Controversial Christmas camel parade returns to South Shields
South Shield's ChristmasÂ camel parade will go ahead again this year.
The popular parade will return for the fifth year running on Friday, December 7, with Three Wise Men leading a procession down Ocean Road along to Haven Point, where there will be an assortment of family-friendly entertainment before the event ends with a firework display.
This year’s Christmas timetable includes festive lights switch-on events in South Shields on Thursday, November 22, Jarrow on Friday, November 23, and Hebburn on Monday, November 26.
The annual Christmas Fair will also return to Haven Point on Saturday and Sunday, November 24 and 25.
Other events taking place include the Civic Carol Concert on Monday, December 3, at the Temple Park Centre as well as festive activities at The Word, National Centre of the Written Word, Hebburn Central and town centre entertainment with classic carols and seasonal songs from school choir and bands.
Mayor of South Tyneside, Coun Ken Stephenson said: "Christmas is a very special time of year when families and friends celebrate and have fun. Once again, there is a fantastic line up of events and with so much happening right across the Borough there is something for all ages to enjoy.
"We’ll be encouraging everyone to join in with the festivities and hope everyone has a brilliant time. South Tyneside really is the place to be this Christmas so save the dates in diaries.”
The Camel Parade has been a popular feature of the borough's Christmas programme for several years, but has attracted criticism from animal welfare groups, with South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck backing calls for an end to the use of live animals.
Council bosses have reassured the public that they take the camels' welfare seriously.
The authority says the parade features domesticated camels from a specialist, reputable company with the 'highest standards' in animal welfare and training, which are well looked after by their handlers, who have more than 40 years’ experience and an outstanding track record for events across the country.
On the day of the parade, a vet is engaged to inspect the animals’ welfare. They also remain in the care of their handlers at all times to ensure the safety of both the animals and public.
South Tyneside Council deputy leader Coun Alan Kerr said: "The Camel Parade in itself has grown over the years and still remains one of our most popular events.
"However, we are mindful of concerns raised in the past about involving live animals in our festive events. We want to reassure people that the firm we use has the health and well-being of the animals at their heart – this is something that is extremely important to us.”
Last year’s Camel Parade attracted more than 4,000 people to see drumming group Spark!, the ‘Three Wise Men’ on camels and stilt walking shepherds and bouncing stars, followed by live music and fireworks at South Shields seafront.
The event saw around 6,000 people gathering in the Market Place to help kick-start the town’s festivities.
"We take great pride in our Christmas Wonderland programme and once again our teams will be going all out to make sure this year’s festivities are just as successful," said cCoun Kerr.
"Businesses really need our support too, especially at this time of year, which is why we are working extremely hard with the resources we have to draw more people into the Borough.
"Events like the switch-ons and Camel Parade go a long way to supporting the local economy."
To ensure everything is ship shape for the November lights switch-on events, the Council and its street lighting partners Balfour Beatty are starting their preparation work. The six-week installation programme includes testing, repairing and putting up a number of motifs, displays and garlands and Christmas trees across the Borough.