Winter Wonderland is coming to Colchester!

Winter Wonderland & Ice Skating LogoAfter months of hard work behind the scenes by the organisers to meet the long list of requirements to put on a major public event in the grounds of an historic monument, last Thursday Colchester Council finally gave the green light for Colchester’s first ever Winter Wonderland in Castle Park, complete with an ice skating rink. Ben Payne of Illuminate Design, the man with the vision to create this amazing event, and who was also behind the giant television screen in the park during the Wimbledon fortnight, tells us about what we can expect at Winter Wonderland & Ice Skating.

So the day that we have been working to finally arrived on Thursday 30th July when we gained planning permission for the Winter Wonderland & Ice Rink. This was a day that, at times, we never thought would come, but after what seemed like months and months of hard work it did!!

So what can you expect when you come to Winter Wonderland & Ice Rink? Well quality, and we hope a fantastic few hours on the site.

It’s important to us that everyone has a good time and feels that everything is great value for money. Every year somewhere there is a story about of some park or event where the entry is £20, the Santa’s just out of school and the paint’s still wet. This won’t be the case in Colchester.

The people behind this project have worked in the theatre and entertainment market for years, we know what’s needed, how to deliver it on time, and ensure that you have the best time possible.

We’re not in to make a “quick buck” we’re here to put on an event that does Colchester proud and is something that is firstly talked about as THE event to do, and secondly one that can grow from year to year.

Winter Wonderland

Putting on this sort of event isn’t cheap at all. By the time the last person leaves the site at the end of January after everything’s been packed up it’s likely to have cost in excess of ¼ million pounds just to run the event. We have to provide the ice rink, the staff, 24/7 day a week security, huts and outlets for all the food, catering and winter market, provide protective matting for the ground around the castle, diesel for the generators – the list goes on.

There are many revenue streams to the site, but sadly one of these has to be the tickets! We would love to provide the skating for £3 a time but by the time you have taken VAT of 20% off the ticket, then additional things like credit card fees and ticketing charges, we would need to get about 90,000 people skating – that’s nearly ¾ of Colchester’s population which just isn’t going to happen!!

We’ve tried to strike that difficult balance that we know it’s an expensive time of the year, but we’re needing to cover the cost’s to put on the event!

So what is going to be on the site?

Well the main feature is the 20m x 25m real ice, ice rink. We’ve been asked on lots of occasions if it’s plastic – no! It’s the proper thing!

There will be a building for you to change your skates and also cloakroom facilities to drop your bags. Next door will be a café serving teas, coffees, sandwiches, cakes.

Winter Wonderland Colchester

Behind the castle there will be a selection of other catering outlets offering a mix of hot food and drinks throughout the day to cater for all your needs. Also behind the castle will be the fun fair. These won’t be fast moving “thrill rides” but more your traditional fun fair carousel, helta skelta, and other small rides.


Winter Wonderland

On the other side of the site will be 25 winter market huts selling a mix of local produce, toys and other quality items.

There are also a couple of other items we still have to announce – but rest assured it’s all going to add to the environment and enjoyment of the Christmas period.

Entrance to the site is totally free. So you can come in, watch people skate (or slide) around the rink, look at the produce in the market and walk away not having spent a single penny. We of course hope that you’ll join in the fun by skating or going on a ride – but if not just enjoy the atmosphere!

We’re expecting the event to cater for all ages. Be it the primary school that wants to do something for an end of term treat, or the office party that wants to come and enjoy skating before heading off for a meal in town, through to the family taking the kids skating. It’s there for all the people of Colchester and the surrounding area to enjoy!

There are still plenty of ways you could be involved (apart from buying tickets!) We still have some fantastic commercial sponsorship opportunities available, you have until the 31st August to apply for a market stall, and in October we’ll be looking for choirs and musicians to come and sing on our stage at weekends and some selected evenings. We want this event to bring together all aspects and walks of Colchester life to one big Christmas celebration.

ice rink

We hope that you’ve enjoyed this insight into the Winter Wonderland & Ice Rink. You can find out more about things like opening times, and prices, on our website which also contains a booking link for tickets. If you would rather pick up your tickets in person you can do this by contacting the Mercury Theatre direct.

The whole event opens on the morning of 27th November at 10am. We hope between then and 9pm on the 3rd January we’ll be able to give you a warm welcome at the Winter Wonderland & Ice Rink.

Ben Payne





Ben Payne