Judging Canterbury’s Christmas Windows
On Saturday afternoon, after steaming cups of tea, coffee and hot chocolate at Refectory Kitchen, I and a group of other local judges set out for a walk around the city with the team from Canterbury BID to judge the first of what promises to be a cracking annual Christmas window competition, with shops, businesses and restaurants all over the city getting into the holiday spirit with some rather creative window displays.
The Canterbury BID team and I thought that our little walking tour of the city to do the judging would also be the perfect excuse to show you all around how beautiful our lovely little historic City looks at Christmas time. Nothing beats the magic of Canterbury in December with all of the Medieval shop fronts lit up with twinkly lights, the Cathedral Christmas tree shining through the gates, and the cobbled High Street illuminated by the glow spilling out of the shops. All I need to do is spy the Cathedral lit up, looming over the city at this time of year to be transported back to the Nave, filled with incense and choral music, lit only by the little candles we each held every year for our school Christmas carol service.
I’m only including this one from the window of Biketart on the King’s Mile because I don’t want to spoil it, but each of the businesses who entered to competition were offered a bespoke poem for their windows, in conjunction with Canterbury’s Wise Words Festival. Try to spy them in shop windows; I promise they’ll put a smile on your face and make you stop and think for a minute!
Shall we start with Tiny Tim’s Tearoom? In my mind there are three reasons to visit every Christmas; their Eggs Chaucer, Puffkin & Baked Beans, and their always stunning Christmas window display. This year they’ve gone for a Twelve Days of Christmas theme, even with cakes decorated with the themes in the window, and with the song playing ever so quietly outside, so subtly that you can only hear it when the city is quiet and everyone has gone home; I only noticed it later on walking back to my car.
The Chaucer Bookshop is one of my favourite places in the city. Hidden down Beer Cart Lane, both floors of this shop are stuffed floor to ceiling with old, rare, first edition and second hand books. You can usually find me up the rickety old staircase in the poetry section, or hunting out vintage cookbooks. I love how understated their windows are, which really suit the store; all done up in paper.
While it may seem obvious for a gift shop Christmas window, but I think Sowley‘s Christmas wreath, and display wrapped gift box approach to display some of the gifts they are offering this year is really effective.
While Fenwick’s Christmas windows look as impressive as ever (don’t miss the fully laden Christmas table in the middle of the moving stairs as you go down to the basement inside the store) from the High Street, I feel a little public service announcement is in order to let you know if you go around the back of the store by the bus station, that is where you’ll locate the windows decorated by the toy department. This year they feature moving cuddly penguins and other adorable arctic creatures. I asked my mother if for my Christmas present this year we could stage a penguin jail break on Christmas Eve after the store has closed on Christmas Eve to rescue all the penguins who have not yet found loving homes. She thinks I’m joking!
One of the most intricate and mesmerising windows that everyone was crowding around came from Queen Bee Home. it looks so magical when you stand back, but take your time to look up close and start to notice all of the little details, like the Christmas hat on the dinosaur skeleton.
While jewellery makers Ortwin Thyssen‘s German themed gingerbread display around their jewels looks impressive, you either have to be a local or have a really keen eye to know what you really should be looking for in their Christmas window. Their window is the home to Canterbury’s smallest nativity scene which they put on display every year until Christmas Eve. Crafted out of gold, it fits and folds away inside a walnut shell.
While Marlowe’s restaurant has the same Christmas decorations every year, it is still stupidly fun. Panto themed Snow White and the Seven Dwarves designs are painted over the windows, and you literally can’t see the ceiling inside for all the glitzy retro Christmas foil decorations suspended there. I remember walking past on New Years Eve one year and wishing I was old enough to go inside for the party; it looked so inviting!
Dodgems and Floss are a new creative and digital agency in Canterbury, and they hosted the only interactive window this year. I don’t want to give away, but part of it involves lights (demonstrated by Canterbury’s Member of Parliament Julian Brazier pictured on the interactive wall), and a Twitter hash tag that you can use so that you can feature in the window too!
While it was rather simple (it has to be – they put the entire window away each night), one of my favourite jewellery store windows was that of my favourite jeweller in town (a mark of my expensive taste!): T&B Cousins. I love their gold lettering along the bottom, and it does really make you get closer to look at their stunning pearls and gems.
In the shadow of the Cathedral, the Canterbury Cathedral Shop windows showed off the fact they actually have some pretty great Christmas gifts on offer, not something you’d expect from the shop attached to the most important building in the Anglican church. Yes you do spy some rather fetching and festive Emma Bridgewater crockery.
I think it is pretty hard for a restaurant or food place that does not sell cakes per-say to put together a Christmas window, so the carrots, port and mince pies left out for Santa and the reindeers in the window of Brunch on the High Street really made me smile.
You’ll hear who use judges thought had the best windows in the City soon, but right now you can all get involved in helping choose the winner for the People’s Choice award. Over 50 stores around the City centre have entered (you will be able to tell which, as they’ll have information about the competition in their windows), and all you have to do to vote is to Tweet or Instagram a picture of your favourite window from now until Saturday (12th) using the hashtag #CanterburyChristmas. All the winners will be announced on Monday 14th December. Be sure to tag me @makingmrewonder (Twitter) / @missrachelphipps (Instagram) so I can see your shots too!
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