York’s annual St. Nicholas Fair was canceled last week when the city was upgraded to the more restricted Level 2 alert level.
Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park is also not happening this year, although other London-based festivals may still take place. UKHospitality Managing Director Kate Nicholls points out that London has already “taken a hit due to the decline in inbound tourism and people increasingly working from home”, calling the city’s move to Level 2 of “catastrophic”.
Belfast, Edinburgh, Bristol, Bath, Aberdeen, Winchester and Oxford are some of the other cities to have canceled Christmas fairs and markets. The Lincoln Christmas Market, the oldest in the UK, was canceled for the first time since 1982; the Christkindelmarkt will not turn central Leeds into a winter village and the fashionable Birmingham Market in Frankfurt, which attracts over 5 million visitors in some years, was canceled in September. The Padstow Harbor Christmas Festival and the Stratford-upon-Avon Victorian Christmas Festival are also postponed to 2021.
Local authorities and businesses are looking for creative alternatives, with many small, promising events and opportunities to support traders. Some restaurants offer Christmas boxed deliveries for virtual office parties; Birmingham Stage Company is on tour in a drive-in panto; The Edinburgh market has announced it is going digital; and Bath will offer online shopping directly from artisans who would normally sell in log cabins.
Sheffield Markets are still (currently) hoping to open on November 12 with a new Alpine-style bar – as well as more space between stalls. Also from November 12, the Cardiff market is still, for now, on (but depends on restrictions after its “firewall lockdown”). Likewise, Swansea confirmed that its market would open on November 27, but that was before the new foreclosure restrictions. Exeter and Plymouth also plan to move forward, relying on wider paths and naturally large open layouts.
The market situation in Glasgow remains to be decided, although the lighting of the city’s Christmas lights is canceled – as is almost everywhere – although decorative lights are still a feature of seasonal cityscapes. Manchester is installing additional lighting throughout the city center. Cheltenham, without a market, plans to have its new lights twinkle day and night with harps and golden holly hanging from lampposts.
The events that have largely escaped the gloom are annual light shows in stately mansions and gardens. Several grand homes, such as Castle Howard, Blenheim Palace and Waddesdon Manor, are gearing up for festive splendor (pre-bookable). Chatsworth opens rooms and galleries which are generally closed during the winter. English Heritage has replaced large events at flagship properties with smaller seasonal activities, but many National Trust properties, including Belton House in Lincolnshire and Stourhead in Wiltshire, sell timed entry tickets to lighted trails at through parks and gardens.
Some rooms have just joined the sound and light festival this Christmas. Kingston Lacy in Dorset and Gibside in Gateshead have new after dark and fancy fire trails that enhance the natural features of their park. And RHS Hyde Hall Gardens near Chelmsford are installing a Glow Trail for the first time this winter. So there is a ray of light at the end of the fairy-lit tunnel for those looking for a festive solution.