VISITORS to Great Malvern are being offered double the seasonal merriment this year.

There will be not one but two Christmas events livening up the town centre and tempting people to come out, have fun and spend some money.

Malvern Town Council invites you to come along and enjoy festive fun and Christmas cheer when Father Christmas visits town on Friday, December 7.

The following week, Friday, December 14, sees the official late-night shopping event, organised in conjunction with Great Malvern Association of Trade.

Father Christmas' enchanted grotto on Belle Vue Terrace (which is behind the new council office) will be the centre of activity for the Malvern Christmas Fair 2001, on Friday, December 7.

For a £2 entry fee, children will receive a gift from Father Christmas, be entertained by Rebecca the Clown, have their faces painted and have the chance to enter our Christmas colouring competition.

Professor Guy Higgins will also be enthralling youngsters with his famous Punch and Judy show, which has been running for over 50 years. A bazaar will also be held in the town council office where a number of charities will be running stalls.

Father Christmas and his helpers will be resident in the grotto from 3.30pm until 8.30pm, taking a short break to switch on the Christmas lights alongside the Malvern mayor, Coun Whinray Coates.

Don't miss Santa arriving on his spectacular sleigh, courtesy of Malvern Lions Club, for the switch-on on Belle Vue Island at 6.30pm.

Church Street and Abbey Road will be filled with street entertainment. Enjoy a ride on the funfair, see the Old Meg Morris Dancers perform, visit the bustling bazaar and see fire juggling and stilt walking in Church Street.

The following Friday, shops in the town centre will be open until 8.30pm to tempt the serious shoppers to come out and spend some money.

Robin Elt of Great Malvern Association of Trade said: "We have been working very closely with Malvern Town Council in organising this year's events.

"The first evening is fun for all the family, the second is for shopping."

TRADERS in Malvern are being urged to get creative and decorate their shop windows for Christmas.

Malvern Town Council is once again holding the annual window dressing competition, which this year has the theme of Christmas Carols.

There will be first, second and third prizes for the best festive windows in each of three areas: Great Malvern, Malvern Link and Barnards Green. There will also be two overall prizes for the best selling window and the most original window.

The windows will be judged by a panel which includes Malvern mayor, Coun Whinray Coates, and deputy mayor, Coun Frances Victory, plus a representative from the Malvern Art Club.

Judging will take place in the week leading up to the Malvern Christmas Fair on Friday, December 7.

The winners will be announced and prizes presented at the fair. For more details or entry forms, call Linda Stone at Malvern Town Council on 01684 566667.

JBC Malvernian Tours will be running two free bus services to Great Malvern town centre for the Malvern Christmas Fair on Friday, December 7.

The first starts from the Octagon Centre, Poolbrook at 4.30pm. It will also pick up from the shops at Pound Bank (4.34pm), the phone box in Elgar Avenue (4.39pm), the shops in Elgar Avenue (4.42pm), the Madresfield Road/Cotswold Road junction (4.46pm) and Great Malvern railway station (4.53pm). It makes the return journey departing from Graham Road, outside the library, at 9pm.

The second bus leaves Gloucester Road, Malvern Link, at 4.34pm. It also picks up at the Duke of Edinburgh Way/Queen Elizabeth Road junction (4.38pm), the bottom of Church Road (4.40pm), The Anchor in Upper Howsell Road (4.43pm), the Michael Crescent bus stop in Tan House Lane (4.47pm) and the bus stop by the Church of the Ascension (4.51pm). It returns from outside Brays, Worcester Road, at 9pm.

THE following roads will be closed for the Malvern Christmas Fair on Friday, December 7:

n Abbey Road from its junction with Church Street from 10.30am until 10pm;

n Church Street from its junction with the A449 to its junction with Graham Road and Grange Road from noon until 10pm.