Curtain up on Christmas in York
PUBLISHED: 20:25 03 December 2012 | UPDATED: 22:27 20 February 2013
Pantomimes, ice angels and festive markets - the tills are already a-jingling in York, as Jo Haywood discovers Photographs by visityork.org
Yorkshires historic capital city gets into a bit of a festive frenzy pretty much as soon as the summer visitors have packed up their picnic blankets and left Museum Gardens. For many, the city is synonymous with the season put simply, York is Christmas.
As if to prove the point, the city is hosting not one, not two, but three professional pantomimes this year. Oh no, it isnt! (Sorry couldnt resist.)
The grandest grand dame of them all, Berwick Kaler, will be starring as Mrs Hattie Hood in Robin Hood and his Merry Mam at York Theatre Royal.
This is the 40th pantomime the countrys longest reigning dame has starred in, and his 34th in his beloved York.
Comedian Syd Little and former Emmerdale star Deena Payne, who played the viciously vampy postmistress Viv Hope in the soap for nearly 18 years, will be taking to the stage at the Grand Opera House in Sleeping Beauty (were assuming thats not a reference to snoozy Syd).
And Strictly star Dani Harmer, known to every child in the country (if not the universe) as Tracy Beaker, joins King of the Jungle Joe Swash, Hollyoaks Joe Tracini and Minster FMs James Watt in Cinderella at the Barbican, which is jauntily throwing its hat into the festive ring after scoring a hit earlier this year with its Easter pantomime (yes, such a thing does exist).
For four decades, York Theatre Royal has built up its pantomime reputation on a national scale and is the envy of many, said Dame Berwick, who writes as well as stars in the theatres wildly popular annual show. It promises to be an exciting Christmas this year with three new pantomimes in the city. Competition is always healthy and I cant wait to see what our rivals are up to.
What I can promise is that York Theatre Royal always stages the perfect family panto. And as an added bonus I might even have the script ready for opening night.
But its not just the theatres that are doing their bit to bring festive cheer to the city, tourism supremos led by Visit York have put together a programme of seasonal events that they believe rivals other popular Christmas break locations across the UK and Europe.
In addition to the ever-popular St Nicholas Fayre, which will return for its 21st year, there is also going to be a succession of Christmas markets, festivals, concerts, an outdoor ice rink and seasonal activities running from November right through to the New Year.
Yorks Festive Fayre will return on December 6th, following a successful introduction to the citys Christmas programme in 2011; the Festival Of Angels will transform the streets into a winter wonderland on December 15th and 16th; the popular Christmas Farmers Market will be offering up its wares on December 14th; and Yorks unique collection of independent shops, department stores and designer boutiques will be doing all they can throughout the festive season to retain the citys advent crown as the most Christmassy city in the UK.
Gillian Cruddas MBMBE, chief executive of Visit York, said: This year York will be more Christmassy than ever before. Were using traditional wooden huts for all our Christmas markets including St Nicholas Fayre and Yorks Festive Fayre.
With a beautiful, old fashioned carousel in St Sampsons Square, the Festival of Angels and York Early Music Christmas Festival, York will be celebrating the festive season in style.
Visitors who came to York in their thousands over last years Christmas period spent somewhere in the region of 50 million. Visit York, working with City of York Council, has been preparing for months virtually since Boxing Day 2011 to ensure a successful Christmas period for all tourism businesses in 2012.
Councillor Sonja Crisp, cabinet member for tourism at City of York Council, said: York not only offers a fantastic selection of Christmas markets alongside independent shops and boutiques but also gives the visitor a whole host of extra Christmas treats to experience, from the traditional, such as carols at the Minster, to the contemporary, like the Ice Factor.
We want everyone to know that the best place to experience Christmas is right here in York.
How to get there: York is easily accessible from the A1/M1 link road via the A64 or, further north, via the A59. It enjoys plentiful bus services to neighbouring cities, towns and the coast, and has a busy railway station offering a two-hour service to central London.
Parking: The city has a great Park & Ride bus service, offering secure car parking and return travel for just 2.50 (kids go free). There is plenty of parking available in the city c entre, most notably in Piccadilly, Shambles, Monkgate, Marygate, Gillygate, the Eye of York and Nunnery Lane, but it tends to be expensive. Dont worry if you forget your wallet though as you can pay for your parking by phone.
What to do: Theres so much to do and see in York. The Minster is, of course, a must, then theres the National Railway Museum, Cliffords Tower, Yorkshire Museum, Castle Museum, Jorvik Viking Centre, York Art Gallery, The Richard III Museum, Barley Hall, Fairfax House, York Maize Maze, Micklegate Bar Museum the list goes on and on.