Sunday, October 17, 2021

The true story behind Hull’s famous circus-style Christmas show

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Written by By Suzannah Weiss, CNN Detroit correspondent

A Christmas tree lies limp. A sleigh chair flops to one side. Frost lies thick on the earth. A nice, quiet Christmas sounds cruel this week.

But then, the tornado was over an hour ago. A rainbow appears from the ground, appearing stronger than the last. A bird chirps. A turkey snarls. Santa scans the new year skies with a jaunty grin, winking. He gets to give a show that draws in hundreds of people, children and adults alike.

Ho, ho, ho!

A small tinsel town of cracked façades and fizzy plastic buildings, Little Switzerland is the beautiful heart of the city of Hull in East Yorkshire. The annual larcenous Christmas display at the Peacock Gardens – where this story was written – has grown into a giant Christmas Wonderland, in which more than 100 people’s dreams come true.

And it’s Christmas time in Hull too, because that’s when the visitors park up at a functioning lamp post on the park’s pitch, to be greeted by a figure in a big red suit waving a giant hat at them, telling them, “it’s snowing.”

The show is in its 40th year and has featured Santa in some capacity every single year. While most of us have memories of our childhood Nativity plays, it would be easy to take Santa for granted: the result of a 65-year-old man in white.

“It all started because of Mr Peacock. He was a friend of Mr Cowie, (the gardener here), who knew somebody that was doing a lot of Christmases for Hull schools and children. He thought it would be a great idea, it would be fun, he never dreamed that it would grow into what it is now,” said the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall during their visit to the park on 2nd December.

With almost 30 years of experience, Peacock proudly describes his gift to the city of Hull in his curator’s autobiography: “I was responsible for transforming such familiar landscape features such as the Common, Biscay’s Lock, the Royal Pavilion and Stockbridge Estate into wonderful Fantasy England.”

But, other stories than his own, Peacock also worked as a Cine-Amateur at the Royal Film School. It was a chance to show off his skills to the students, but nothing more.

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