Panto fun, ice-skating and festive cheer pull in Christmas crowds

Wed 10 Jan 2024

Festive Derby sprinkled festive cheer over the city as crowds flocked to enjoy the city’s Christmas attractions. Visitors enjoyed fantastic theatre shows, spun around the ice and sampled warming tipples inside the city centre’s cosy Nordic Bar.

Derby City Council, Derby Museums, Derby Cathedral, Derby Theatre, QUAD, the Cathedral Quarter and St Peter’s Quarter Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and Derbion worked in partnership to bring Christmas to the city, with Smooth Radio the media partner for Festive Derby.

Around 2,000 people attended the start of the festivities, which kicked off with the Christmas Lights Switch On event. It saw the city centre lit up by a city lantern parade as part of Surtal Arts’ Season of Light festival. Crowds flocked to see the live stage show in Corporation Street, which culminated in the official switch-on by stars of the panto Mother Goose - with a little help from Santa Claus.

Brand new for 2023 was the Nordic Bar, situated inside the beautifully-decorated Festive Tipis. More than 15,000 visitors were spoiled for choice by the array of festive-themed drinks on offer, accompanied by free entertainment including music and comedy.

The Nordic Bar sat alongside the Cathedral Quarter Ice Rink, which remained as popular as ever, with special events including a Smooth Radio night and sessions with Skater (Santa!) Claus. In total, more than 12,000 people donned their skates for a spin around the ice.

Of course, Christmas isn’t complete without a pantomime and Derby LIVE and Little Wolf Entertainment’s latest creation flew into Derby Arena. Mother Goose, starring award-winning Dame Morgan Brind and Coronation Street baddie Todd Boyce, went down a treat with families with more than 33,000 tickets sold. The show was a smash hit with theatregoers and received dazzling reviews:

An onslaught of witty, relevant and personalised humour that was hilarious enough to pop a lung after each scene. I cannot recommend this year's Derby pantomime enough… a high-quality show from start to finish” Derby Telegraph

“The funniest and most entertaining we have seen… A must see this festive season” Boom Magazine

“An unforgettable experience for audiences of all ages… 5 out of 5, and a must watch for the whole family” What’s Good To Do

“An absolute masterclass in Panto, offering a dazzling Christmas outing for all. Mother Goose is a must-visit this December and the perfect pantomime” Beyond the Curtain

“Little Wolf has egg-celled itself with this show. Even if you don’t honk with laughter or get goosebumps, it’s a cracking tale that’s worth a gander” British Theatre Guide


The goose and Mother Goose in the Derby Arena panto
Mother Goose was a smash hit with audiences

Meanwhile, more than 400 theatre lovers enjoyed The Lost Boys’ take on the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life, and more than 2,300 tickets were sold for the Babbling Vagabonds’ family show Naughty Meg and the Christmas Elves, both at Derby Museum and Art Gallery on the Wardwick. 

Naughty Meg also attracted rave reviews from theatregoers:

For a festive tale of fun, silliness and a sprinkle of Christmas magic, Naughty Meg and the Christmas Elves does not disappoint!” Boom Magazine

"Naughty Meg and the Christmas Elves is a hilarious and fun-filled show from start to finish full of festive frolics and an underlying, heart-warming message perfect for young families!" Derby Days Out

", feel good, heart-warming and magical performance" Lots for Tots

Around the city centre, the festivities saw Christmas lights and trees, the UK’s largest postbox, live outdoor entertainment, snow globes and the Nordic Express land train brighten up the Christmas shopping and dining experience.

Outside the city centre, Family Festivities returned to Markeaton Park on Sat 2 and Sun 3 Dec with even more fun for all ages. The free annual event featured a full programme of music from local bands and choirs, along with a craft fair, outside stalls, an elf trail, wreath making, festive food and drink and even a dog grotto. The popular event attracted hundreds of people over the two days.

Councillor Nadine Peatfield, Derby City Council’s Cabinet Member for City Centre, Regeneration, Culture and Tourism, said: 

It was fantastic to see so many people joining the festivities in Derby over Christmas. Every person I spoke to and every social media comment I read had the same positive response- Christmas is so much better this year in Derby! That’s the best feedback I could ask for. 

I’ll be working away from January onwards like a Christmas Elf, preparing for an even better Christmas 2024. I send a huge thank you to everyone who helped make the festivities such a success.