The show will go on - Thursford on track for Christmas Spectacular 2021

The Thursford Christmas Show. Picture: Ian Burt

Thursford Christmas Spectacular is on track to return to Norfolk this year - Credit: IAN BURT

In a corner of North Norfolk the team behind the Thursford Christmas Spectacular is keeping a close eye on the West End and how productions which have reopened their doors to audiences are dealing with the challenges of social distancing.

Thursford is one of the biggest festive productions in the country. Each show involves 120 people and every year attracts more than 100,000 visitors from all over the UK.

Like many events, 2020’s show had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic but organisers have said this year’s show will be back with a bang, and after two years in the making will go ahead at full capacity unless “forced not to.”

Choreography has already been prepared, more than 2000 applications for singers and dancers have been processed and dozens of auditions carried out in London. Costumes are in the final stages of being fitted and in a matter of weeks the cast will start arriving on site for rehearsals.

George Cushing with some of the 'presents' for the Enchanted Journey of Light show coming to Thursfo

George Cushing with some of the 'presents' for the Enchanted Journey of Light show coming to Thursford. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN - Credit: Archant

George Cushing, Thursford’s projects and marketing manager, said he and his team were keeping positive and there was an air of excitement around the site.

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He said: "We are all incredibly excited by the prospect of putting on a show because that’s what we all love and all miss, that’s what the whole year is based around.

“But there is some element of worry with the unpredictability of the last two years. 

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“You can’t predict what’s coming up and that’s what is so hard with the plan at the moment with any of these shows, things are constantly changing so quickly.”

On paper, Thursford is a huge undertaking involving scores of people from around the country.

Photos of rehersals of the Thursford Christmas Spectacular 2009 .PHOTO; Matthew Usher

Photos of rehersals of the Thursford Christmas Spectacular 2009 .PHOTO; Matthew Usher - Credit: Matthew Usher

Mr Cushing said the “complexities of having 160 cast and crew together in one place” combined with the “complexities of Covid” were extremely challenging.

He said while there had been moments when he had thought "how on earth do we deal with this situation" he and his team were paying close attention to London and how the capital's West End productions were coping.

He said: "We are taking note from London, the shows that are open and having to deal with [Covid]. The only way at the moment is to work with the rules and keep within them and if someone's going to get it and you have to shut down for however long.

"We are keeping positive that the rules that mean you don't have to self-isolate if you are double vaccinated will come in. It is just very challenging at the moment."

Thursford Christmas Spectacular 2014.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Thursford Christmas Spectacular 2014.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Mr Cushing said while some productions such as Hairspray had sought to minimise the risk of cancelling shows by employing a second cast, for a production of Thursford’s size, having a complete stand-in cast was "impossible".

He said: "We have got contingency plans for pretty much every scenario at the moment. We are all so positive but the last few weeks put a little doubt in your mind.” 

Winter wonderland at Thursford

Thursford’s Enchanted Journey Of Light - Credit: THURSFORD COLLECTION

Mr Cushing said he and his colleagues had taken the enforced break to improve the Thursford Christmas Spectacular.

“We are excited, this show has been two years in the making. I think we have got the most amount of new costumes ever in the show. We have really taken the opportunity to make the whole thing better, it’s exciting but there’s still an element of the unknown.

“The clubs opening, festivals happening, what’s happening to case rates since everything has been open for a few weeks? It’s so hard to be optimistic but we’re keeping incredibly positive about it. We just have to keep moving with it,” he said.

Giant lit up bird

Thursford’s Enchanted Journey Of Light - Credit: THURSFORD COLLECTION

When last year’s Christmas Spectacular was unable to go ahead, Thursford introduced the Enchanted Journey Of Light, a walk-through winter wonderland populated with giant teddy bears, penguins, elves and light sculptures.

Mr Cushing said the feature would be making a return this year alongside the Christmas spectacular.

“Last year was a positive in a way because it opened up to a new market of people who wanted to do something Christmassy but not see Father Christmas. 

“I don’t think if it wasn’t for Covid we would have done anything like that so it’s a positive, and it’s definitely unique for the county.”

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