Judging Canterbury’s Christmas Windows 2017
On Saturday I was honoured to be asked back for the third year to help judge Canterbury’s Christmas Windows (you can see the windows in 2015 and 2016 here). It is always my favourite way to kick off the festive season, and I’m always so excited to share my photos from the afternoon with you all to kick off Christmas content here on the blog. Just a note about this years post: I can’t share hundreds of photos with you all here, as much as I would like to, so I’ve had to be a bit ruthless of who gets included in my roundup. With the exception of Fenwick (which is not really one), and Lakeland and Waterstones (which were some of my favourite windows this year) I’ve not included any chains in my roundup. But, rest assured over four hours we came round to judge and appreciate every one of the 80+ shops that entered this year before we decamped for mulled wine!
Ortwin Thyssen on the King’s Mile make the most beautiful handmade jewellery on site, and always have a lovely bright, twinkly Christmas window featuring various gingerbread structures. It is always pretty so I always include it, but over the past three years I have been a window judge I have not remembered to take a shot of the most important thing to look out for in the window: the tiny walnut, hollowed out for an intricate gold nativity to sit inside. To me, it is one of the most magical things about Christmas in Canterbury.
While they did not enter the window competition this year, I could not not include pictures of Queen Bee Home‘s windows. In my mind they always have one of the best windows every single year (I’m pretty sure it was the judges favourite the first year we saw it, and last years offering was equally as enchanting), and this year the giant queen bee buzzing around the display is utterly fantastic.
I’ve not been into C&H Fabrics since they moved from the high street into the original Waterstones store, but I think their windows are even better than usual, throwing off anything that makes people think the shop is old fashioned with slick, modern gift ideas I need to go and take a look at when I head into town tomorrow for the second round of this years Christmas shopping (and my first pizza from Chapter!)
Last year I stumbled across The Living Lounge, a small, unassuming Scandi-style interiors store down Orange Street which is well worth seeking out. It is full of so many beautiful items, and their windows this year are so warm and inviting, glowing at you across the street. If you’re too laden down with purchases once you’ve left but still need to eat something before heading home, it is also across the street from Zeus, one of my favourite Greek restaurants I can’t shout about enough.
By the Mint Yard Gate of Canterbury Cathedral you’ll find Espression Arts, a paint your own pottery store that looks like it is geared at children (and they do so many great classes and kids activities there) but where I have also known plenty of grown ups to go to to make handmade gifts for friends and family! Their window is worth taking a look at this year as it was made by the children’s art groups who visit. The smaller kids decorated the handprint tree, and the older ones made decorations for the one in the right hand window.
Fenwick always have some of the most impressive windows in the city, but always following the same themes. However, the ones to look out for this year is the pink prosecco window which has so many great gift ideas around the side of the store, the traditional window of dancing penguins, and the Jo Malone window by the main entrance, just because it is so damn festive, bright and colourful!
An awesome wild card this year is the kitchen store Herringbone Kitchens on the Kings Mile, featuring #leroythelamb – just look at him with his tiny frying pan! He is also the undeniable star of their Christmas advert this year, and I want to take him home with me because he is just that adorable.
Another one of my favourite windows this year can be found at Lady Penelope’s, tucked away down on Castle Street. I usually park nearby so I always love the unique displays in the window (something a little different from your usual florist shop) and I simply adore the simple, yet elegant display of bird festooned wreathes (is that a penguin chick in the middle?), branches and a Christmas tree this season.
Another two stores that produce fantastic, but very different festive windows each year are The Canterbury Cathedral Shop (a surprisingly great place to buy gifts all year around) and Sowley’s down the high street (a more traditional gift shop). Both windows are always worth seeking out for the contrast of the religious, Christmas side of Christmas, with the communal, giving gifts to the people you love type celebration.
I always take the time to look closely at charity shop Christmas windows, as they’re so much more limited to creating displays out of what they’re given that is festive, than what they can invest their money in. A bit shout out needs to go to Oxfam with a simple yet festive display really highlighting the charitable side of Christmas asking their volunteers why they help out, and The Children’s Trust for building this brilliant white and silver Christmas angel out of what they had for their window.
I wanted to include the Lakeland Christmas window because I personally love it, but both among the judges, and with people I’ve shown the pictures to since I have heard some mixed reviews. I love the cutouts of people enjoying Christmas and getting into the festive spirit surrounded by products, but what do you think?
Fitzgerald Jewellers have recently had a re-paint and I adore the new shopfront with it’s dark paint and gold lettering, and screen showing the jewellery being made in the window. I loved their clever, sweet and super festive window this year – not only does it look utterly beautiful from the street, but the little ballerina in the jewellery box spins around – if only it made twinkly music too!
Mod and Rock is not really a store I usually pay much attention to, not being into music or comic book merchandise, but they have the most fabulous window this year for the ultimate Potter-head (quickly raises hand!) And the best part (other than the Alohomora doormat?) The gold baubles suspended in the window and decorated like golden snitches. I want to do this at home but I’m not sure I’d be allowed!
A few things that made me smile in independent windows: just look at these adorable little santa hatted clementines in the window of Dumbrells greengrocer on The King’s Mile, and this boozy note to Father Christmas in the window of Jeeves and Johnson wine merchant on Burgate.
The traditional Christmas elves in the window of Cosmo China made me smile, but actually a stand out window for me was Waterstones (literally the only way I could have loved it more was if my book had been in it!) It was lovely, sweet and traditional, and I can only hope for that many books wrapped up for me under the tree!
Finally, we can’t forget a Christmas Window institution in Canterbury: Tiny Tim’s Tea Room. I think I’ve got over last year’s disappointment that the new owners don’t go for as elaborate windows as the old ones did, and I actually rather love this year the simple, festive, beautiful tree in the window tempting me in out the cold for their famous Eggs Chaucer. One that shows you what Christmas windows should really be all about.
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