A Maker’s Christmas – This England

A Maker’s Christmas – This England – Winter 2023

1. Jo and Richie Evans: Figgys Christmas Pudding, Woodbury Salterton, Devon

“We’re surprisingly busy all year round because many independent retailers plan a long way in advance. Some even order in January. Our busiest time is just after Bonfire Night, because that’s when everyone starts thinking seriously about Christmas.”
“We start ordering ingredients in March, especially those in high demand, such as California Raisins. We also buy from several small producers, like the Somerset Cider Brandy company and Hanlons Brewery, so they need to know our quantities well in advance.”
“We love being part of such a joyous time of year and providing such an important part of their Christmas dinner. Customers often tell us lovely stories about the nostalgia our puddings create, reminding them of childhood experiences making Christmas puddings with their grandmother. “
“We started with only a hundred puddings in our first year, in 2007. Everything was done by hand, even grating dozens of apples and carrots with a hand grater. We still make everything ourselves by hand, but we do have one or two mod-cons now, such as a food processor for grating carrots!”
“We always have a quiet Christmas Day at home, but we can’t help imagining the thousands of people tucking into our Christmas puddings, and we always toast their good cheer!”
Website: https://figgys.co.uk/

2. Mark Gateson: Lumalite Christmas Displays, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire

“We are talking Christmas all year around because we deal with commercial and residential clients. Our first site visits are normally in February for larger schemes.”
“Ironically, December is our quietest month because most decorations are up. Our busiest months are September through to November.”
“We make so many Christmas lights in a year there are too many to count. But in 2022, we imported a record amount of lights and still we ran out because you can never quite guess which type of Christmas lights people will want.”
“Installing Christmas lights can be complicated by height and/or location. Our most challenging installation last year was on a boat. We had to contend with the variation between high and low tide, and also some of our installers were sea sick!”
“Anyone whose job involves installing Christmas lights will tell you there is an ‘I did that moment’. It could be on hand over to the client, or just getting off the cherry picker, looking up, and seeing the transformation you and the team have performed. If you don’t take pride in what you have installed, then you haven’t finished the job!”
“On Christmas Day, I will be with my family and friends, whom I won’t have seen much of for the previous two months!”
Website: http://www.lumalite.co.uk/

3. Penny McNeish: Professional Window Dresser, South West England

“I started window dressing aged thirteen. I’ve always enjoyed arranging things, so I wrote to Bristol’s John Lewis in Bristol, asking for work experience with their window displays. They loved what I did and said I could help them whenever I wanted. That’s how I learned the trade.”
“I’ve done Christmas displays for Oasis, Debenhams, Nespresso, Selfridges and many independent stores. I’ve been doing some of the family-owned independent stores for so long, I’ve watched their families grown up!”
“I attend a huge German trade fair called Christmasworld in January, and place orders for the Christmas decorations for the year ahead. February is when my regular clients book me, because they do their photoshoots in the summer months. While everyone else is covered in sand in summer, I’m covered in glitter! Which isn’t pretty, because I develop a glitter rash. I’m also allergic to artificial Christmas trees!”
“Despite much planning, there’s always some panic in November. But it’s also fun. Many displays are set up when stores are closed, which means working late into the night.”
“Like my window displays, my Christmas Day is tradition. I spend it with family, opening stockings, visiting friends, watching the King’s speech, followed by a traditional Christmas tea.”
Website: https://pennythewindowdresser.co.uk/

A Maker’s Christmas – This England – Winter 2023

4. Michael Facherty: The Henley Santa, Henley, Reading, Berkshire

“I love being Father Christmas. It is a lovely thing to do, and I hesitate to call it a job. Father Christmas is so loved, people’s faces light up when I appear at their door. Santa brings joy to children and their families. I often think that I’m in the business of creating wonderful, lifelong memories for people.”
“My first bookings come in straight after last year’s visits, so Christmas never completely stops. I see the UK Santa Convention in Ely at the end of June as the start of the main upswing to Christmas. This year, I’ve had a couple of Christmas-in-July events. And I’m currently working with Hobbs of Henley to arrange six cruises with Santa. I have many private visits and a couple of charity events booked in so far.”
“There is often publicity work as Santa Claus, whether live or on film/ video. Christmas adverts are often filmed in the summer and you stand around baking in your suit!”
“Come Christmas Day, I tend not to take on visits on Christmas Day, unless it’s to a children’s ward or similar. So, I tend to have a bit of a lie in!”
Website: https://henleysanta.com/

5. Sarah, Mandy, and Gillian: The Cotswold Christmas Shop, Lechlade, Gloucestershire

“Owning a Christmas Shop wasn’t something any of us had ever planned. We’ve lived in Lechlade for many years and The Christmas Shop was always an important part of the village. When we heard the owner was retiring, we talked about how sad it would be if it closed. To cut a long story short, we took it on to keep it open!”
“Buying Christmas Stock in January takes some getting used to, but when that stock gets delivered in the middle of August, it feels really exciting.”
“We’re open from Easter through to the first week in January, and have a steady stream of customers, including holidaymakers or visitors to Lechlade. But we only play Christmas music from October!”
“One of our most popular Christmas items is the lovely German wooden ‘smoking’ men, which are used to burn incense. They make lovely gifts and visitors tell us these have been brought out for their family Christmases for many, many years, because their parents or grandparents visited the shop when they were children.”
“We close on Christmas Eve and meet up with friends in one of Lechlade’s local pubs. And on Christmas Day, we all spend it with our families.”
Website: https://cotswoldchristmasshop.co.uk/

6. Tina Nandha: Professional Gift Wrapper, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire

“What I love about gift wrapping is the smile it makes on people’s faces when they receive a gift. I like to think I’m in the business of spreading smiles. While Christmas gift-wrapping for me begins in October when customers first approach me to wrap items, I also make videos teaching people how to wrap Christmas gifts for TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube, and I start filming those in May.”
“Nine out of ten of my customers for my gift wrapping service are men, whereas for my gift wrapping courses, most of my customers are women. People ask me to wrap anything and everything. The smallest item I’ve wrapped was a ring in a box, and the largest was a suitcase that a son had filled with family mementoes for his mother.”
“As Christmas draws near, I can be wrapping until three or four o’clock in the morning, to make sure I have everything wrapped in time for my customers. But come Christmas Day, I relax with my family, opening presents and enjoying a Christmas meal.”
Website: https://www.wrapitbytina.co.uk/

7. Chris and Lindsay Rumming: Lydiard Turkeys, Swindon, WIltshire

“We’re growing 500 turkeys this year, so planning for Christmas started for us in February when we ordered our day-old chicks from the breeder. I grow different varieties of the bronze turkey to make sure we have the correct spread of weights for our customers. Ordering late could mean our turkeys are tiny or huge!”
“Our turkeys are truly free range, so being outside is normal for them. If I pass by and see the barns empty and every turkey foraging for fruit under the trees, I know I’ve done a good job.”
“Our busiest time is the two butchery days. We’ve hung the turkeys for ten days prior to this, but they have to be dressed, weighed, and catalogued before being boxed and returned to the fridge. We now have a great team. The turkey is passed down the line and at the end packed with full instructions and herbs. It’s a relief to get them done and they always look fantastic.”
“Our sheep and the cows still needing looking after, so we can’t take Christmas Day off, but we finish any mulled wine left over from the collection days. And yes, we have turkey for lunch. It’s normally our first opportunity to taste the results!”
Website: https://www.lydiardturkeys.co.uk