Belfast Telegraph

Santa Street amazes at Belfast Odyssey's W5 science and discovery centre

Libby Fennell (9) explores Santa Street.
Libby Fennell (9) explores Santa Street.
Libby Fennell (9) explores Santa Street.

The sights, sounds and smells of Christmas has come to Belfast's Odyssey complex.

This Christmas, the AMAZE experience at W5 has been transformed into Santa Street – an enchanting, gaslit lane full of vintage make believe shops with wondrous Christmas window displays.

The atmospheric streetscape has a Dickensian feel to it with a range of window displays. Some depict Santa's workshop, a bakery complete with the actual scent of Christmas baking, a post office with all the letters to Santa, an animated stained glass window, a bookshop with a model of the ship from Peter Pan and a book that magically writes the classic work of JM Barrie.

There's even a chance to glimpse the fabled "nice" list.

W5, Northern Ireland’s Science and Discovery Centre, is continuing to develop new content for its AMAZE exhibition space. Santa Street is the most ambitious project to date recreating a realistic street and using state-of-the-art technology to combine soundscapes, multi-screen projections and augmented reality portals.

Adrian Lutton, W5’s head of exhibitions and design has dreamt for years of creating an incredible built set that re-imagines the Christmases of yesteryear and the wonderfully festive shop windows that used to adorn every town and city.

“We always wanted to do something special for Christmas using the best set designers and animators to celebrate the time when shops created fabulous windows.

"With AMAZE we have been able to make physical sets and build the tech into it to recreate a bygone era with a timeless feel where every shop tells a different story,” he said.

At the end of Santa Street, visitors walk through a fireplace to find themselves, like the Darling family in Peter Pan, perched high above the roof tops and chimney pots, with swirling snow and chill wind and a birds-eye view of Santa and his sleigh flying across the sky.

Waiting at the end of Santa Street will be the ‘Jolly Old Elf’ himself where children can say hello and pose for a photo.

There are lots of other great festive treats on offer at W5 including:

  • Winter Freeze in the Lecture Theatre: a series of scientific demonstrations exploring incredibly low temperatures.
  • Climbit at Christmas: the iconic climbing exhibition will come to life with dancing northern lights, projected snowflakes and an enchanting icy glow.
  • Floor shows: the centre will have a holiday twist with the Science Mysteries of Christmas (how does Santa get around the world so quickly?) and Merry Sniffmas, a chance to test your sense of smell with a series of seasonal scents.
  • Drop in sessions of Christmas origami, chromatography and Santa circuits.

AMAZE was supported by the Inspiring Science Fund, a scheme co-founded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and Wellcome.

Additional support came from the Odyssey Trust, and Tourism NI, which provided £400k from its Immersive Technology Fund. The investment supplements the planned £4.5m investment in W5 to create eight brand new themed zones, scheduled to be completed by June 2020. £3m funding was awarded through the Inspiring Science Fund and a further £1.5m invested by the Odyssey Trust.

'Santa Street' and 'Meet Santa' are two separate experiences and free with admission to W5. Both events are not bookable, however W5 recommends that the public pre-book a visit to W5.

The Christmas experiences are running on on Thursday December 5 to Sunday 8 and daily from Thursday 12 to Monday 23 December.

To find out more visit https://w5online.co.uk/whats-on/santa-street

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