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Edinburgh's Christmas expands to George Street and west end

Organisers say 2016 events will involve the 'biggest, brightest and best' entertainment to date.

By STV News

Published 19 Sep 2016.

A packed programme has been revealed for this year's Christmas celebrations in Edinburgh, which will be expanded to new city centre venues.

The organisers behind Edinburgh's Christmas said the 2016 events would involve the "biggest, brightest and best" entertainment to date.

Familiar attractions in East Princes Street Gardens and St Andrew Square will be complemented by new additions in the west end and George Street from November 18 to January 7.

The Street of Light show, which was attended by a quarter of a million people in its inaugural year in 2015, will be staged on George Street instead of the Royal Mile.

The free event, which features a light show incorporating 60,000 bulbs and music from local choirs and bands, opens on November 20.

Underbelly, which delivers the Christmas festival on behalf of the city council, announced 10,000 free tickets will be given to children for the ice rink which is returning to St Andrew Square.

All schools in Edinburgh will be invited to apply for the tickets under a new sponsorship deal with Standard Life.

Elsewhere, Festival Square off Lothian Road will play host to a new pop-up theatre which will stage West End and Broadway hit Five Guys Named Moe and family show Morgan & West: A (sort of) Christmas Carol Magic Show.

Edinburgh's Christmas has also teamed up with theatres to encourage people along to festive entertainment at the Lyceum, Traverse and Usher Hall.

The Christmas market, family activities and fairground attractions including the big wheel will return to East Princes Street Gardens, while a nativity carol concert will be staged at St Andrew Square on November 27.

This year's Light Night Christmas lights switch-on will take place on November 20, featuring performances by Edinburgh Festival Chorus, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra Junior Chorus and other Edinburgh and Scottish choirs and bands.

Other events include Winter Windows, a creative project stained glass windows designed by pupils at 25 schools in the city.

The best design from each school will be displayed in East Princes Street Gardens throughout the festive period.

Visitors will also have the chance to tour city buildings - including the Chapel of St Albert the Great and BT Murrayfield Stadium - as part of the 24 Doors of Advent event, supported by the Festival of Architecture and Royal Incorporation of Architects Scotland (RIAS).

Charlie Wood and Ed Bartlam, of Edinburgh's Christmas, said: "This is the fourth year of Underbelly producing Edinburgh's Christmas on behalf of the city council and during that time the event itself and the positive impact it has socially on the residents of Edinburgh and economically for the businesses in the city and the city itself have grown substantially."

They said the local residents' 20% discount will continue this year after nearly 100,000 people took up the offer last year.

In total, there were 1.3 million visits to Edinburgh's Christmas events at St Andrew Square and East Princes Street Gardens last year, while people from 50 different countries attended the Street of Light.

Councillor Richard Lewis, Edinburgh's Festivals and Events Champion, said: "The events drew over one million visitors last year and regulars will be delighted to hear festive favourites like Santa's grotto, the big wheel and ice rink will return.

"With such a colourful programme, I'm sure Edinburgh's Christmas will hold on to its reputation as one of the most popular winter celebrations in the UK."

Roddy Smith, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, welcomed the programme announcement.

He said: "It is excellent that the festival is being spread across the city centre with both George Street and the west end at Festival Square becoming new hubs of activity, thus supporting footfall right across our BID area and beyond."

His views were echoed by John Donnelly, chief executive of Marketing Edinburgh, who said footfall, hotel occupancy and retail spending had increased every year since 2012.