Durham’s largest annual retail festival broke all records this weekend, attracting an estimated 70,000 visitors to Durham city centre over the weekend, plus 111 coaches – up 17% on last year.
The Festival, which took place in Durham over three days last weekend from Friday 30th November to Sunday 2nd December, is renowned for its welcoming, family atmosphere, and featured a wide variety of entertainment, activities and retail stalls, celebrating the start of the festive season.
The Craft and Gift Marquee on Palace Green, situated within the World Heritage Site area between the Cathedral and the Castle throughout the duration of the event, featured 190 traders offering original jewellery, handmade craft items, beer and fortified wine, and many gift ideas for Christmas.
In the Cathedral Cloisters, a free-entry regional Food Producers Market took place on Friday 30th November and Saturday 1st December, featuring 30 quality food producers from across the region selling everything from cupcakes and Christmas puddings to delicious, aromatic delicatessen goods.
The Christmas Festival had a distinctly positive effect on retail across the whole city centre. Durham’s Market Hall in the Market Place saw 26,000 people through its doors over the weekend, its largest level of footfall for three years. At the Town Hall, the Mayor’s Charity café which ran on Saturday and Sunday raised over £900 for charity on the Saturday alone.
Choirs, bands and local buskers performed throughout the weekend on almost every corner of the city, ranging from Bearpark and Esh Colliery Band in the Market Place on Saturday morning through to Josephine Butler College Choirs in the Cathedral Cloisters. Carols for All Services in the Cathedral on both Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd December also proved extremely popular.
Entertainment for children included free arts and crafts in the World Heritage Site Visitor Centre, a juggler and balloon-modeller, ceramic tile-decorating, a live stable with reindeer, storytelling the Seven Stories armchair and a static falconry display on Palace Green. The traditional children’s lantern procession from the Market Place up to Palace Green also took place on Saturday afternoon, culminating in a short service for children explaining the meaning behind Christmas and the original St Nicholas.
“We are delighted at the success of Durham’s Christmas Festival this year,” says organiser Colin Wilkes, Managing Director of Durham Markets. “Many visitors commented how festive and friendly the city was, and feedback from traders has also been extremely positive. Many thanks to all those who took part and we look forward to reuniting for the next Festival on Friday 6th to Sunday 8th December 2013.”