A dazzling array of Christmas lights will lead visitors around an Aberdeen much changed by the pandemic this festive season.
With the annual Christmas village shelved in line with coronavirus guidance on large gatherings, a trail has been mapped through its heart in a bid to help the city’s economy through the winter.
The pandemic has already forced the cancellation of crowd-pleasing favourites including the Bonfire Night fireworks display and the Christmas light switch-on parade.
But it is hoped a trail leading from Guild Street to George Street and the West End will bring increased numbers of people through the doors of struggling city businesses.
The council’s city growth and resources committee will be asked to approve the revised winter event schedule on Wednesday, making use of around £90,000 of the £150,000 set aside to fund the usual festivities.
Eye-catching highlights would include a ceiling of Christmas lights under the bridge in Correction Wynd and a 15ft-tall arched lighting feature in Broad Street, accompanied by 10ft light-up Santa outside Marischal College and spotlights showing off the Green’s NuArt murals.
New pole-mounted lights would be erected in Guild Street, near Union Square, on the pedestrianised stretch of George Street and around the streets of the West End.
Several large Christmas trees would be installed around the city, including in the Green, Broad Street next to Marischal College, St Nicholas Street and in the recently pedestrianised part of Union Street.
Council officials believe the features will “complement” the controversial physical distancing Spaces For People works around the city.
Despite the cancellation of the switch-on parade and Christmas village, the Union Street lights, Castlegate Christmas tree, St Nicholas Kirkyard nativity scene and 12 days of Christmas sculpture trail will be installed as normal.
If signed-off , the new pole-mounted lights bound for George Street, the West End and Guild Street would be bought, meaning they would be added to the current festive lighting offering in the city, all of which will be put to use this year.
Parts of the festive celebrations put on by the council could also be moved online, officers have revealed.
Committee convener, council co-leader Douglas Lumsden, said: “The key thing for us is the message ‘Christmas is not cancelled’, even though the market isn’t taking place.
“It will still be a time to try and celebrate as best we can.
“This light trail is to try to encourage people into the city centre to help businesses through what is a really difficult time for them.”
Planners looked at continuing the local traders’ market in the Marischal Quad, as has been hosted in recent years alongside the Christmas village.
But their investigations revealed it would only be able to open over eight weekend days this year at the historic venue, due to existing safety measures enforced at the council’s nearby customer service centre in Marischal College.
The Bon Accord shopping centre has already announced it will play host to local traders as an indoor replacement for the Quad, while the Haan pop-up design will be hosted at the art gallery between November 27 and 29.
Further moves to bolster visitor numbers through the winter will begin early next month, as the council backs the expansion of the popular Aberdeen restaurant week to areas outside of the business improvement district area for the first time.
The council is paying £9,000 to fund the roll-out to other neighbourhoods, including Rosemount, Bieldside, Cove and Dyce.
Plans are also being drawn up for an ‘Aberdeen gift card’ – a scheme devised by Aberdeen Inspired and Aberdeen Hospitality Together – for preloaded gift cards which can be used at participating shops, restaurants, venues and attractions.