Seven reasons why York Festival Of Angels must return next year

12 Dec 2014 @ 10.55 am
| Opinion
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Something for all the family… Photograph © Allan Harris on Flickr

This weekend should have been one of the most magical in York’s calendar.

A time when we staged a festive show like no other city. When a few of our old streets twinkled and sparkled with stunning ice sculptures.

Where ‘snow’ was guaranteed, and it wouldn’t turn into slippy slush. Where street artists would entertain the crowds with music or circus skills.

And where warming food and drink was available from stalls staffed by traders who had fully entered into the spirit.

The York Festival Of Angels was a special weekend. And this year it has melted into oblivion, for the sake of a few thousand pounds.

It must return next year. And here’s why.

1. It embodies the true spirit of Christmas

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Photograph © Allan Harris on Flickr
Why was the Festival Of Angels so special? Because, unlike almost anything else staged at this time of year by our city and all others, it wasn’t first and foremost about money.

It was about the real spirit of Christmas: families, togetherness, fun. You could enjoy all of the festival’s marvels without putting your hand in your pocket.

As founder Magdalena Chavez told us, when we first revealed the festival was off:

“The Festival Of Angels brings something wonderful into people’s lives at a time of year when many families are so stressed.

“A wander through the streets without having to dig deep in the pocket for everyone to be enchanted is priceless.”

2. The ice art is unbelievable

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Photographs © Allan Harris on Flickr. Click to see a bigger image

3. It brings the city together

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Photograph © Allan Harris on Flickr
We have been inundated by comments from residents who can’t believe that one of their favourite treats of the year has disappeared.

“I am so disappointed! This festival has always been one of the highlights of the festive season for me and we always invited friends to come and stay for the weekend to come into town to enjoy it with us.”

– Louise Clarke

“What a crying shame! We’ve enjoyed this festival with our children for many years now, it’s always been the start of our Christmas.”

– Sue F

4. And it attracts thousands of visitors

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Stonegate during the York Festival Of Angels 2013. Photograph © Allan Harris on Flickr
In 2013, the Festival Of Angels attracted record numbers. A footfall-counter on Parliament Street was activated 109,316 times during the festival weekend – up 38 per cent on the equivalent weekend in 2012.

Back then, council leader James Alexander said:

“The Festival of Angels wows the crowds and continues to grow, with more streets taking part each year.”

We have been contacted by two travel operators who were planning to bring coaches filled with visitors to the city for the Festival Of Angels.

No one had told them it was off and they only found out via YorkMix. They have now cancelled the trips.

Many others have told us via our comments section that they have cancelled their plans to come here for the weekend…

“I am absolutely devastated that the festival has been cancelled this year. You might think that an overstatement but my family and I have been coming every year for the last few years and it has become a tradition – we know that Christmas is not far away when we have been.”

– Georgina

“We have really enjoyed this in the past and it gave a special reason for visiting York. No plans to come now – we can go to a larger Christmas market closer to home.”

– Deb Hill

“Will not be coming to York to stay now the festival is not going ahead. Will go to Edinburgh instead where the council make more of an effort to encourage visitors.”

– Bill

“Loved coming and always an amazing event. Shame on you York . Missed a trick here. Loads of people come and have a great time and I love meandering round the shops as I go.”

– Sarah Knowlson

“I was travelling over to York especially to see the festival of Angels for the first time and very disappointed its been cancelled. I have now cancelled my trip to York and all of the money I had planned to spend will be going somewhere else!”

– Elle

5. It’s an antidote to festive stress

This is how Festival Of Angels founder Magdelena Chavez puts it, and it is hard to disagree.

“While it would be hard to quantify I can’t help wondering if this magical event might not have saved time and money for police, social services, marriage guidance and countless other agencies that mop up our lives when we get to the point where we just have too many stresses to cope.”

6. We are a ‘city of festivals’

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Much time, money and effort has been expended on establishing York as a year-round “City of Festivals”.

Now one of the best-loved and most popular festivals has been pulled, and with little or no effort to tell anyone.

People are understandably dismayed. How can we turn that around?

By pledging to renew the Festival Of Angels in 2015, with full backing from the council, the new marketing agency Make It York, and the traders.

7. Christmas isn’t the same without it

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Photograph © Allan Harris on Flickr
So come on York – bring back the Angels in 2015!