THE SKIES above Darlington’s town centre will fill with the sounds of Christmas carols this Thursday as the town’s Imperial Quarter is launched.

A festive event will mark the rebranding of the area around Grange Road, where a host of independent traders have banded together to forge a new identity.

The Imperial Quarter will incorporate a number of shops and businesses on Grange Road as well as some around Northumberland Street, Coniscliffe Road, Blackwellgate and the vicinity.

Inspired by the popular Victoria Quarter in Leeds and Manchester’s Northern Quarter, traders are hoping to boost footfall and attract more people to the town centre by establishing a firm identity based around independent businesses supporting each other and creating a community feel around their premises.

Jasmin Robson, the manager of the Hash Bar and Kitchen and the Hatch Luncheonette, is one of the business owners involved.

She said: “It’s all about bringing local businesses together and we’ve been meeting to try and figure out a good way to promote the area and increase footfall for the town as a whole.

“We have a strong network of independent shops around here and sometimes people forget about that, especially when there’s a big focus on the shops that are closing.

“We want to work together to let everyone know we are here and draw people from outside the area in.

“High street chains are good, but sometimes people want more variety or to find something unusual.

“It’s nice to support independent businesses because you know that the money is going back into the town and to employ workers from the town.”

There will be offers at businesses around the Imperial Quarter from 10am on Thursday, November 29, with the launch event promising free gifts, festive food and live performances throughout the day.

Entertainment will largely take place between 3pm and 7pm and will feature street performers and carols sung by the St Augustine’s school choir.

For more information, visit The Imperial Quarter.