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Christmas is coming and here are the top spots in Bury St Edmunds and Ely to find that festive sparkle

’Tis (nearly) the season to be jolly and what better way to get in the festive spirit than to pop along to the Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre and other seasonal celebrations

As the nights draw in and the temperatures drop to a wintry chill, we always have Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre to look forward to.

Guaranteed to put us in the festive spirit, the fayre promises barrel loads of entertainment over four days, starting on November 22 and ending on November 25.

With more than 300 stalls spread throughout the town selling local produce and crafts, plus traders from around the country and Europe, two stages providing a range of entertainment, cookery demonstrations, fair rides, food and drink. . . there’s something for all the family to enjoy.

Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre 2017 Pictured: Angel Hill PICTURE: Mecha Morton (5022107)
Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre 2017 Pictured: Angel Hill PICTURE: Mecha Morton (5022107)

New for 2018, there will be an Elves Wonderland, donkeys and live music in St John’s Street as independent traders organise a three-day festival from the Friday to the Sunday complete with street food, mulled wine and gin.

Also new are toy-making workshops for children at The Guildhall – one of the town’s oldest buildings and its latest visitor attraction – on the Saturday and Sunday.

The fayre kicks off on Thursday, November 22 with schoolchildren leading a penguin puppet parade leaving the Arc at 5.30pm, followed by a spectacular fireworks display in the Abbey Gardens at 7.45pm.

Over the following three days be entertained by choirs, bands, dancers and street performers. Get inspiration from award-winning chefs demonstrating their skills at the ICE Cookery Theatre in St Edmundsbury Cathedral Courtyard, where there will be stalls selling everything from fruit gin and local honey, to sauces and Christmas puds.

Pop into The Apex and browse traditional and contemporary crafts, visit The Athenaeum where you may pick up some handmade gifts from stallholders many of whom will be dressed in period costume, or simply wander the town’s medieval streets – including Hatter Streer, Whiting Street and Langton Place – to come across yet more goodies.

And no Christmas fayre would be complete without a visit from the ebullient man in red himself. Santa and his reindeer will be in his grotto and there will be a postbox for children to post their letters to him – and all will receive a reply.

Thursday, November 22 noon-8pm

Friday, November 23 9am-8pm

Saturday, November 24 9am-8pm

Sunday, November 25 10am-5pm


Let there be Christmas lights

A packed programme of street and stage entertainment and festive fundraising stalls for charities is promised at this year’s Christmas Lights Switch-on in Bury St Edmunds on November 15.

The highlight of the evening will be at 7pm when the inspirational Dr Liz O’Riordan flicks the switch to light up the town.

Dr O’Riordan, a breast cancer surgeon, has twice fought the disease herself and last month published a book about breast cancer and how to feel empowered and take control using her knowledge as both a patient and doctor.

While she’s a surgeon at Ipswich Hospital she has close ties to Bury St Edmunds as she was treated at West Suffolk Hospital and previously worked there as a junior doctor. Her husband Dermot is a surgeon there.

Dr O’Riordan, who was recently the subject of a statue displayed in the town’s Abbey Gardens, has hinted that her superhero costume that she wore for her final radiotherapy session could also get another outing for the occasion.

“It will be an honour to switch on the lights and my mum and dad are so proud! I can’t wait to be able to give something back to a community that has helped me without knowing it. I might even turn up dressed as Mrs Incredible,” she said.

Entertainment will continue until 8pm.

Stunning setting for fair

With more than 100 stalls lining the cathedral’s nave, Ely Cathedral’s Christmas Gift and Food Fair promises all the ingredients for a delicious Christmas.

Running from November 15 to 17, you’ll find everything from cute children’s stocking fillers to seriously grown-up gifts.

Nothing could be more Christmassy than the fair’s preview evening on November 14. It’s a chance to soak up the atmosphere of the cathedral after dark, browse the stalls before anyone else, enjoy a glass of mulled wine and listen to the Ely Girls’ Choir carolling. Plus a feast of samples is served in the food hall.

Proof the fair is about far more than shopping, it’s also a chance to take a twirl on a Victorian carousel (which, installed on the cathedral’s green each year, has become a major attraction for all ages) and take a selfie with a reindeer (Prancer and Dasher are appearing, along with their elf handlers, on the Saturday). If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also book a tour of one of the cathedral’s sky-scraping towers.

Stocked by some 30 gourmet producers, from cheesemongers and butchers to chocolatiers and distillers, the food hall will answer all your festive needs, and there’s a whole programme of hands-on craft workshops runs throughout the fair’s three days.

For timings and ticket bookings, visit elycathedral.org