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Georgian Day light show to become paid event to avoid disappointment for many

Council is planning to spend much more on a post-Covid Christmas celebration with an enhanced Silent Christmas for children with special educational needs, replacement festive decorations, rural twilight markets or drive-in movies all put forward

Those hoping to watch the spectacular light show highlight of Armagh’s popular Georgian Day could this year have to pay for the privilege.

A “minimal charge” is expected to be introduced and with good reason too, Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council has been told.

The move comes as council plans well in advance for the Christmas season.

And this year, coming out of Covid, the local authority is intending to splash out.

A range of ideas are going to council’s economic development and regeneration committee tonight (Tuesday).

And, in order to introduce them, the council is being asked to agree to spend an extra £155,000 above and beyond the usual funding, drawing from Covid recovery funds to ensure the festive season goes with a bang!

Since 2018, the council has supported and funded a Silent Christmas event for children with special educational needs to enjoy with their family.

This year it is proposed to appoint a “suitable organisation to coordinate an enhanced event in 2022 as a post Covid recovery investment”. This is expected to cost in the region of £10,000.

Up to six ‘rural events’ – such as mini markets – will be held at a cost in the region of £70,000. These would take place at Richhill, Tandragee, Keady, Waringstown and Donaghacloney, with further investigation into the possibility of Rathfrilland being included too.

Council officers will continue to meet with representatives in rural towns to agree the preferred activity – Twilight Market or Drive-in Movie.

There are plans for the replacement and enhancing of festive lighting features in various areas across the borough, at a cost of £60,000.

And £15,000 will be spend upgrading marketing materials and a promotional campaign, maximising marketing opportunities to residents outside the borough.

It is also being proposed there be free car parking in areas during their Christmas lights switch on and on Georgian Day, as well as Saturday shopping days in December, up to and including Christmas Eve.

Light switch-ons are expected in Portadown on Friday, November 18; in Lurgan on Saturday, November 19 0r Friday, November 25; Banbridge on Friday, November 25, and Dromore on Saturday, December 3.

In Armagh, the Georgian Festival will take place on the weekend of November 26, 2022.

And according to the report the light show element of the event may incur a small fee.

The report states: “This is an important event in attracting visitors to the borough.

“Feedback from the 2021 event is been used in planning the logistics and venues which  are required to meet the anticipated increase in visitor numbers.

“The principal event will take place in Armagh City Centre. After two years of disruption due to Covid-19 the festival will return to a more familiar format with smaller events taking place across the city’s Georgian venues.

“Engagement will take place with City Centre Management, traders and retailers to ensure that the proposals support the retail and hospitality sector.

“There will be a minimal charge for the light show this year as in previous years large numbers of tickets have not been used, with a result that many people in the city on  Georgian Day have been unable to access tickets and thus have been left disappointed.

“The charge will be kept to a minimum.”

The report on Christmas will go before committee for consideration tonight, when they will be asked to “approve the programme of activities/events and campaign detailed within the report and agree to contribute an additional  investment of £155,000 from council’s Covid Recovery funds for an enhanced Christmas programme for 2022”.

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