Dear mummy, so the clue is in the title and I’m not talking about the shopping centre bit! Festival Place has only been opened for 12 years but already has its heart at the centre of the community. Festival in name and festival in nature, it really is a feast for the eyes! It’s a super modern, bright, clean (its toilets have won awards for best in the country!) family friendly centre, with large break-out areas inside and out. Festival Place is a massive shopping centre and opened on Tuesday, 22 October 2002 in Basingstoke, Hampshire. It is big competition to The Oracle in Reading and West Quay Shopping Centre in Southampton.
It houses over 200 shops including large stores such as Zara, Top Shop, Debenhams, Marks and Spencer, Apple Store and HMV. There are also restaurants like Giraffe and ASK and bars like Lloyd’s No.1 located outside in the covered space next to Festival Square. But it’s not all about the big brands, Festival Place also supports the community by accommodating local talent and businesses in the shops such as All Our Own Work and All Our Own Crafts. It’s renowned for pop-up shops which is great as there always seems to be something new happening at Festival Place every couple of months. The centre also incorporates a massive modern Vue Cinema, Basingstoke Sports Centre, which actually has a large swimming pool built under the shopping centre (cool eh?) and Basingstoke Discovery Centre and Library.
It’s in the town centre and a 3 minute walk from Basingstoke Railway Station through another shopping precinct called The Malls – which hosts the largest Primark store I have ever seen! Festival Place has its own town bus station and a multi-storey car park. There is ample parking locally too with the train car parks, The Anvil theatre car park and the large multi-storey all linked together in one place which is handy. The shopping centre is only a 5 minutes drive off Junction 6 of the M3 and clearly signposted. We’ve never had an issue parking in Basingstoke, compared to the dreaded Oracle car park and the Swan Centre tight spaced multi-storey. Traffic links are good too with at least 2 ways you can enter and exit the car parks. Lifts are speedy and can accommodate wheelchairs and multiple pushchairs which is great. It’s not too expensive to park at Festival Place and its cheaper than The Oracle in Reading.
Festival Place shopping Centre’s claim to fame happened the centre was used by BBC’s Top Gear (Series 12, Episode 6) by Jeremy Clarkson who was road testing a Ford Fiesta in 2008 whilst being chased by “Baddies” in a Chevrolet Corvette. Series 12, Episode 6 (2008)
My mummy says its one of the best episodes ever – Jeremy does a ‘sensible’ road test of a Ford Fiesta, driving it through Festival Place Shopping centre. When it came onto the telly my mummy nearly choked on her tea, spluttering ‘I recognise that place’!! See Festival Place Shopping Centre has a great layout and lots of space, perfect for going shopping in a group or with a family and buggies.
There are lots of benches to sit down on, great if you have weary feet or (as mummy found out) you wear heels to high for a full day of shopping! Dads can escape to the numerous Costa’s and Starbucks, Basingstoke has two of each – now that’s just greedy! But there are also independent quirky coffee shops outside the centre too, like The Tea Bar, greasy spoon cafes and the old family favourites Maccy D’s and Burger King. Festival Place shopping centre also plays host to events like Basingstoke Festival, supporting and promoting fund-raising for charities and community projects. Today we’re here to report on the grand Christmas Light Switch on. Christmas lights… Bah Humbug! you may think. But this year Basingstoke’s Festival Place are doing something on a grander scheme, they have a large stage set up in the square, screaming girls are waiting in the rain for X-Factor’s Concept (such dedication) we are rightly informed that some of the band even work in Festival Place shopping center too! What a claim to fame, if they make it as big as One Direction can we put up a plaque outside?
We’ve spent the whole afternoon in a Festival Place visiting our local haunts, Costa, GAP, French Connection and some new independent art stores such as All Our Own Crafts (see my review here) and All Our Own Work (see my review here). It shows the diversity of Festival Place shopping centre. I lovely modern shopping centre filled with major brands and local talent. We’re so lucky to have such a fabulous and hidden treasure on our doorstep.
See, Festival Place is challenging other major shopping centres in Hampshire as the number one destination for families. It’s not all about the shopping, did you know that Festival Place has a Sports Centre and that the swimming pool actually goes underneath the centre….wowwee mummy very James Bond! The Sports Centre has a great gym, courts and classes. Festival Place is connected to the older part of Basingstoke at the Top of Town which is filled full of ‘hunter-gather type’ quirky charity & vintage shops and the YMCA emporium is great. Behind Church Street is a great little antiques store called ‘The Squirrel Collectors Centre’ in Joices Yard.
There are also loads of Hairdressers and beauty salons. Festival Place is our nearest shopping centre, it’s provided me with clothes from Mamas & Papas and H&M kids, Daddy with endless joy from Ann Summers *cough* I mean GAME and Mummy the much deserved escapism at the Clinique counter in Debenhams and rifling through books at Waterstones. Talking of Waterstones did you know that Sir David Attenborough is at Waterstones Basingstoke on Thursday 27th November at 12:30pm, signing copies of his new book? Wow, all the stars head to Festival Place. Stars is something we’ve come to see tonight, in the form of the unlit Christmas decorations hanging from the glass ceilings in Festival Place, they are twinkling in the dull LED lights and will hopefully be brought to life when Keith Chegwin hits that giant button, flooding light into Basingstoke. Commuters and office workers are filling the square in the restaurants, drinking and eating. Parents with school children are being tugged. Giggling teenagers are hanging on to the crowd barriers desperate to see X-Factor’s Concept.
The place is filled with activity. The drizzle has not dampen spirits, it’s really busy here! Woweee mummy, security have done a really good job, we navigate the crowd barriers and find a good viewing platform in the Festival Place’s large square. The stage screen illuminates the square with a hazy light there are 5 microphones set up in the line and we are waiting for Concept. First on are Basingstoke Rock Choir signing their hearts out and they are really good 🙂 Next are local duo Common Ground with some slapstick comedy acts thrown in for good measure. It keeps the crowd buzzing for half an hour, the rain has stopped and people are bopping away.
The square is filled with young families, small children on parents shoulders with large wooly hats and glow sticks frantically waving them around and hitting them over the heads. The police have a strong presence and are helpfully directing visitors to spaces in the square, everyone seems to have a smile on their face and the party atmosphere is in full swing. I think a lot of people are here to see Concept and the free firework display which is very generous of Festival Place to put on. We’ve been informed that the entertainment continues on till 9:30pm which is way past my bedtime! It’s 6.30pm and the music is loud and fun, and people going out for the evening have now joined the crowds. Party reveallers in their fancy frocks and high heels, tottering on the cobbled pathways through the crowds of spectators, you wouldnt believe it was winter time looking at some of the short skirts 😉 We find a quiet place to sit in Pizza Express in the sqaure, inside children are dressed up for kids parties and it feels like a celebration.
My mummy has a quick coffee then heads back outside for the Christmas Light Count Down, after a quick stall from Keith Chegwin and some silly antics, it starts here’s my mummy’s video below! Apologies for the camera angle, my mummy’s a bit rubbish at filming…..shhhh don’t tell her I said that!
The lights are so pretty and are some of the best we’ve seen (trust us I’ve been hauled around West Quay in Southampton and The Swan Centre in Eastleigh) and they aren’t a patch on these beautiful twinkling fairy lights and giant balls! What follows next is a dazzling firework display which has people cranking their necks, wide-mouthed in awe. It’s a funny sight seeing everyone gawping at the sky. After the fireworks have finished the surrounding restaurants fill up with hungry families and the music continues, Concept are really good singing live. For me it’s home to bed, but not before I passed the friendly clown and his plate spinning on the way to the car park. A great and fun-filled day at Festival Place Shopping Centre and for once it wasn’t all about the shopping! Keep an eye out for what cool events they are hosting – it’s Black Friday next week and if you are visiting the centre you are sure to pick up some massive savings! Here’s a brief snippet of stuff Festival Place are hosting 🙂
- Sunday 30th November – Annual Santa Parade
- Throughout November & December – Christmas Crafts At The Discovery Centre
- From 9th December – Gift Wrapping
- From 11th December – Cinderella At The Anvil
We can’t wait to see Santa at his Grotto and ride the choo choo train! Love Bella and her mummy. x