Last night, students from Special Educational Needs and Disabilities schools throughout the city were granted an exclusive preview of the Mowbray Park festival before it officially opens to the public tonight.

The invitation-only preview allowed children and their families to enjoy the event at a time when the park is quieter.

They were treated to sparkling new lighting installations throughout the park alongside old favourites.

Cabinet Member for Vibrant City at Sunderland City Council, Councillor John Price, said: “The Festival of Light has long been one of our best loved events.

“This year’s event is even more exciting – with brilliant new lighting installations throughout the park. I think visitors will be especially impressed with the stunning fairy glade with its 2000 shimmering colour changing fibre optic lights, all pulsing in time to the music. That was a huge hit last night.

“It was wonderful to see so many young people at the preview enjoying the new displays and having a fantastic time.

“This year, the festival also has a very different feel, with people able to get up close to the lights and have their photos taken with them, instead of everything being behind a fence.

“We’ve also got some fantastic pop up events and entertainment across the month long festival, with everything from fire shows,  family friendly silent discos and walkabout street theatre to choose from.

“So all in all, I think it’s going to be a brilliant event and I’d encourage anyone who hasn’t already booked their tickets to do so before they sell out.”

New lighting features introduced for 2023, include a stunning light projection onto the rear of Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens by a company whose previous work includes projections onto York Minster, Edinburgh Castle and St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Festival goers can also look forward to live music in the bandstand, ‘Selfie Lane’ with its series of Instagrammable selfie opportunities and a sparkling light tunnel.

A fairy trail which saw its debut in Australia earlier this year will lead visitors through an atmospheric woodland glade full of swaying fibre-optic tufts to an illuminated fairy door transformed into a mesmerising and magical symphony of light and sound, to create a colour-changing immersive experience.

Mowbray Park Festival of Light 2023: Unveiling the New Illuminations
The magical fairy glade at this year’s Festival of Light in Sunderland’s Mowbray Park

The Festival of Light runs from 4pm – 9pm every Thursday to Sunday until Saturday 11 November and every day over half term week, from 23 – 27 October.

A wrap-around programme featuring a mix of pop up events and entertainment will make this year’s Festival of Light extra special, with different events to choose from on different days.

A ‘quiet hour’ between 4pm-5pm is also available to book on selected dates for visitors looking for a quieter or calmer experience. During this time, music in the park will be turned down and performances and street theatre will be limited. 

Visitors are advised that all tickets must be pre-booked online in advance as there will be no tickets for sale at the event site.

Tickets are £3 per person and discounts are available for groups of three or more, with free entry for children under two.

For more information and to buy tickets for the Festival of Light, visit 

As well as this year’s Festival of Light in Mowbray Park in the city centre, the much-loved Sunderland Illuminations will also once again be lighting up the night sky along the Roker and Seaburn seafront every night until 11 November.

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