Saltwell Park in Gateshead transformed into winter wonderland

A PICTURESQUE park was transformed into a fairytale scene of colour and lights as part of a winter festival.

Katelyn Brewis-Handleigh aged 3 and brother aged Dylan enjoy the Enchanted Parks event

A PICTURESQUE park was transformed into a fairytale scene of colour and lights as part of a winter festival.

For the sixth year running, Saltwell Park in Gateshead will play host to Enchanted Parks, a spellbinding display of art installations and sounds.

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Some 16,500 visitors are expected to explore the park’s magical walkways and 15 installations between now and Sunday – a record number since the event began back in 2007.

And everyone agreed yesterday’s blanket of snow was a spectacular display in itself, turning the entire park into a corner of Narnia.

“We ordered it in especially,” smiled Robin Morley, the producer of Enchanted Parks from Magnetic Entertainments.

“It just spreads magic across the park and turns it into a winter wonderland.

“The event itself is so popular that people start enquiring about buying tickets from September and tell us that their Christmas truly begins after visiting here.

“It takes a full year of planning. We start fundraising and planning for the following year as soon as one ends.”

This year’s theme makes much of its Victorian history with participating artists drawing inspiration from its gothic splendour.

At the Dive in Movie, swan-shaped boats and benches, draped with fairy lights, provided quaint seating for a silent movie by Lines of Desire. And despite the snow-covered seating, dozens of families were happy to sit and watch the short film, shot in and around the park itself.

And children interacted with nature itself at the Hug a Tree display, where throwing your arms around the tall trees turned on hundreds on fairy lights throughout their branches.

Choir Through the Looking Glass, created by Marek Gabrysh, initially had visitors baffled, as a choir of carol singers appeared to be singing in a foreign language behind a see-through screen.

But, as Robin explained: “They are singing carols backwards and recording them as they sing. Afterwards they play the recording the other way around, so it’s recognisable. . . but that’s just the recording of them singing.”

Carol Coxon and her family, of Birtley, Gateshead, found the installation ingenious.

“That is so clever, to be able to sing a Christmas carol backwards – amazing,” said Carol, 54, who works in a jewellery shop and a florists, and went along with her brother John, 41, daughter Hayley, 21, and nephews Christopher and Connor, both two.

“We have never been here before and we’re thoroughly enjoying it.

“It’s been a proper family event and the snow really adds something to it.”

Helen Smith, 45, of Bensham, Gateshead, brought her two sons along and, worried about the snowy conditions, brought their pushchairs. “I needn’t have bothered,” said Helen.

“They have loved running around looking at all the colours and characters. This really is fantastic for children.”

Councillor Linda Green, Gateshead’s cabinet member for culture, added: “Enchanted Parks is extremely popular with families and, for some, Christmas wouldn’t be complete without it.”

Enchanted Parks is open 4.30pm to 8pm nightly until Sunday.

Visit winterfestival or call 0191 433 6965 for ticket details.

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