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santa safari Belfast park to be turned into immersive theatre Christmas wonderland

Organiser Sarah Jane will transform Lady Dixon Park into a magical festive experience

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Santa's Night Safari

Santa's Night Safari

Santa's Night Safari

Sarah Jane Montgomery is taking Santa's Grotto to a new level.

With the festive season bearing down on us, families are looking forward to a proper celebration with all the traditional trimmings they missed out on last year.

But this year comes with a new slant to the annual trip to Santa's grotto.

One of Belfast's best-known parks is going to be transformed into a sparkling winter wonderland where families can embark on a Santa's Night Safari.

From Thursday to Sunday on December 16-19, Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park will be home to an experience that will bring the festive spirit alive through magical exploration.

"It's a bit mad but it's going to be so much fun," event organiser Sarah Jane told the Sunday World.

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The event will offer immersive theatre experiences

The event will offer immersive theatre experiences

The event will offer immersive theatre experiences

"Immersive theatre is fairly common in Britain but not so much in Ireland and I think this is the first time something like this has been tried here."

The park will be transformed by thousands of twinkling lights, and will be divided into different stage areas with artists and performers entertaining visitors.

Areas such as Candy Cane Lane and Magic Meadow promise the ideal Christmas experience.

But central to the whole evening is the Safari, where visitors will be provided with safari hats and a map to explore the park.

Their task will be to track down the Brussels Sprouts, go Quackers with the Christmas ducks, fly away with the Christmas Tree Fairy, dance themselves dizzy with Ginger and Bred the Gingerbread People, and of course find the treasure.

And of course there's always the chance of bumping into Mrs Claus and the main man himself.

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With enchanting light and art displays, festive food and lots of fun surprises it is sure to be a theatre show like no other and get the whole family into the Christmas spirit.

"It's inspired by the Christmas panto and I don't think there has ever been anything on this scale in Northern Ireland before," said Sarah Jane.

"It's really exciting and innovative and it's going to give families a wonderful experience."

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The Christmas wonderland will feature a treasure hunt for kids

The Christmas wonderland will feature a treasure hunt for kids

The Christmas wonderland will feature a treasure hunt for kids

Sarah Jane is co-founder of MayWe, a company set up in 2019 and, despite lockdown, has built a reputation for high-quality arts and cultural events.

The company was the brainchild behind the drive-in cinema in the shadow of the Harland and Wolff cranes which afforded people a much-needed night out when restrictions had kept them behind doors for months. They also organised virtual festivals and musical events.

"I think we're unique in that we work in partnership with the arts and culture community, putting the community up front and centre," she said.

"There are many community groups who do fantastic stuff and we work with them to bring such events as this alive. We want to know what families need, what communities need, and we work with them and make the connections that can make things happen.

"We're proud to continue this with Santa's Night Safari.

"Belfast's vibrant arts sector was hugely impacted in the past 18 months, so we are especially delighted that this event will provide paid employment for so many local arts and event professionals, many of whom have suffered throughout the pandemic, while still offering an exciting new experience so that families and friends can create special memories once again."

Sarah said there is a hunger in the community for such events.

"Of course there is some apprehension but we work very hard to make our events safe because we know the community wants to get out there.

"This is a new brilliant experience for the kids but the beauty of it is so immersive that mums, dads, aunts, uncles, granny and granda can enjoy it just as much.

"And what better time to bring families and community back together than Christmas?"

In total there are 15 'mini-sets' each with a different theme, and each putting on three performances a day with an early relaxed session on Friday, December 17 for those with sensory or additional needs.

Tickets are priced at £16.50 per person (children under two go free) and are available now from maywe.eventbrite.co.uk.

richard.sullivan@sundayworld.com

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