Sunday Spotlight: LaplandUK founders Mike and Alison Battle
It would be impossible to have a Christmas website and not talk about LaplandUK, I could talk about how amazing it is for hours on end with anyone who will listen as it is by far the best and most magical Christmas event the country has to offer. So meeting up with Mike and Alison Battle at the launch of their new Christmas book was especially exciting for me!
Hello Mike and Alison! Welcome to The Christmas Edit!
For those who have never been to Lapland UK before, how would you describe it?
LaplandUK is a magical land and home to Father Christmas, Mother Christmas and all the elves. It is an original interpretation of the Father Christmas myth staged on an unprecedented scale in a pine forest on the Queen’s Windsor estate in Ascot. Small folk are sent a personalised invitation from Father Christmas to come and help his elves catch up with their toy making as there are so many good children on the Good List this year. On the day of their visit, families enjoy a 3.5 hour experience that fully immerses them in the lives of the elves and includes making toys in the Toy Factory, making gingerbread decorations with Mother Christmas, ice skating, meeting reindeer, huskies ( and so much more!) before a personalised meeting with Father Christmas.
We think about every little detail (such as the original letters to Father Christmas in languages from children all over the world that decorate the working Elven Post Office)to create a truly unique experience families will cherish for always.
We went for the first-time last year and I was totally blown away. The scale and everyone involved were so much more than I ever expected. You really have captured every magical aspect of Christmas. Can you tell us a little bit about when you start planning for the next Christmas and what goes into that?
We start planning for the next Christmas in January! As soon as everything is packed away, we hold debrief meetings with all departments to analyse every aspect of the event and come up with ways to improve for the following year.
We have an amazing team of professionals who share our passion for spreading the magic of Father Christmas and we all spend the whole year thinking of every little detail to make the experience as magical and authentic as possible for our visitors. That team includes Hollywood set designers, West End theatre managers and costumers, prop makers, our in-house production team, print designers, as well as all the departments that help everything run so smoothly- customer services, ticketing, IT, recruitment,merchandise. Everything is managed in house at our eco barn HQ in Kent so everybody can bounce ideas off each other and share our vision.
Thankfully, you are based relatively near to where we live. Are there any plans to expand to the rest of the UK or abroad?
Over the 10 years that LaplandUK has been creating magical memories, we have been flattered to have received many invitations to take the experience to locations in the UK and internationally. As a family owned business, we are passionate about making sure this happens when the time is right but we do agree it would be wonderful to spread the magic of Father Christmas to more children.
Is there anything new we should look out for at Lapland UK for 2017?
We are always adding new touches to the experience. This year, one of our favourite elves, Wish, will be showing human folk how to view Christmas wishes through magical Wish glasses.
Mother Christmas will also be reading our new story ‘Minikin, the elf who saved Christmas’, which explains why elves are awarded golden bells on completing elf training. All small folk will then be awarded their very own Golden Bell to take home.
Another new addition for this year is our invitation box from Father Christmas which is currently arriving in homes of good small folk all around the country. Our top tip to parents is to pop it in the freezer before delivering it to children so they believe it has arrived straight from the frozen North Pole!
Taking our little one to Lapland UK is top of the list of Christmas traditions now, what are your big Christmas traditions? And where do you like to go to visit at Christmas time?
Our Christmas traditions these days revolve around LaplandUK as our four sons all help at the show as soon as they break up from university. Of course we all visit Father Christmas together for our annual family photograph on Christmas Eve and then we drive home to Kent and mix our Christmas cake, stirring in our good wishes so it bakes overnight filling the house with the smell of Christmas, hang the stockings, leave out milk and gingerbread in the hearth, read ‘Twas the Night before Christmas’ aloud then fall contentedly into bed!
We have heard that you are releasing a Christmas book this year, can you tell us a bit about that?
The more time we spent exploring the world of Father Christmas, the more apparent it became to us that this world had never been properly crafted. All young children by comparison, would know that Winnie the Pooh’s friends are Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet, but none knew the answer to our question “Who is the head elf in Father Christmas’ Toy Factory?” or “Who looks after the reindeer?” and yet this is a world that is incredibly exciting to them and they look forward to all year. So we set about imagining the world of the elves, naming each character and developing their personalities to enrich the storytelling for children.
Our first book published by Bloomsbury this year is called ‘The Untold Story of Father Christmas’ and tells the back story of how a humble but special toy maker and his wife were discovered by the elves and invited to Lapland and ultimately became known to the world as Father and Mother Christmas. We wanted to create a timeless classic in the tradition of fairy stories with the most beautiful painted illustrations.
And now for our Christmassy quick-fire questions:
1. Favourite children's Christmas book?
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey
2. One stop Christmas shop?
Fortnum and Mason
3. Any Christmas traditions?
Stirring wishes into a cake mixture late on Christmas Eve
4. Christmas dinner isn't complete without...
Nat King Cole
5. Favourite Christmas film?
Miracle on 34 th Street ( 1947 original starring Edmund Gwenn)
A big thank you to Mike and Alison for taking the time to speak to us, I think I may have met a couple who top even me in the Christmas loving stakes!
LaplandUK opens on November the 18th. For more info and to book your tickets click here.