14 November 2023

PANTO characters, football stars, music and giveaways will herald the start of Christmas in Sunderland.

On Thursday 16 November the city’s festive lights will be unveiled, with a packed programme of activities to get everyone in the festive spirit.

And that includes the opportunity for attendees to win a whole host of prizes, with everything from a Sunderland Gift Card to tickets to see Beauty and the Beast at the Sunderland Empire up for grabs.

The fun will start at Keel Square at 5pm, where a host of Disney characters and Christmas elves will be around for photographs, with music provided by a choir.

At 6pm Metro Radio’s much-loved Breakfast Show hosts, Steve and Karen, will take to the stage to welcome everyone, followed by a performance by characters from the hit movie, Frozen.

Other entertainment throughout the evening include performances by the band Khalysis, a number of Christmas games with goodie bags and prizes on offer plus a special appearance by the cast of this year’s Sunderland Empire pantomime.

They will join the Mayor of Sunderland, Cllr Dorothy Trueman as well as two first team players from Sunderland Football Club for the grand light switch on at 7pm.

The launch of Christmas has been jointly organised by Sunderland BID, Sunderland City Council and supported by Metro Radio.

Sharon Appleby, Chief Executive of Sunderland BID, believes the evening will set the tone for the run-up to the festive season.

“We’ve got a packed programme of fun events to get Christmas underway in Sunderland,” she said.

“It’s going to be an evening with something for everyone and will bring families and friends together – which of course is what Christmas is all about.

“And it’s just the start of what really is going to be a fun-filled festive events programme in the city.”

Karen Oxley, from Metro’s Breakfast Show, said the team was equally as excited to be involved.

Once again we can’t wait to kick start the festive season in Sunderland with the annual lights switch on,” she said.

“It’s a huge honour for us to be part of this magical event, and we’re really looking forward to some free, festive, family fun with the crowd on November 16. We want everyone to get into the spirit of Christmas, so get those jumpers and antlers on and come along and enjoy a great night.”

The Mayor of Sunderland, Councillor Dorothy Trueman, added: "The Christmas Lights Switch On officially kicks off the countdown to Christmas and I know it’s something many families look forward to every year.

"As well as the Christmas lights, there will be so much fun and entertainment for everyone to enjoy, and a fantastic events programme taking place throughout the winter too. I’m delighted to be switching on the lights this year and hope to see lots of people there to celebrate the start of the festive season.”

For information on all events taking place in the city visit