Newport city centre will start the countdown to Christmas this Thursday with music, fun and special guests – but this year’s event will be virtual due to Covid restrictions.
And the city’s NHS heroes will take centre stage.
Countdown to Christmas is the annual launch of the festive shopping season organised by the Newport Now Business Improvement District (BID) and usually culminates with the switching on of the city centre’s Christmas lights.
In previous years, this has involved day-long stage entertainment, fairground rides, celebrity guests and a spectacular fireworks display.
This year will be different to ensure everyone’s health and safety during the Covid pandemic and to comply with a variety of restrictions, not least a ban on the gathering of crowds.
So Countdown to Christmas this year will take the form of a live online show to be broadcast on Newport Now’s Facebook channel, in partnership with Newport City Council and Newport City Radio.
The live broadcast will be hosted by Radio X presenter Polly James.
Polly will introduce live music from West End star Sophie Evans and Newport City Radio’s musical choice, singer-songwriter Katielou.
The show will also feature interviews with Newport City Council leader Councillor Jane Mudd and Newport Now BID chairman Zep Bellavia.
There will be Christmas messages from the Mayor of Newport, Councillor Tom Suller, and Newport County AFC manager Michael Flynn, among others.
And the countdown to Newport’s Christmas lights being switched on will be made by some very special guests – staff members of the intensive care unit at the Royal Gwent Hospital.
Newport Now BID manager Kevin Ward said:
“We hope everyone will log on to watch our live Countdown to Christmas show.
“Covid restrictions mean everything has to be a bit different this year, but in the circumstances we think we’ve come up with the next best thing to our usual event.
“We’re grateful to the council for its continuing support in erecting, powering and maintaining the city centre’s Christmas lights, and we’re pleased to be able to help raise awareness of the fantastic work done by community station Newport City Radio in promoting young artists, particularly during these difficult times for musicians.
“Most of all, we wanted to use this virtual event to say thank you to the real heroes of 2020 – our NHS staff. So we were honoured when the intensive care team at RGH agreed to do the countdown.”
Countdown to Christmas marks the start of the festive shopping season, which will be more important than ever to businesses in Newport city centre.
Mr Ward explained:
“Businesses have done all they can to make their premises safe for shoppers and visitors, as our series of #shopsafenewport videos on social media has shown. Now they need your support more than ever before.
“Our independent traders, in particular, have always been there for the people of Newport, and we hope the people of Newport will be there for them this Christmas.”
To watch this year’s Countdown to Christmas, log on to Newport Now’s Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/NewportBID – from 5.10pm on Thursday.
For safety reasons, the timing and location of the Christmas lights switch-on is not being made public.