St Albans united for a Christmas to remember
PUBLISHED: 11:15 04 September 2019 | UPDATED: 11:15 04 September 2019
A unprecedented assembly from across the St Albans community has come together to work towards a spectacular Christmas in the district.
Businesses, community groups, charities, media and other organisations will be working alongside the district council to entertain residents, attract visitors and provide a boost to the local economy over the festive season.
The move follows a decision not to stage the continental-style Christmas market which has been held for the past five years at Vintry Garden following feedback from businesses and other stakeholders.
Instead, a Christmas programme is being planned by the council which has set up a steering group to coordinate activities.
A number of charity partners, including St Albans and District Foodbank, may benefit from the events.
Among the organisations represented on the steering group are the Herts Advertiser, the Cathedral, St Albans BID and Save St Albans Pubs.
St Albans Film Festival, Eyes on St Albans, St Albans Mums Facebook group, St Columba's College, St Saviour's Church and the Cottonmill and Sopwell Hub have also volunteered.
The group's first meeting was held on Tuesday when an action plan was drawn up for the weeks ahead.
Cllr Mandy McNeil, portfolio holder for business, culture and tourism, said: "Our businesses employ locally, spend locally, invest locally and donate time, cash and products and services locally. It's been a tougher year for retail and hospitality, with many of our businesses, which are the lifeblood of our local economy, relying on the Christmas shopping period to help keep their doors open.
"The steering group will help us to identify creative ways to leverage the modest events budget available to the council to help drive footfall into our businesses this Christmas season. We also want to raise awareness of and help those who find Christmas challenging. It can be an extremely stressful period and we would like to find ways to be inclusive by ensuring that some events are free to attend.
"I welcome all individuals and organisations with an interest in improving the district to help out and play a part in producing a fantastic, inclusive Christmas offering.
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"In particular, I want to encourage people to set up their own Christmas events that can be added to our programme and our Enjoy St Albans website. It could be a gift fair, a live music event, a children's activity morning, or something else entirely. The Enjoy St Albans social media team, a collaboration with the St Albans BID, will help shout about it.
"St Albans has an incredible community spirit for giving. I am grateful to those who have put up their hands to join the steering group and to those to date who have volunteered to sponsor or host an activity or event."
One major highlight of the district's festive season will be the St Albans Christmas Lights Switch On on Sunday November 17.
More than 12,000 people are expected at the family-friendly event with attractions including Santa's grotto, funfair rides, live music and dozens of food, drink and novelty gift stalls.
Among other confirmed events, St Albans BID will run Santa's Post Office from November 14 to December 23 at Christopher Place.
Children will be able to enter a magical world to write their letter then watch it make an enchanted journey to Lapland.
St Albans BID will also be running a treasure trail around the city with a chance to win a St Albans Gift Card.
Another highlight will be the launch of the highly-popular Charter Market's Christmas season on Sunday December 15 with live music and other entertainment.
The market will then run every day, instead of the usual Wednesday and Saturday, finishing on Christmas Eve.
There will also be the Mayor's Carol Concert, open to all and held in front of the Clock Tower on December 8.
Anyone who wants to arrange an event or would like to join the steering group should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Further information about events will be made available, once details have been confirmed, in a brochure and on the website, www.enjoystalbans.com.
Cllr McNeil added: "Christmas is a very important time for families and it is also vital for the success of our shops, pubs, restaurants and many other local businesses. Collaboration between business and community will help to create a vibrant atmosphere in the city centre and surrounding towns so that they become top destinations over the festive season for residents and visitors alike."