Judging Canterbury’s Christmas Windows 2022
This post was created in partnership with Canterbury BID. The festive period is well and truly here, and whilst I’ve got some seasonal recipes coming up for you later in the week, this afternoon I want to share some of this weekends snaps from the activity that has truly come to mark the start of Christmas for me every year: helping judge my hometown of Canterbury’s Christmas Window Competition!
I recently sent these archived posts to someone I work with and she said it was like taking a mini festive trip looking through them all, so if you want to check out previous years windows, click through for 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. In 2020 obviously there was no competition but Canterbury BID still commissioned me to document the windows, and last year I could not make the judging, but again we made sure to get all the windows online – it was fantastic to be back with everyone this year! There were so man y brilliant entries and I simply don’t have space to share them all here, so very much take the below as a highlights reel – do head into Canterbury to check them out in person this Christmas – I for one am looking forward to be able to go back and take a bit more time shopping!
Canterbury Pottery – purveyors of unique handmade pottery by the Cathedral gate – always have beautiful festive windows, but when we looked around the corner on the Buttermarket and saw it we all made a beeline towards it’s luminous pink brilliance. The traditional pottery snowmen are still there, but also so much pink! What we judges loved is it managed to be striking, lively and modern, but still with so many traditional elements.
We loved Violet Elizabeth’s vibrant decorations highlighting their handmade, ethical clothes, gifts and homewares as much as we did last year, their display ticking all our boxes on the judging sheet asking us to rate windows creativity and merchandising (how much are they showing off what they sell?) Just look at all those fantastic paper chains (why don’t we make paper chains as much anymore?) – they’re handmade, and the owners have a new baby!
Wrapped does exactly what it says on the tin, filled to the brim (and the basement) with gifts, gift wrap, cards and party paper – I never don’t find what I need when I pop in there for a last minute gift. Anyone who has judged the windows with me before will know I go a little weak for any display featuring a cute and festive critter: now could I not be won over by a riot of gold surrounding the King of this years festivities, a giant Jellycat bunny in a party hat?
British Red Cross
Judging, we have always kept in mind what resources a shop has to offer when trying to score somewhere fairly. Say, we know that Fenwick have a professional window dresser, Wrapped already has a tonne of sparkle in stock, and charity shops have to work with what they’ve got, and the creativity of their volunteers. But I think this is why we become particularly charmed when a charity shop manages something a little different with what they’ve got: we loved two displays this year in particular, the first of which was the British Red Cross shop on Burgate. And ignore what I’ve just said: the window was super festive in it’s own right, and not just because it was filled with woodland critters!
Speaking of Fenwick, I think they did a particularly good job this year. Their signature green was carried through each window showing off a different department, and there were so many clever little details to take in the closer you get to them. I urge you to to what we did: grab a cup of mulled wine from the next door Whitefriars Christmas Market and walk all the way around from the doors by the M.A.C counter right around to the bus station to slowly take them all in – then of course slip in the door by the menswear and shop!
Angels – pretty much the place you want to go for a Christmas party dress as well as all the glittery things to wear with it – also always has a striking, sparkly window, but that does not mean we did not once again all gravitate towards it before stepping in closer to take in all the sparkly details. A Canterbury getting ready institution.
Set back from the High Street a little on Stour Street I urge you to seek out Rock Paper Scissors, a collective selling handmade crafts and art made by Kent based makers. It is great to go for something unique – I walked away with some of these beautiful Christmas tree decorations from Shoreline Ceramics based in Ramsgate when we ducked in to warm up a little!
Okay, so perhaps new glasses are not something you’ll necessarily get as a Christmas gift, but why does that mean the Optometrists should miss out on all the fun? Cargills always have fantastic painted windows, and I think this year they really outdid themselves!
Okay, here me out. I know when we’re talking festivity you don’t automatically think of a pawn brokers, but do stop for a peek into Canterbury Pawn Brokers windows – they’ve paired painted snowscapes around their window frames with traditional Victorian-style Christmas paper cutouts and even a moving carousel – all very reminiscent of when Past Times was both still in business and trading on the High Street – there really is something to see in each window!
Sowley – a wonderful gift shop and picture framers – always have some of the most creative Christmas window concepts – but I think this year they really outdid themselves with their floating umbrellas of a decorated tree, and al the presents to sit underneath them floating atop a sleeping town of pottery houses.
The other charity shop we were a bit blown away with was Store50, a relatively new store from Pilgrims Hospice focusing on pre-owned clothes with a strong environmental message. Meet denim Aanta, dressed up in pre-loved duds, rifling through the postbox of recycled paper letters he’s received from well behaved children this year. So creative, so impressive, and managing to be festive whilst still staying try to their key ethos and message.
I’m usually a fan of the garlands The Falstaff hotel drape around the doors to their lounge, and this year they did not disappoint with their gold and silver riot of foliage, mirrored in lamps and candles if you peek a little closer into the bar.
Another old favourite for me is to see what beautiful window painting Cafe St. Pierre has opted for each year. Local artist Kellie Hogben has really outdone herself this year with a celebration of our beautiful historic city, with silhouettes of the Cathedral gates and High Street that still let you peek through to the warmth and deliciousness inside.
Last but not least, if you’re visiting the city and coming in at Canterbury West, it turns out my beloved Goods Shed and brilliant Asian grocery Kukki are not the only reasons to linger around the station: I honestly don’t know how I’ve missed Platform for so long, selling yet more wonderfully handmade goods and gifts from Kent and beyond. Honestly, I’d never quite realised until the weekend now many great places Canterbury now has for handmade and unique items!
Once more, thank you so much to Canterbury BID for continuing to have me judge the windows each year, and for commissioning me to write about it each year too! And to the rest of you? Remember to shop local this Christmas!