No Christmas lights switch-on in Manchester city centre this year as council says there’s no suitable location

The local authority says the amount of construction work at key locations across the city centre means the popular event cannot go ahead.

There will be no Christmas lights switch-on in Manchester city centre this year, the council has confirmed.

The local authority said the amount of construction work taking place at landmark locations across the city centre means there is nowhere suitable for thousands of people to come together to enjoy the traditional start to the festive season.

A councillor said he was well aware that this would be disappointing news to the many families and individuals who head into the town centre to see the Christmas lights display turned on and that the council was equally downhearted that it was not going ahead.

Manchester City Council, though, said plans are already being made for 2023 to ensure a switch-on event takes place ahead of what it says will be a festive season to remember in 2024.

However, the lights switch-on is the second big event to be canned in recent weeks after the town hall announced that it would not be organising bonfires in the parks this year for a variety of reasons including the cost of living crisis. And people who enjoy the lights switch-on have been waiting a couple of years for the event’s return as it did not take place during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Why is there no Christmas lights switch-on taking place in Manchester this year?

The council says local authority bosses have spent several weeks searching for a suitable location to hold the event which has previously attracted thousands of people into the city centre to help kickstart the Christmas season.

A site was needed that would be big enough to accommodate the crowds and safe enough to hold the event, while also having sightlines good enough for families and children.

A previous Christmas lights switch on in Manchester Credit: Shutterstock

However, in the end the local authority has had to admit it cannot find a suitable location due to the amount of building work taking place around the city centre and axed the event. Sites considered and ruled out include Albert Square, Deansgate, Piccadilly Gardens and St Peter’s Square, the council has said.

Despite the disappointment, though, the council says plans are already under way to bring the switch-on back in 2023. And it says it is preparing for a spectacular celebration in 2024 with the event back in Albert Square in front of the magnificent town hall following the renovation work currently going on there.

Is anything happening to celebrate Christmas in the city centre this year?

Although there won’t be a big switch-on event this year, the council says Manchester city centre will still be decked out in its sparkly Christmas best with street lights, lights in trees and light installations throughout the city centre from Thursday 10 November when the Christmas Markets open.

The exception to this is St Peter’s Square, which will not be decorated for Christmas until the week beginning Monday 15 November as it will be hosting Remembrance Sunday events on Sunday 14 November. St Peters Square will have the return of Father Christmas once it does get into the festive spirit. Santa Claus will once again be taking up residence in front of the Central Library for the duration of the festive season.

What has been said about the cancellation of the lights switch-on?

Coun Pat Karney, Christmas spokesperson for Manchester City Council, said: “We’ve tried really hard to make a big Christmas lights switch-on event happen again this year after not being able to have one for the last couple of years, but despite our very best efforts this just isn’t going to be possible.

“Anyone who has been in the city centre recently can’t fail to have noticed all the development work going on to make Manchester even better than it already is, and as great as this is it does mean we’ve not got the space needed to safely manage a big switch-on event this year. The ongoing work to renovate the Town Hall rules out Albert Square, as does ongoing demolition and construction work at the end of Deansgate.

“Piccadilly Gardens unfortunately isn’t suitable in its current formation for a switch-on event, and after having a good look at safety and sightline issues we’ve also had to rule out St Peter’s Square as a site that is just too complex to manage to ensure a successful event that could be enjoyed by the thousands of people, including young children, who usually attend. We’re very well aware how much families enjoy the switch-on and what it means to them and are gutted that we can’t deliver an event this year for them.

“We will, however, definitely be back with a big switch-on event next year for them, followed by Manchester’s best ever Christmas switch-on event the year after that in 2024 when our wonderful Town Hall and Albert Square will be back in use again.

“In the meantime we’ve pulled out all the stops and have got some extra special Manchester Christmas magic in store this year to bring a sparkle to the city’s streets and put a smile on everyone’s faces. Watch this space for more announcements very soon on some absolutely not-to-be-missed free festive treats coming to Manchester this Christmas.”