Sunderland legend to kick off Christmas countdown

27 October 2022

SUNDERLAND will light up in full festive splendour, as the countdown to Christmas begins. 

The city’s annual Light Switch On will take place on November 17, with a Black Cats legend flicking the switch to illuminate the heart of Sunderland.  Legendary Sunderland striker Kevin Phillips will join the Mayor of Sunderland and the cast from the Empire Theatre’s Panto, Aladdin, to officially kick off the countdown to Christmas on the evening of Thursday, November 17. 

And there will be stunning displays of light artistry from Ministry of Experience.  Light artistry sees imagery painted mid-air using a variety of light emitting elements.  Light painting works in a similar way to writing your name using a sparkler, with long exposure cameras capturing stunning work painted by light artist, suspended in the air. 

The event – which will also see Disney Frozen characters take to the stage - will take place in Keel Square from 5pm with a range of activities underway before an on-stage programme of entertainment begins at 6pm and the lights are officially switched on at 7pm. The event will be hosted by Metro Radio Breakfast hosts Steve and Karen.

The Switch On is being organised by Sunderland Business Improvement District (BID) and Sunderland City Council, and is sponsored by the University of Sunderland.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “It’s a real thrill to see the countdown to Christmas begin in Sunderland.  We hope the lights bring plenty of festive cheer to the heart of the city and look forward to seeing families from across Sunderland come to enjoy the event.”

The city invested in new low-energy LED light installations, which will be displayed across the city, and a 40ft Christmas Tree will once again stand in Keel Square to decorate Sunderland city centre over Christmas and into the New Year.   

Sharon Appleby, chief executive of Sunderland BID, said: “Sunderland is a brilliant place to shop, meet friends and family and celebrate this festive season, and as the excitement builds towards Christmas, it’s brilliant to be turning on the lights and bringing a bit of magic to the streets of the city centre to support our traders.”

Metro Radio presenter Karen Oxley said: “Me and Steve can’t believe we’re already flying towards Christmas. We’re really looking forward to the Sunderland switch on and getting to enjoy some festive fun with the people of Sunderland. It’ll be a magical night and we can’t wait to see everyone and get all the lights turned on.”

Sir David Bell, vice chancellor and chief executive of the University of Sunderland, said: "We are delighted to be sponsoring Light Switch On this year as helping Sunderland to grow and thrive is central to our mission as a university.

"Our increasing numbers of students, both from the UK and elsewhere, very quickly come to love the city.  I am sure therefore that they will have a wonderful time this Christmas enjoying all that Sunderland has to offer over the festive season."