Newport’s Countdown to Christmas will be a virtual event for 2020

It’s often a highlight in the Newport calendar that draws massive crowds but this year’s Christmas lights switch-on will be a bit different.

Newport’s NHS heroes will kick-start Christmas this year when they turn on the city’s festive lights – in a completely virtual programme of events.

The Christmas lights are to be switched on by staff members of the intensive care unit at the Royal Gwent Hospital.

“We wanted to use this virtual event to say thank you to the real heroes of 2020 – our NHS staff,” said Newport Now BID manager Kevin Ward.

“We were honoured when the intensive care team at RGH agreed to do the countdown.”

For safety reasons, the timing and location of the Christmas lights switch-on is not being made public.

However, you’ll be able to join in with the festivities online, as a night of live broadcasts and entertainment is made available on Newport Now’s Facebook page.

Countdown to Christmas is the annual launch of the festive shopping season organised by the Newport Now Business Improvement District (BID) and usually culminates with the switching on of the city centre’s Christmas lights.

In previous years, this has involved day-long stage entertainment, fairground rides, celebrity guests and a spectacular fireworks display.

Countdown to Christmas this year will take the form of a live online show, in partnership with Newport City Council and Newport City Radio.

The live broadcast will be hosted by Radio X presenter Polly James.

Polly will introduce live music from West End star Sophie Evans and Newport City Radio’s musical choice, singer-songwriter Katielou.

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There will be Christmas messages from the Mayor of Newport, Councillor Tom Suller, and Newport County AFC manager Michael Flynn, among others.

“We hope everyone will log on to watch our live Countdown to Christmas show,” said Kevin Ward of Newport BID.

“Covid restrictions mean everything has to be a bit different this year, but in the circumstances we think we’ve come up with the next best thing to our usual event.

“We’re grateful to the council for its continuing support in erecting, powering and maintaining the city centre’s Christmas lights, and we’re pleased to be able to help raise awareness of the fantastic work done by community station Newport City Radio in promoting young artists, particularly during these difficult times for musicians.”

Countdown to Christmas marks the start of the festive shopping season, which will be more important than ever to businesses in Newport city centre.

Mr Ward explained: “Businesses have done all they can to make their premises safe for shoppers and visitors, as our series of #shopsafenewport videos on social media has shown. Now they need your support more than ever before.

“Our independent traders, in particular, have always been there for the people of Newport, and we hope the people of Newport will be there for them this Christmas.”

To watch this year’s Countdown to Christmas, log on to Newport Now’s Facebook page – – from 5.10pm on Thursday, November 12.