Enro-ho-ho-l in UK’s first Santa school where lookalikes learn everything from voice training, present wrapping and reindeer names
You get a Sleigh star! The latest batch of enro-ho-ho-lments are bringing festive cheer after graduating from SANTA SCHOOL.
As soon as the Jingle Bells rang out, Stuart Thompson’s class of twelve became fully fledged Father Christmases.
Jolly Stuart, who has been running the Santa School for six years, put the budding batch through their paces at the Black Boot Camp on Walby Park Farm, Carlisle, Cumbria.
The lookalike Saint Nicks were given a gruelling lesson on present wrapping, Ho Ho Ho voice training, reindeer names, how to answer awkward questions from children, sleigh navigation, mince pies and the best way to keep his iconic suit clean.
Chief Santa Claus Stuart set up the prestigious institute to maintain the time-honoured tradition of Christmas – and ensure children across the country are receiving the best experience.
Stuart, 56, of Gretna, Scotland, said: “At the very mention of Santa Claus or Father Christmas, children become excited and their eyes light up – their sense of delight and wonderment is infectious and it is these innocent qualities which truly generate the spirit of Christmas goodwill.
“I get tremendous satisfaction from seeing children and families enjoy the festive season.
“Santa is the most iconic part of Christmas for children and we really do everything to maintain the seasonal spirit – meeting Santa is a memory that stays with you forever.
“There’s a dire shortage of Santas so the more the merrier.”
Stuart runs an entertainment business throughout the year, providing performers for private and commercial events, but is known around the world for his festive flair.
Everyone from Harrods to Hong Kong has requested his teaching techniques to prepare suitable Santas.
Since first launching the school six years ago, Stuart has trained more than one hundred lookalikes.
Stuart added: “I eat, sleep and breath entertainment and more importantly Christmas.
“I am contacted everyday by people wanting me to come and share my passion, but you have to get it right.
“Every Santa who graduates receives a certified approval from the school and we are hoping to bolster the numbers to give children everywhere the best experience.”
Many of Stuart’s graduates go on to spread Christmas cheer in town centre grottos or private parties.
His Santa School, run through his Heatherbank Entertainments enterprise, prepares them for the challenges they will face – teaching them all the tricks of the trade.
And the most important lesson to learn is ensuring children feel comfortable.
Stuart added: “Quite often when children go into grottos or meet Santa for the first time they are terrified.
“So we have to make sure we build their confidence throughout and provide magical memories for them.
“Many come in scared but leave smiling from ear to ear – that’s something you cannot beat.”
12pm: History of Christmas, Santa Claus and reindeer naming
12.45pm: Present wrapping and mince pie tasting
1.30pm: Sleigh navigation
2pm: Maintaining Santa suit
2.30pm: Roleplay, Ho Ho Ho voice training
3pm: How to run a grotto, elf and helper training