Yule Love Derby this Christmas as Festive Derby returns

Wed 4 Oct 2023

Festive Derby is gliding back into the city this winter with the return of the Cathedral Quarter Ice Rink, a sack-full of family fun, Christmas shopping, seasonal dining and tons of Christmas entertainment. It all kicks off on Sat 2 Dec with the Christmas Light Switch On in partnership with Smooth Radio and a city lantern parade with Surtal Arts.

This year Festive Derby is bigger than ever with three new Festive Tipis on the Market Place, featuring a cosy Nordic Bar and roaring Fire Pit and entertainment including music, comedy, quiz nights and more.

There will also be entertainment for younger visitors in the tipis, with Winter Stories by AVP Theatre and a book reading with local author Kat Quarmby. The tipis will be open alongside the Cathedral Quarter Ice Rink, where you’ll also be able to spot Santa – aka Skater – Claus on various dates.

You can also enjoy an array of fantastic outdoor entertainment from acts including Invisible Friends, the Duffield Singers, Derby Concert Band, Shannon Elmore and the Derwent Valley Wind Band.There will be lots of tasty treats to indulge in, including German sausage, donuts and crepes, plus fairground rides for the children. Plus you can spot colourful characters including Naughty Elves, the grumpy Grinch and the Ice King and Queen as they appear in St Peter's Quarter and the Cathedral Quarter.

Keep the little ones entertained with the Christmas Elf Trail, snow globes and the Nordic Express – Derby’s very own land train – all in the city centre. The Nordic Express Station will be located opposite QUAD and will run on weekends in the lead up to Christmas, as well as Fri 22 Dec, and daily from Boxing Day until New Year’s Eve.

There will also be free Family Festivities at Markeaton Park on Sat 2 and Sun 3 Dec. For those children who haven’t quite made it onto the nice list yet, see how they compare to the naughtiest girl in the world in Babbling Vagabond’s Naughty Meg and the Christmas Elves at Derby Museum and Art Gallery on the Wardwick. Inspired by The Tiny World of Toy Theatre, step into Christmas at Pickford’s House for a fairy tale day of festive fun and games for all the family, with Pinocchio themed activities.

There are also plenty of opportunities to see the big man himself – step into a realm of pure enchantment as you enter the extraordinary Cathedral Quarter Christmas Grotto at Derby QUAD! Brace yourself for the mesmerising “Northern Lights” experience, an immersive environment that transports you straight to Santa’s magical grotto in the North Pole. Join Santa for Breakfast at QUAD, or if the early morning wake-up is too much for you then check out Santa’s Magic Cabin at Derbion and experience a virtual reality sleigh ride.

Arts and crafts lovers can get stuck in with seasonal crafts and craft fairs at Artcore and you can get your Christmas shopping done whilst supporting local artists at Banks Mill and the Museum and Art Gallery and the Museum of Making shops.

Head over to the Cathedral Quarter for boutique shopping, St Peter’s Quarter for independent retailers and cafes or Derbion to find national brands during late night shopping, and stop off for some delicious festive dining. The festive window display competition Window Wonderland also returns this year with many businesses decorating their shop fronts in order to be crowned this Christmas’s winner! Take a wintery stroll around the city centre, spotting all the handmade entries then vote for your favourite via the Cathedral Quarter or St Peters Quarter LoyalFree app.

Theatre fans can catch Derby’s infamous comedic duo The Lost Boys this festive season – join them as they attempt to produce a live audio-play recording of the Christmas movie favourite, It’s A Wonderful Life (LIVE) at Derby Museum and Art Gallery on the Wardwick and experience their new take on the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol at Derby QUAD.

Elsewhere in theatre land you can see Déda’s Twelve Birds of Christmas and take your tiny ones along to their Dinky Disco, watch Three Billy Goats Gruff and Cinderella at Derby Theatre, and of course don’t miss the smash-hit Derby Arena pantomime Mother Goose starring Coronation Street’s Todd Boyce and Derby’s favourite pantomime dame Morgan Brind.

Derby QUAD have another season of festive favourites and family friendly films screening daily during December, including It’s A Wonderful Life, The Muppet Christmas Carol and Die Hard. And if all that’s not enough, Derby Cathedral, St Werburgh’s and Jubilee Church at QUAD have a fantastic line up of Christmas carol concerts, special services and parties. The Cathedral’s programme includes the return of G4’s Christmas Concert and, new for this year, Bublé Christmas by Candlelight.

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

We’re delighted to be bringing Festive Derby back to the city this year. It’s a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the work of local artists, entertainers and business owners, and bring the local community together at such a special time of year.

We’re especially pleased to be teaming up with Surtal Arts during the Derby Season of Light for our launch event and Christmas Light Switch On in the Market Place on 2 Dec with a fantastic stage show, walkabout entertainment and Lantern Parade from 4pm before the big switch on at 5.30pm. Visitors on 2 Dec can also be the first to hit the ice, from 11am. 

We really look forward to welcoming everyone into the city for the season’s celebrations.

With so much to see and do don’t forget to pick up a copy of the Festive Derby Guide or check out the Festive Derby website for the full line up of events.