Countdown continues to Christmas festival in Dumfries

With only a matter of weeks until Dumfries Town Centre heralds the start of the festive season with a spectacular Christmas Festival and Lights Switch On, The Guild Dumfries have been beavering away creating a winter wonderland of delights.

Taking the lead in this year’s festivities and working in partnership with Dumfries and Galloway Council, The Guild Dumfries directors Leah Halliday, Kirsten Scott and Natalie Farrell have been working around the clock to bring together a programme of entertainment, performance, music, workshops and activities plus their hugely popular Makers Market.

Kirsten said: “Feedback from last year’s event told us that people wanted a traditional feel to the Lights Switch On with requests for mulled wine, hot chocolate and roasted chestnuts, for example. By working with a number of pubs and town centre businesses we’ve been able to make this wish a reality and we’ll be directing people to the places where these treats will be available.

“This year’s Christmas Festival will be a real community affair. We had an incredible response to our call out for local musicians, bands, performers and dancers. Together with Sandy Sweetman of SW Audio, we have put together a super lineup of entertainers who will perform from 12pm – 6pm on Sunday 1st December at The Midsteeple Plainstanes. We also have over 35 talented makers, creatives and producers from our region and beyond taking part in this year’s Makers Market, almost double the size of last year. You’re sure to find the perfect handmade Christmas gift for someone special.”

The Guild Dumfries are also looking for preloved book donations for their Santa’s Grotto. With a strong ethos of reducing waste, sustainability and promoting a circular economy, combined with the fact that Dumfries is the home of the National Centre for Children’s Literature at Moat Brae, they feel it makes sense to encourage recycling and reading from an early age, and that Dumfries should champion this.

Kirsten added: “We are looking for donations of good condition, preloved childrens books. Santa will then distribute these from his grotto on the High Street. If your child has outgrown a much loved story and you’d like to pass it on, there will be collection points at Boots the Chemist, Tesco Metro, Morrisons and of course, Moat Brae. It would be super if these could be wrapped too please. Any left over will be donated to First Base and Dumfries and Stewartry Women’s Aid.”

But that’s not all! A whole host of family-friendly activities and workshops are planned for the day including a visit from Santa’s Reindeer, carol singing, wander around the town on our Santa Trail, enjoy story telling sessions hosted by Mostly Ghostly and Susi Sweet Pea Fairy, take a trip around town on a magical horse and carriage ride. D-Lux ask you to come and Paint the Toon! Colour in part of a building in the town centre, you can drop in at their digital drawing workshop at The Stove during the afternoon. Then watch as the results are projected onto a building after dark. There’s something to encourage everyone to come and join in and head to town to make this year’s Christmas Lights Switch On, a day to remember.

Leah said: “We hope that the community will come out in force and support all the local talent taking part in this event, but we also want to encourage people to explore our town and visit all the wonderful shops, cafes and restaurants that will be open on the day. We would like as many businesses as possible to take part in our Santa Trail. To take part we would like them to display a letter which, once all are collected, will spell out a Christmas anagram.

“We will invite the community to buy a map showing all the participating businesses and collect a note of the corresponding letters. Correct entries will then be entered into a spectacular prize draw and the winners will be announced live on stage after the Christmas Lights Switch On. We will be asking for donations of prizes from the Makers Market stallholders and from town centre businesses, sponsorship to pay for printing and volunteers to help with organising. All money raised will be used to kickstart a Christmas Lights Festival Fund to help pay for next year’s event.”

An event of this size relies heavily on the time and effort of volunteers. With so much to do, from painting Santa’s grotto, making decorations and signposts, erecting and dismantling market stalls and stewarding an audience of around 3000 people, The Guild Dumfries needs your help.

Natalie is coordinating the volunteers and said: “Before joining The Guild I had no idea how much time, thought and energy both Leah and Kirsten put in to every project, working out every detail to ensure that events such as last year’s Christmas Makers Market and the Pop Up Shop in August are something very special (and they do it all unpaid!).

“But…no matter how well it’s planned without help and support from an army of people it’s not going to happen. We have a list of jobs from stewarding to decorating, setting up and breaking down stalls to helping with workshops, we are also in need of an elf or two. Some help is needed on the run up to the festival but a lot of help is needed on the day. If you can spare a few hours, please do get in touch and thank you, it’s very much appreciated. Let’s bring our town together and make it a Christmas to remember.”

If you would like to volunteer to help or wish to find out more about the event, please visit or follow on social media .

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Picture: The Guild (Dumfries) CIC Directors Leah Halliday, Kirsten Scott and Natalie Farrell.