Storm Barra: Brighton's popular Christmas Festival and market forced to close today (Tuesday) due to storm

Thousands have been visiting Brighton's Christmas Festival but organisers have apologised after a 'challenging' first week with storm and power issues.

Tuesday, 7th December 2021, 4:16 pm

The organisers of Brighton' s five-week Christmas Festival are trying to keep positive as the storm today (Tuesday) has forced them to close the site once again.

It was hoped the festival would reopen at 6pm but the organisers posted on social media at 3pm to say: "After reviewing the situation with the weather for the afternoon and evening hours due to Storm Barra and the forecast of persistent high winds, and to ensure the safety of our visitors and staff, all sites for Brighton Christmas Festival will remain fully closed today. All parts of the festival will open tomorrow (December 8, 2021) as scheduled. Thank you for your understanding."

It is another blow for visitors and the organisers, who have been delighted with the support for the festival so far.

The Brighton Christmas Festival and market has been proving popular despite the challenges

A spokesman said: "A staggering 19,000 people visited the market in Valley Gardens on Saturday alone. The Elves Save Christmas shows are sold out every weekend and are so popular extra performances have been added in the week running up to Christmas Day. Santa's Grotto attracted 3,000 ticket sales in advance and that too is sold out every weekend.

"And the UK’s highest observation wheel is proving a huge hit, currently the most photographed attraction in the city."

Health and safety must be priority

David Hill is the founder of E3 Events, based in Palmeira Square, Hove, said it had been a challenging first week with the weather forcing the site to be closed for part of the day on November 27 and then a power fault causing further disruption.

The observation wheel at the festival

He said: "I have worked in event management for more than 25 years and we have to listen to the experts. I know that some people were upset that we had to close on the afternoon of only the second day, which was November 27th, but the winds were so high it was dangerous and we had no option. The health and safety of our customers, our traders and our team must always be the number one priority.

"There was also an issue with the power last week, not our fault but again it did lead to some disruption, for which I must apologise. And of course, today (Tuesday) was a challenge with such shocking weather. It is sadly out of our control."

David said the company was also working with some local neighbours who are concerned about noise levels at night.

He added: "I am aware that there were challenges in the first week but overall, it is proving a big hit. To have over 19,000 people pass through the entrance to the market on Saturday is a staggering figure, and many of our customers told us that they had travelled to visit Brighton and the festival.

"The city centre was absolutely packed at 8pm on Saturday, probably busier than it was at 2pm. That's the Festival effect. Our Apres Ski Lodge bar was so busy on Saturday it literally was one person in, one person out.

"Our children's shows are all selling extremely well, and The Nutcracker was also a sell-out."

Helping community groups and charities

David and his team have secured a three-year contract from Brighton and Hove City Council to run the Christmas Festival, which includes more than 80 stalls, a funfair, a community stage, the big wheel, Santa's Grotto and various other shows.

He said: "We are clearly doing something very positive for families who are coming in their droves. Our Community Celebration Square stage is also very popular. A different local Community Hero is turning the lights on every night and we love the focus this gives to our diverse and vibrant community

"E3 has also funded two community chalets and each day they are used by local charities such as The Starr Trust and Rockinghorse, and so many others.

"We always said from the very start that we wanted to involve as many local community groups and charities as possible. This is so important to us, and as a small business in the city we have raised over a quarter of million pounds in the last ten years for local charities like Chestnut Tree House and The Martlets."

Rob Starr, chairman and founder of The Starr Trust, said: "The Starr Trust relies on local businesses and friends to enable us to maintain and grow our profile locally as well as raise much needed funds for the young people we help. Being offered time at your community chalets in the Christmas market was such a lovely surprise and so very welcome. Because of this we have been able to make new friends and raise our profile even further, which is so important to us.

"To include a true community space at this Christmas market and allow small charities such as ours to take part is truly within the Christmas spirit."

David added: "We have more than 80 stalls, which we consider to be a great achievement given that we are still facing Covid restrictions. In an ideal scenario, the number would be more but 80 was a realistic target and many rotate each week

"The Christmas market ends on Christmas Eve but the shows in St Peter’s Pavilion and the Apres Ski Lodge Bar remain open until the 31st December. The funfair and Big Wheel will also be open until New Year’s Eve. We are also reacting to where demand is biggest. For example, we have added a full programme of live music in the Apres Ski Lodge bar."