On November 16, Aberdeen Christmas Village will burst into vibrant, colourful, joyous life, becoming the big, beating, festive heart of the Granite City.
For the next six weeks, its glittering attractions – from the debut of a spectacular big wheel, to the return of the much-loved open-air skating rink – will make Broad Street the epicentre of one of the biggest Christmas celebrations in Scotland at what really is the most wonderful time of year.
I firmly believe the essence of the Christmas spirit is encapsulated by the village and market: fun, family, celebration, caring, joy and giving. And I am proud that Aberdeen Inspired is involved in all the hard work, planning and effort that makes this glittering celebration a reality, working alongside our partners Aberdeen City Council, Codona’s and the Charlie House charity.
Our reward is to see the smiling faces of those taking in the festive atmosphere while enjoying all the food and drink on offer, the laughter of kids skating on the ice – even the shrieks from thrill-seekers braving some of the more daring rides.
Away from the hustle and bustle of Broad Street, there will be the relaxed atmosphere of the Curated in the Quad festive market, which Aberdeen Inspired is organising with Charlie House to boost the charity.
Far from being a homogenised affair of traders you could find at any Christmas market in any city, this is a showcase for more than 50 local, small, independent producers and creatives, offering unique goods and perfect gifts you won’t find anywhere else.
It’s about much more than just the festive season
Sitting behind all the festive fun, though, is a more serious intent – the ongoing drive to regenerate our city centre by bringing in as many people as possible to enjoy all the great, and often overlooked, attractions Aberdeen has to offer.
I know thousands of people will visit the village and market. They will come from across the city, and the north-east. They will come also from further afield, as Aberdeen offers one of the stand-out Christmas celebrations in the country.
Those thousands flocking to Broad Street will linger and venture further into the city. They will discover – or rediscover – how much there is to see and do; how many fantastic shops we have, how great our restaurants are, how friendly and welcoming our bars and restaurants are.
While the village and market are in full swing, Aberdeen will host not one but three brilliant pantos at His Majesty’s, Aberdeen Arts Centre and The Tivoli – a good reason to make a day and night of it and stay in one of the city’s quality hotels.
That increased footfall, that increased spending, that increased profile can only be a major economic boost for our city centre and the many retailers and businesses who are slowly but surely finding their way back to better times after the dark days of pandemic.
Those thousands coming to enjoy – and boost – our city centre will, I am sure, find enough here to make them want to come back again and again, all through the year, and help that upward trajectory towards a vibrant and living city.
Plenty of evidence to suggest the Christmas Village is a success
There will be cynics who decry all this as overblown, over-optimistic, blinkered hyperbole. Personally, I believe more in the powerful force of being positive than the life-draining burden of pessimism.
Of course, every project and venture can be improved – the Christmas Village and festive market included. Constructive criticism is healthy and to be welcomed. But there is no merit in constant anonymous carping with nothing positive to offer in return.
Already, some have gone online, doomsaying that no one will come into Aberdeen because of the traffic nightmare they claim the Christmas fixtures will bring – on a road already closed to traffic, no less. Sorry to disappoint, but the city is still very much open for business.
The vast majority of businesses and visitors wanted to see the Aberdeen Christmas Village brought back for 2023
Some naysayers have already dismissed the Christmas Village and the market as rubbish – even before the build has finished. I’d rather not look into the crystal ball they are using to see the future, but I will look back at an evaluation of last year’s Christmas Village by Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber Of Commerce.
It found that the vast majority of visitors (88%) rated their experience at the village as excellent or good. It found that most city businesses saw the village as good for their business, and that nine in 10 believed the village helps boost the city centre.
It found that the vast majority of businesses and visitors wanted to see the Aberdeen Christmas Village brought back for 2023. So, we have brought it back – and we’re proud to do so.
On Thursday, all the heavy lifting to create the Aberdeen Christmas Village and Curated in the Quad will be done.
It is then over to you to go along, embrace it, enjoy all the fun and joy it has to offer. Take delight – and pride – in the city centre, and share our faith in its future.
Above all else, have a merry Christmas.
Adrian Watson is CEO of Aberdeen Inspired