Young stars of music, theatre and dance got their moment in the spotlight as a concert showcasing local talent was the highlight of a weekend of Christmas festivities, shopping and crafts at Stretford Mall.
Hundreds of shoppers were full of cheer as they turned out to enjoy the two-day Making of Christmas event at Stretford Mall, which also featured an outdoor Christmas market, craft making, and two free screenings of the classic film, Elf.
The highlight was a crowd pulling family concert including performances from the Ash Dance Company, Stretford Youth Theatre who gave a sneak preview of their upcoming musical Seussical Junior based on the Dr Seuss books, and care leavers from Gorse Hill studios.
The event was opened with a heart-warming performance of Jingle Bells by Children from Fleximinder nursery and after school club, based at Stretford Mall, followed by performances from pupils at St Matthew’s primary school and a choir from the Delamere School who performed in sign language.
Proud mum Charlie Speirs, from Stretford, whose three-year-old son Hank Falconer performed with Fleximinder, said: “It was a great performance, the stage was amazing and the bright lights were fantastic.
“The space outside for the concert was perfect. The kids gave a very physical rendition of Jingle Bells, jumping up and down on the spot. They really put their heart and soul into it!
“It’s the first time my son has been on stage so he was really excited, it was a big deal for them. I feel very proud of the kids and of Fleximinder for taking part. It really brought the community together.
“It really made the children feel part of it. We’re really pleased to have this on our doorstep, the market looked really good and easy to get around and the Mall is looking great. The kids love the Christmas lights.”
The concert took place from 4pm on Saturday, on the market plaza outside Stretford Mall’s new main entrance, which was decorated with Christmas lights, leading shoppers inside to the Mall’s big Christmas tree.
The weekend’s festivities were supported by Stretford Mall’s new owners, Bruntwood Works and Trafford Council, also included free forest school craft making, a Wishing Tree where shoppers of all ages could tie their wish for Christmas, and a charity collection box for donations to Stretford Foodbank.
Mumtaz Aslam, from Stretford, whose nine-year-old daughter Hanifah performed with Stretford Children’s Theatre, said: “It was a brilliant performance. It was really good because being part of the community made the concert extra special.
“You know everyone and it’s nice for the children to be a part of it. There was a real festive atmosphere with lots of stalls out.
“Even though it was really cold it just added to the feeling of the event. The Mall have done really well, there is a big change in its appearance now and everyone is having a good time.”
Children also enjoyed two free screenings of the classic festive favourite, Elf in a pop-up cinema specially created for the event.
Many of the Mall’s retailers put on special promotions for the weekend, including Stretford Foodhall, Uplift café and Longford Tap bar, which all opened at Stretford Mall his year.
An Advent trail of elves for children to spot in the mall’s shop window displays was also unveiled, and will remain for the rest of the month, Gareth Wilkins, centre manager at Stretford Mall said: “Our Making of Christmas event was a resounding success with the Stretford community coming out in force to celebrate the start of the Christmas shopping season.
“There was so much to enjoy over the two days and it was fantastic to bring together so many different elements of the local community to showcase the wonderful talents of our young people, along with the brilliant produce that was on offer in our outdoor market.
“We wanted to show that the Mall is a retail centre at the heart of its community and the festive spirit shown by both shoppers and our retailers proved that is exactly the case.
“There was a wonderful atmosphere over the two days and I’m sure that will continue in the run up to the big day.”
Outside, the Christmas market featured a host of local craft makers, including hand blown glass ornaments and handmade Christmas decorations, food and drink stalls.
Market stallholder Nicola Steel, of Niki Steel Glass who create hand blown glass products in St Helens, hailed the event as a huge success.
She said: “It’s my first time at Stretford Mall and it’s gone really well, I’m very chuffed.
“Everyone has been in good spirits despite the cold and with the choir performing in the background it’s been a brilliant atmosphere.
“I’ve been selling glassware including fairy lights and baubles but also products you can use all year around.
“The stall has made money and it’s been a really good crowd. I’ve been amazed by the response.”
There was also a market stall in the Christmas market taking bookings for an Elf Towers experience soon to be launched on the 4th floor of Arndale House, next to Stretford Mall.
Here children will get the chance to be trained as ‘elf apprentices’, learning how to make Christmas decorations using a traditional tools, helping wrap gifts and load Santa’s sleigh ready for Christmas.
Suitable for children aged up to ten years old, The Elf Towers experience lasts around an hour and is priced at £12 per child. Youngsters will be able to take home a decoration they have made. There will also be a pop-up café with a fantastic panoramic view of south Manchester, where families can buy refreshments.
Visit www.elftowers.yapsody.com to book tickets. You can also follow the event on Facebook @elftowersstretford