Judging Canterbury’s Christmas Windows 2016
On Saturday I was honoured to be asked to help judge the Canterbury Christmas Windows again this year (you can see all of the windows we judged last year here), so I spent the afternoon with a cup of hot peppermint tea and a clipboard checking out the simply beautiful displays shopkeepers have put together all over the city for Christmas. There were so many fantastic entries, and there would be about 100 photos in this post if I showed them all to you, so to help you get into the festive spirit I thought I’d share a few of my favourites!
On the face of it, Burgate Coffee has a pretty similar window to last year; lights, twinkles and great painted windows. The criteria we used to judge were if the window is festive, if it is imaginative and if the windows really sell the business, and when I looked closer this window ticked all the boxes for me. I now want red paper chains everywhere, and this Christmas star? They’ve made it out of an old coffee bag!
This year was a good year for window painting. The French baker loaded up with baguettes in the window of Cafe St. Pierre made me smile, and Marlowe’s always is one of my favourite windows. I would not change a thing about the mad riot of metallic colour they turn their entire ceiling into that peeps out each year, but they always do something different in that they always paint a different festive character on the windows. It’s not easy to do something festive in the window of a sports pub, so I’m also a fan of the stockings painted with all of the staff’s names in the window of The Three Tuns.
Sowley easily had one of the most imaginative windows. Along with book page lanterns (I’m a sucker for anything literary), they suspended an iconic black Christmas tree upside down, and tied a fallen angel to the base. Loads of people always ask me where to find this store; it is at the bottom of the high street, near KITCH and The Skinny Kitchen, and it is a part gift shop, part gallery with some really great affordable pieces.
I did not enjoy the Cath Kidston window as much as their riot of colour last year at first glance, but when I looked a little closer I was absolutely charmed by the white paper cutout of London. Though, they probably have this in most windows in Britain; what would have been lovely would have had Canterbury on the skyline. On that note, I was pleasantly surprised by Fat Face, which felt wonderfully festive while still being on brand.
I usually don’t pay much attention to Canterbury’s china and pottery stores (in spite of the fact I used to walk past Cosmo China almost every single day for five years), but they really charmed me this year with their festive, china window decorations. I loved Canterbury Pottery‘s charming nativity crafted in their signature style, and I loved Cosmo’s Canterbury Tales plate, where the scene was set against the Cathedral in the snow.
Jack Wills was another big brand that utterly charmed me. Okay, so their window was pretty simple, but there was something about the Christmas tree for sale sign, with the (real) Christmas tree and a couple more still in their nets, dusted in (sadly fake, however) snow, in one of their high street windows.
Tiny Tim’s was the big disappointment of the afternoon for me. A change of ownership means gone are the intricate, handmade, themed windows of past years, but if you’d never seen or come to look forward to their windows, their offering was still pretty festive and inviting if you fancy afternoon tea.
If the judging was up to me alone, now I’ve had the chance to think about it over the weekend, the top of the pile would be Tony & Guy. It is difficult for a chain to make their mark in any given location, and it is also hard for a hair salon to do anything particularly festive. Their beautifully frosted windows were absolutely magical, with the lights from the salon illuminating them in frosty colours. And, it took me a while to realise, but what you’re looking at is Canterbury in the snow, with the Cathedral rising up in the background, looking out over the city, with its old Tudor shopfronts and Tony & Guy on the street.
If Christmas for you is about the parties, you’ll love the glitzy Angels window (yes, the place where every person with pierced ears who grew up in Canterbury had them done before Claire’s opened!) This one was all about the details, with lovely, delicate little gifts making up the display around some bigger ticket items.
These days in the days of big chains like John Lewis, it is rare to get a good, traditional, unique department store window display outside of London these days. Fenwick has a lot of windows, which meant they had a lot of beautifully well thought out displays, showcasing each of their departments and some of their bigger brands. Call me a kid at heart, but is not the kids toy display (I want all of the Knex), and their traditional dancing penguin (they’re motorised) penguin window the best. For the second year running, my parents have told me we’re not allowed to stage a penguin jail break on Christmas Eve…
I always love the Christmas trees and the riot of Christmas lights in Steamer Trading (along with the detail they put into picking out kitchen-related gifts for the display), but my favourite window from last year (which we awarded our gold prize in the small independent category to, too) really outdid themselves again this year: Queen Bee Home. Okay, they’re designers by trade, but I want to go back and spend a lot more time looking at their Narnia window (I think they’re taking the theme crown from Tiny Tim’s) to spot all of the little hidden details. How many more things like this (simply tiny) felt fox did I miss on first glance?
Now the Canterbury BID team are going to be adding up our judges scores, and if you’re local or visiting Canterbury over the next week or so to Christmas shop you can also take part in the public vote for your favourite small independent: just take a photo of your favourite window and upload it to Instagram or Twitter, using the hashtag #CanterburyChristmas before 11th December. Oh, and you can browse the hashtag here if you’re after yet more festive spirit!
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