A Festive Derby thank you
Carefully planned Christmas attractions designed to be as COVID-secure as possible, combined with responsible visitors who played their part for the city and followed the guidelines, resulted in a successful Festive Derby.
Derby City Council worked with partners to transform the city into a bright and attractive place to be in the run-up to Christmas. Planning in the weeks before the second lockdown and Tier 3 were even on the horizon meant moving away from the large-scale events of previous years, designed to draw the crowds, and providing a sparkling backdrop for the city instead.
Derby Museums, Derby Cathedral, Derby Theatre, Sinfonia Viva, Quad, Cathedral Quarter and St Peter’s Quarter Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), and Derby Centre were among the partners involved in bringing Christmas to the city. Smooth Radio was Festive Derby’s media partner.
Councillor Robin Wood, Derby City Council’s Cabinet Member for Leisure, Culture and Tourism, said: “Huge thanks to the visitors to Derby city centre who followed the guidelines and helped make it a pleasant place to be throughout December. We wanted to mark Christmas in some way, and this was the result we hoped for when we planned Festive Derby with our partners. Our Festive Markets were well-attended, but with strict limits on capacity they could never get overcrowded, and there was plenty to see in the surrounding streets which reduced the risk of large gatherings.”
Two trails – Window Wonderland and an Elf Trail – proved popular with visitors and businesses alike. Window Wonderland, where shops and businesses decorate their windows and compete for a cash prize, drew 38 entries, the highest number in the three years since it began. Designed for families, children could follow stencilled elves on the ground as they searched for elf stickers in shops. One family checked how many stencilled elves there were so they could make sure they’d counted every one!
Window Wonderland was run in partnership with Derby’s two BIDs, who also funded 40 planters containing Christmas trees throughout the city streets.
Martin Langsdale, chair of Derby's Cathedral Quarter Business Improvement District (BID) and Helen Wathall, chair of St Peters Quarter BID said: "In this unprecedented year it has certainly been a challenge to welcome people into the city centre in a safe and socially distanced way. However, the joint efforts of everyone - from the individual businesses to the BID ranger teams - has contributed to a seasonal atmosphere whilst reassuring visitors that their wellbeing has been a top priority."
Animated lighting projections on Derby Cathedral Tower and illuminated snowflakes sweeping across Derby Market Place and the walls of the Guildhall complemented the traditional Christmas lights.
Comments on Facebook described the cathedral projections, created by the TECH:SQUAD team at QUAD, as “…truly magical!”, “It looks awesome, well done Derby Cathedral and the QUAD” and “This is spectacular. Well worth a visit.”
Dr Alex Rock, TECH:SQUAD Director and QUAD’s Head of Technical Commercial Services, said: “We’re humbled by the positive response to the Festive Derby projections we’ve produced on the beautiful tower of our city’s cathedral. We’re proud of our city, and the work that has gone into creating a vibrant, dynamic city centre this year. Working in partnership with Derby City Council and the Cathedral Quarter BID, the projections have put a smile on peoples’ faces, and we’re looking forward to continuing our work in Derby into 2021.”
Carol Thomas, Head of Operations at Derby Cathedral said: “Derby Cathedral has been proud to be part of the Festive Derby programme and to have been able to host some lovely festive activities in and around the building in a Covid-secure way (ice sculptures, Quad light show, Experience Christmas, Tree of Light, Plus One Kindness Project). In the lead up to Christmas, there has been an increase in people coming into the cathedral to light a candle and pray, and we have been delighted by the response to our Tree of Light.”
Changing restrictions around COVID resulted in some changes, including to partners’ programmes. A larger Christmas Market planned for Derby Market Place was replaced with three smaller weekend Festive Markets giving an opportunity to local makers and traders to showcase their products. One Facebook comment said: “Well done Derby! This is how it’s done.”
Attendance at all three markets was good, with a positive response from traders. The first Festive Market drew 3,500 visitors over its three days, rising to 5,900 for the four-day event the following week. In the week before Christmas, with two days of trading left, the third Make & Trade Market, curated by Mainframe, had already attracted 4,157 visitors.
While digital performances replaced socially-distanced shows in the River Gardens by Sinfonia Viva’s brass quintet and theatre duo The Lost Boys, Babbling Vagabonds’ intimate show for single households, Elf Encounter, was able to go ahead in the Market Place and was a near sell-out. Throughout its run, 177 families visited the in-person grotto experience, and enjoyed the Covid-secure, interactive performance.
Boom magazine said: “The Derby Live staff were so friendly and helpful and the covid safety precautions were fab....including a screen between you and the actor which was part of the set.”
Derby Days Out said the show, set in a wooden cabin, had a “magical feel”, adding: “It is perfect for little ones… Derby are trying very hard to make this Covid Christmas enjoyable and are doing a great job!”
In total 125 tickets were sold across the digital performances too, with families able to enjoy their festive favourites at home.
Outside the city centre, Christmas in Markeaton Park featured its own popular Elf Trail alongside other outdoor attractions such as its beautiful Christmas tree, cycling sessions for children learning to ride, and Festive language walks led by Derby Adult Learning in French, Spanish and Italian. Over 150 people had fun searching for the elf houses hidden in nature and entered the Elf Trail competition. A winner will be drawn in the new year.
In Festive Derby feedback received by Derby City Council, a former Derby resident said: “I still work and shop in Derby. I just wanted to compliment Derby City Council on the wonderful festivities this year. I adore the projection on the cathedral which I see each evening when I take the mail, and I adore the miniature Christmas trees in gift wrapped boxes; what a wonderful addition to a wonderful city. Well done Derby City Council for brightening up the end of a horrid year!”