Visitors Return to Newbury for Second Christmas Lights Switch-On Festival 

Local residents and visitors from across the region took advantage of the day-long festive event full of FREE activities and entertainment 

Newbury Business Improvement District (BID) is delighted to share that their second day-long Christmas Lights Switch-On Festival was overall a huge success. 

The event, which took place on Saturday 19th November, resulted in a 15.5% increase in footfall on the previous Saturday, recording total visitor numbers of nearly 35,000 (about twice the seating capacity of Madison Square Garden).

This figure is almost identical to those recorded at last year’s event. 

This year, local families, residents, and visitors across the region were invited to come and spend the day in Newbury Town Centre for a whole host of free festive fun between 10am and 6pm. 

The event, organised by Newbury BID and supported by Newbury Town Council, was a celebration of local talent, as visitors experienced live music and performances at ‘entertainment hubs’ dotted around key locations in the town centre, a Christmas Market with local traders along Northbrook Street, a varied selection of free family-friendly activities at town centre venues, as well as a Living Nativity scene at Inches Yard, a Giant Snow Globe at Kennet Centre Shopping, Santa’s Grotto at Parkway Shopping, and children’s fairground rides*, to name a few. 

Additionally, classic children’s Christmas characters returned to the event following the success of last year’s Meet and Greet sessions, to offer personal Christmas wishes and photo opportunities for families.

Local independent businesses, The Goan Caff on Bartholomew Street and Brown Paper Loves at Inches Yard, who hosted the sessions, benefitted from the festive cheer and excess footfall in the area. 

Donna Dance, Owner of Brown Paper Loves, said: 

“I would like to thank Newbury BID for delivering such a fantastic Lights Switch-On event for the town on Saturday.

We received so much positive feedback from those enjoying the wonderful ‘Grinch’ character (who was amazing!) and every comment from the public was overwhelmingly positive.

Visitors were very impressed by the number of free activities available across the whole town centre, and commented on how well organised everything was and the magical the sense of community.

Some visitors to Inches Yard included families from Swindon, Reading and Alton, who had never been to Newbury before and were very impressed with the event, mentioning that the town was ‘buzzing’.

I’m grateful I was able to be a part of such a great community-focused event and can’t wait to see what Newbury BID come up with next year!” 

Vanessa Prince, who had a stall pitch at the event and is the Owner of Floral Beauts on Northbrook Street, added: 

“The atmosphere was magical!

Well done to Newbury BID.

The team work tirelessly for every event they put on, and as a small business owner on the high street, the Christmas Lights Switch-On Festival was a brilliant way to help raise Newbury’s profile and support local independent businesses!” 

However, while many businesses and visitors benefitted from the event and rushed to praise Newbury BID for putting on a free family event during a cost-of-living crisis, it was addressed that the event did encounter a technical issue. 

Some event visitors have voiced that this year’s Christmas Lights Switch-On consisted of a much smaller stage in the Market Place than in the previous year, and that they were unable to hear the entertainment and countdown toward the end of the event for the lights switch-on moment. 

Newbury BID, the not-for-profit organisation behind the Visit Newbury brand, can confirm the technical error arose late on in the day during the event’s ultimate hour and has issued the following statement in a response to this. 

Warwick Heskins, Owner of The Catherine Wheel Pub and Chair of Newbury BID, said: 

“We are extremely saddened by what appeared to be our most successful Lights Switch-On Festival to date ending on somewhat of a low due to the technical issues we experienced in the final hour of the day-long event.

We would like to explain that we engaged with a local supplier for the stage and PA sound system used at the event on a ‘no cost’ sponsorship basis.

The aim of using a stage supplied on sponsorship terms was to help maximise our event budget by allocating the funds (ordinarily spent on the stage) elsewhere, such as on our fabulous walkabout actors and street performers – for which we had over double than for the previous year’s event – as well as supporting local businesses to be able to host activities and workshops free of charge to families. 

We also decided, in conjunction with Newbury Town Centre businesses, to hold the event on a Saturday following the success of last year’s switch-on and to maximise footfall for our levy-paying businesses.

We are unable to gain access to the Market Place on a Saturday until after the Charter Market has finished for health and safety reasons. In turn, this restricts the amount of entertainment we can provide in the Market Place prior to the switch-on moment, making it more difficult to justify the increasing costs involved in hiring a larger stage. 

It is disappointing that our performances from two wonderful local choirs, Soul Reason and Falkland Primary School, which took place in front of the stage between 5pm and 6pm, were not heard loud and clear by all attending the event in the Market Place.

We would like to apologise to the public and our acts that this was the case.

It is unfortunate that we could not control the sound and had relied on our supplier to deliver the sound and stage on the terms outlined in the sponsorship agreement. 

We would like to thank those of you who took advantage of our free activities and sessions taking place throughout the day and apologise to all whose experience with us was dampened by the stage and sound issues experienced at the very end of the event.

Every event has its learnings, and we will certainly use these to progress in a positive direction for 2023 and we endeavor that this does not happen again.” 

Jo Meikle, an event visitor commented on social media in support of the event: 

“I get that some people found the actual light switch-on a letdown, however, we are in a cost-of-living crisis and personally, I found Newbury had a great atmosphere and there were things going on all day!” 

Alison Drummond, Operations Manager at Newbury BID, said: 

“While we are disappointed with the technical issues experienced on the evening of our Christmas Lights Switch-On, we are delighted to see such significant footfall in Newbury town centre and are thankful to BBC Radio Berkshire for the opportunity to promote the event regionally on several occasions. 

Early in the event planning stage we decided on a ‘local business only’ policy to provide catering at the event, which saw the likes of Blue’s Smokehouse BBQ, Crepe o’Clock, The Baker’s Lounge Bar, Fusion Deli and Colline’s Kitchen, to name a few, offer hot street food and takeaway options for visitors.

It was great to see the queues form at these independent venues and to hear that many restaurants were fully booked, and Christmas gifts were flying off the shelves of our local shops!

This ultimately fulfils the key purpose for the event; to bring in town centre custom for our local businesses whilst giving visitors a fabulously festive free day out.” 

Andrew Marmot, Centre Manager at Parkway Shopping, said: 

“Newbury BID coordinated fantastic free activities around the town and hosted a massively successful Christmas Lights Switch-On, all in the name of supporting local.

The event resulted in a + 45.2% increase in footfall at Parkway Shopping compared to last year, seeing our busiest Santa’s Grotto yet!

What an achievement as we reach the peak Christmas trading period.

Well done Visit Newbury. 

Visit Newbury’s next event is the Victorian Christmas Fayre, taking place on Saturday 3rd – Sunday 4th December. NEWBURY BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT DISTRICT CIC REGISTERED Company No. 06977701 

*Fairground rides charged a small fee at the discretion of the business and Newbury BID is not responsible for any fees or charges incurred at Parkway Shopping venues. 

For a list of all events taking place in Newbury town centre and beyond this Christmas, please visit: 

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