can’t say how much the new display has cost, though it is being funded by money set aside as part of a bigger project to encourage people into the city.”

Businesses are hoping this year’s illumination extravaganza will draw people to the seafront.

Gemma Dishman, director of sales at the Sunderland Marriott, said the display is a welcome return to the Roker Park.

“Lots of our guests visited the lights last year and commented on them,” she said. “It’s a great experience for people visiting the area and, as far as we are concerned, it can only get bigger and better.”

There will not be a switch-on event for the Roker Park illuminations, which will run between October 12 and November 3,

However, Sunderland Live is set to run an activity programme for families on weekends for the duration of the display.