Christmas events in Medway

We have taken the difficult decision not to hold the Rochester Christmas Market, Dickensian Christmas Festival or the Christmas light switch on events this year due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Our priority is to make sure you are safe. Due to the popularity of these events it would be not be possible to put into place the government’s current social distancing guidelines.

See below for more Christmas ideas including gifts, festive lights and Christmas opening times.

Christmas in Medway logo. Text with dark blue background and silver star.

A Message from Cllr Alan Jarrett, leader of Medway Council

“Although we understand that this news may be disappointing, the health and wellbeing of our residents, visitors and staff is our highest priority. We must do all we can to ensure our coronavirus rate remains low. An awful lot of time and planning goes into organising our Christmas events and, as we do not know what the government advice will be on mass gatherings in November and December, we have made the difficult decision not to hold them this year.

"We have all been affected by the ongoing pandemic and it has been truly heart-warming to see our residents coming together to help each other in these challenging times. We must all continue to play our part and stop the virus from spreading.

"Even though the usual festivities will not be held, I would encourage residents to continue supporting our town centres and helping Medway’s economy grow once again. It’s really important we get behind local businesses and shop in Medway.

"To paraphrase Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, we will honour Christmas in all our hearts, and try to keep it all the year.”

Council Leader, Alan Jarrett

Christmas ideas

Christmas shopping

Carry out your Christmas shopping on Medway’s high streets this year. Local businesses need your support more than ever – from boutiques along Rochester High Street and Strood to family owned businesses in Chatham, Gillingham and Rainham, find the perfect gift on your doorstep.

There will be free parking in council owned car parks between Thursday 17 December and Sunday 20 December, making shopping even easier.

Even though we will not be holding our usual light switch on events this year, it will begin to look a lot like Christmas in November when the lights are switched on for residents to enjoy when they visit our town centres.

Christmas shopping

Festive lights

Our light switch ons are not quite the same this year. However, our teams have been working as hard as ever to ensure our towns are full of festive cheer.

Our festive lights will be on display across Medway for all visitors and residents to enjoy.

Make sure you follow our Christmas in Medway Facebook pages to see what they’ve been up to.

Festive lights

Rochester Art Gallery

'The Last Dream of My Soul': The Dickens 150 Print Open Call Exhibition - to be confirmed

This long-awaited exhibition of printmaking explores death in Dickens life and novels, and the writer’s long association with Medway. Visitors can expect a gothic treat, perfect for those who enjoy a Dickensian ghost story at Christmas. The show also delves into the Victorian obsession with mourning and explores ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood', Dickens's dark unfinished novel set in a fictional Rochester.

The exhibition brings together 100 contemporary prints made by 50 artists especially for the show, displayed alongside seldom seen Victorian funerary treasures kindly loaned from the Rochester Guildhall Museum collection.

Category winners and the cover designs for a free commemorative Drood book, re-issued to accompany the exhibition, also feature alongside some original Drood printed illustrations.

Prints will be available for sale.

Rochester art gallery

'The Fine Old Castle' etching by Sharon Pallent.

Sewing: Christmas stocking project

Join Medway Adult Education online for this short sewing course where they will cover the planning, laying out, cutting, and making up of a luxury, lined Christmas stocking. This stocking can be personalised, will look fabulous and will grace any mantelpiece with style. It’s an enjoyable make, and you’ll want to go on and make more for all the family.

Date and time: Tuesday 8 December, 2 sessions, at 12:45pm and 6.30pm.

Sewing

The Empty Chair Poetry Trail - to be confirmed

Especially for Dickens 150, we commissioned literary organisation Wordsmithery to create a poetry trail of 10 specially commissioned poems around locations in Rochester, Chatham, Chalk and Cooling, which have links to Dickens. The 10 poets chosen to write new poems, inspired by Dickens were Charlotte Ansell, Barry Fentiman Hall, Maggie Harris, Sarah Hehir, SM Jenkin, Philip Kane, Bill Lewis, Maria C McCarthy, James McKay and Rosemary McLeish.

Find out more about the Empty Chair Poetry Trail.

wordsmithery logo

Medway Theatres - children's activities

We’ve got colouring sheets from various past Brook Christmas shows and we'd love your children to get involved.

Download the colouring sheets:

Share their creations with us on social media

As an alternative to sending Christmas cards this year, why not donate the money you would have spent to the Medway Tree Fund? Your donation will help to improve our local area and support local wildlife.

Tree and woods

Fitness classes: Looking to burn off the Christmas indulgence with some FitSteps? Or perhaps you’re looking for a relaxing start to 2021 with a bit of yoga? We have a range of fitness classes available at our sports centres.

Adult gifts

  • One-month gym pass, giving you access to our gyms at Medway Park, Strood and Hoo Sports Centre. Members will need to book online before they visit.

Children's gifts

  • Rookie Lifeguarding course for children aged 8 plus. This course teaches children how to swim and enjoy water safely, whether in shallow or deeper water.

  • Child membership: Just £12.50 a month for children aged 8 to 15. Giving them full access to all the facilities at our sports centres including gym, swim and racket sports.

View membership types

Sports and yoga

Christmas opening times

The visitor centres at Capstone Country Park and Riverside Country Park are closed from 24 to 26 December 2020.

The car parks are closed on Christmas Day - 25 December 2020

Rochester Visitor Information Centre

  • 24 to 28 December - closed
  • 29 to 31 December - open
  • 1 to 4 January - closed

Reopens on 5 January 2021.

Guildhall Museum

  • 24 to 28 December - closed
  • 29 to 31 December - open
  • 1 to 4 January - closed

Reopens on 5 January 2021.

Eastgate House

  • 24 December to 2 January - closed

Upnor Castle

  • Closed from 23 December until spring 2021
  • 24 to 28 December - closed inclusive
  • 1 January 2021 - closed

For opening times please check the libraries page

Gillingham Market

  • Monday 21 December open from 9am to 4pm
  • Thursday 24 December (additional market) open from 9am to 3pm
  • Saturday 26 December - closed
  • Monday 28 December - closed

Reopens on Saturday 2 January 2021

Rochester Farmers Market

  • Sunday 20 December from 9am to 1pm
  • Sunday 17 January 2021 from 9am to 1pm
  • 23 to 28 December - closed
  • 29 December - 9.30am to 1pm
  • 30 December - closed
  • 31 December - 9.30am to 1pm
  • 1 January - closed
  • Classes finish on 18 December and restart on 4 January 2021
  • The centres will be closed 24 to 28 December inclusive
  • 1 January 2021 - closed

For opening times check the Medway Adult Education

Medway Park

  • Monday 21 December 2020 - 6.30am to 8pm
  • Tuesday 22 December 2020 - 6.30am to 8pm
  • Wednesday 23 December 2020 - 6.30am to 8pm
  • Thursday 24 December 2020 (Christmas Eve) - Closed
  • Friday 25 December 2020 (Christmas Day) - Closed
  • Saturday 26 December 2020 (Boxing Day) - Closed
  • Sunday 27 December 2020 - Closed
  • Monday 28 December 2020 (Christmas Bank Holiday) - Closed
  • Tuesday 29 December 2020 - 6.30am to 8pm
  • Wednesday 30 December 2020 - 6.30am to 8pm
  • Thursday 31 December 2020 - 6.30am to 2pm
  • Friday 1 January 2021 (New Year's Day) - Closed
  • Saturday 2 January 2021 - 7.30am to 6pm
  • Sunday 3 January 2021 - 7.30am to 6pm
  • Monday 4 January 2021 - 6.30am to 9pm

Strood

  • Monday 21 December 2020 - 6.30am to 8pm
  • Tuesday 22 December 2020 - 6.30am to 8pm
  • Wednesday 23 December 2020 - 6.30am to 8pm
  • Thursday 24 December 2020 (Christmas Eve) - Closed
  • Friday 25 December 2020 (Christmas Day) - Closed
  • Saturday 26 December 2020 (Boxing Day) - Closed
  • Sunday 27 December 2020 - Closed
  • Monday 28 December 2020 (Christmas Bank Holiday) - Closed
  • Tuesday 29 December 2020 - Closed
  • Wednesday 30 December 2020 - Closed
  • Thursday 31 December 2020 - 6.30am to 2pm
  • Friday 1 January 2021 (New Year's Day) - Closed
  • Saturday 2 January 2021 - 7.30am to 6pm
  • Sunday 3 January 2021 - 7.30am to 6pm
  • Monday 4 January 2021 - 6.30am to 9pm

Hoo

  • Monday 21 December 2020 - 7.30am to 8pm
  • Tuesday 22 December 2020 - 7.30am to 8pm
  • Wednesday 23 December 2020 - 7.30am to 8pm
  • Thursday 24 December 2020 (Christmas Eve) - Closed
  • Friday 25 December 2020 (Christmas Day) - Closed
  • Saturday 26 December 2020 (Boxing Day) - Closed
  • Sunday 27 December 2020 - Closed
  • Monday 28 December 2020 (Christmas Bank Holiday) - Closed
  • Tuesday 29 December 2020 - 7.30am to 8pm
  • Wednesday 30 December 2020 - 7.30am to 8pm
  • Thursday 31 December 2020 - 7.30am to 2pm
  • Friday 1 January 2021 (New Year's Day) - Closed
  • Saturday 2 January 2021 - 7.30am to 3pm
  • Sunday 3 January 2021 - 7.30am to 3pm
  • Monday 4 January 2021 - 6.30am to 9pm