Theatre, ice-skating and festive fun drew bumper Christmas crowds to Derby

Aladdin stands on stage with his arms in the air.

Fri 6 Jan 2023

It was a Christmas to remember in Derby as people enjoyed all the festivities the city had to offer. Audiences flocked to fantastic theatre shows, went ice-skating and soaked up the Festive Derby atmosphere while they visited the city centre.

Derby City Council, Derby Museums, Derby Cathedral, Derby Theatre, QUAD, the Derby 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 the city centre, Festive Derby saw Christmas lights and trees, light projections, live entertainment and festive cabins brighten up the Christmas shopping and dining experience.

Theatre lovers were spoiled for choice with two shows taking to the stage at Festive Derby’s temporary Market Place venue, plus the pantomime at Derby Arena.


John Thompson dressed in an ornate costume holds Aladdin's lamp and points menacingly.
Credit Robert Day

Derby LIVE and Little Wolf Entertainment sprinkled their magic on Aladdin for this year’s panto at Derby Arena. John Thomson starred alongside award-winning Best Dame Morgan Brind in the high-flying, action-packed show.

It went down a treat with families as audiences returned to pre-pandemic levels. More than 33,000 tickets were sold, 16,000 of them for children. The show was a smash hit with audiences and received dazzling reviews:


“Aladdin will no doubt enhance Little Wolf’s reputation as one of this country’s top panto producers.” British Theatre Guide


“If you are wondering what to do over the Christmas holidays, go and see Aladdin, treat your family to a magical time.” Derby Days Out


“The show is filled with genuinely funny moments, heart-warming songs and some fantastic effects.” Derby Telegraph


“A fabulous show which hits all the right buttons – humour for all ages, a strong cast and dance along familiar songs seamlessly linked into the storyline.” What’s Good To Do


“The perfect festive treat for all the family.” West End Best Friend.

Two actors stand facing each other, one with his arms out wide and joyful, the other scowls at this behaviour.

Meanwhile, more than 3,200 tickets were sold for shows staged in the Market Place by two much-loved local theatre companies - The Babbling Vagabonds’ The Christmas Toy Shop Mystery, and A Christmas Carol by The Lost Boys.

The Lost Boys brought their irrepressible energy to their version of the timeless Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol. The irreverent show, which was jam-packed with gags and gaffs, attracted 500 people across two performances, including 120 children.

One actor and two actresses stand around a teddy bear, looking at it as if listening to it tell a story.

The Christmas Toy Shop Mystery was a heart-warming story told with the usual Babbling Vagabonds magic. Puppets, storytelling, shadows and songs created a seasonal adventure filled with Christmas magic and cheer watched by more than 2,700 people, including 1,500 children.


In their review of The Christmas Toy Shop Mystery, Boom Magazine said: “Absolutely do not miss this fabulously fun, dynamic and cuddly Christmas classic.”

A mix of children and adults whizz around an indoor ice rink.
Credit Graham Whitmore

The return of the Cathedral Quarter Ice Rink was also a popular attraction, with themed days and evenings running throughout December, from fancy dress, toddler sessions and 70s, 80s and 90s music.  In total, 12,600 people donned their skates for a turn around the ice. Around half of those skaters were children.

Outside the city centre, Family Festivities returned to Markeaton Park on Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 December 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, elf trail, festive food and drink and even a doggy Santa. The popular event attracted in the region of 3,000 people over the two days.

Councillor Jonathan Smale, Derby City Council cabinet member for Finance, Digital and Culture, said: “We’re delighted so many people enjoyed all that Festive Derby had to offer over the Christmas period. Our 2022 programme was packed and, with even more wonderful events and activities from our city partners, there was something for everyone. Thank you to everyone who made it such a huge success.”