OXFORD’S Christmas light night is expanding to a three-day festival this year in a bid to attract more than 100,000 people into the city.
In previous years, a Christmas market, fair and staged events have taken place in St Giles on a Friday night with up to 14 venues also taking part.
Last year, more than 35,000 people attended.
This year organisers are hoping to nearly treble that by running a festival from Friday, November 22, to Sunday, November 24, with city council bosses expecting up to 100,000 people to attend.
St Giles will be closed for the whole weekend, with the fair, market, and stage expected to return.
Oxford City Council cultural development manager Ceri Gorton said: “This is a very welcome early Christmas present. We are looking forward to expanding the event over three days and hope that people in Oxford and the surrounding areas will enjoy it.”
Oxford City Council has been given £15,000 in Arts Council funding to add to an estimated £34,000 budget for its festivities in November.
The extra Arts Council cash will be spent on a programme of music and dance performances from Oxford Contemporary Music and Dancin’ Oxford, along with other activities.
More venues will be involved this time, with 22 confirmed so far and organisers hoping the number will be double that of previous years.
Venues already signed up include the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford Town Hall and Museum, Pegasus Theatre, Pitt Rivers Museum, the Old Fire Station and Oxford Castle quarter.
Christmas Light Night has always been a bumper night for Oxford’s pubs and businesses, which stay open late, and landlords and traders have welcomed the news.
Eagle and Child manager Kerry Skrzypiec, 34, said: “I’m looking forward to it, and it’s good news that it’s being held over three days, as long as it’s supervised properly and finishes at a reasonable time.
“We welcome the extra business and I think a lot of the businesses around us will like the fact it’s taking place over three days.
“It’s a great location for it from our point of view, and it’s great that we have things like this which bring people together.”
Tim Gresswell, who runs Tim’s Newsagent in High Street, said it wouldn’t increase his business in a big way. He said: “I think people are going to be shopping for Christmas presents or eating and drinking out, not buying an extra newspaper. But I think it’s worth trying. It’s going to be about whether or not it works.
“I think having other venues involved could be a benefit.”
But concerns have been raised about congestion and the impact the closure of St Giles will have on businesses which rely on the roads.
Taxi driver Colin Dobson, 46, said: “It’s a great event I have been to myself, and I don’t mind the disruption for the short length of time it’s been on in the past. But I think it will cause problems over three days.”
Council leader Bob Price hoped the event will “kickstart Christmas” in Oxford. He said: “Oxford has a rich cultural heritage and support like this helps us to continue providing engaging arts events for the city’s residents and visitors.”