Written by Daz Gale
You may not have heard of Thursford before. I certainly hadn’t. Let me tell you, you are missing out on a wonderful self-contained world which gets you in the Christmas spirit more than Mariah Carey ripping off her Halloween costume on November 1st.
Now celebrating its 45th anniversary, the tiny village of Thursford in Norfolk transforms itself for three months a year to put on a Christmas spectacular. I went up there last week to check it out to see if it really was as magical as everybody had told me or if it was all a load of humbug.
Here’s my recap of the day:
About a 45 minute drive from King’s Lynn station (itself a very easy and quick commute from London), as soon as you arrive at the Christmas Spectacular, you are instantly transformed and find yourself embracing the Christmas spirit, whether you like it or not. No matter how cold you demeanour may be, there is an instant warmth as you witness people dancing as they enter to the sound of Christmas music, the visual of twinkly lights and even some animatronic holiday characters.
The scale of the whole thing is mind-boggling in itself – its own little world, it is full of cafes, quaint shops that you don’t find on an average London street and even a helter skelter looming in the background. The whole thing felt very much like something out of a Hallmark Christmas movie come to life.
One highlight of the experience is Santa’s Magical Journey which is a tour through a winter wonderland full of impressive models, animatronics (and even Santa’s grotto as you get closer to the big day). At no point did this ever feel childish or like I was too old for this. In fact, the whole thing gave me a sense of childlike wonder as I took in all the gorgeous visuals and sounds.
A spectacular lantern display fills the fields that surround the village – beautiful to witness at dusk with seemingly thousands of models and light displays in a vast maze. Full of versatile models (some of which seem to be very inspired by certain Disney favourites) it is never boring to witness, with every turn of a corner leading me to gasp at whatever gorgeous thing I had just seen.
The main attraction of the Thursford Christmas Spectacular is undoubtedly the show itself. Since opening its doors in 1977, it has entertained over 6 million visitors of all ages from all over the globe, and it is easy to see why.
A huge cast of 120 singers, dancers, musicians and specialty acts fill the ridiculously large stage in one of the grandest shows I have ever witnessed. They expertly perform a mix of traditional Christmas classics, more modern favourites and even a smattering of musical theatre numbers with Gypsy and Half A Sixpence among the shows featured. With a surprisingly varied setlist (I was not expecting Michael Jacksons ‘Earth Song’) it is a lengthy but always exhilarating production. The musical highlight for me came at the opening of act two which saw the large cast parade through the audience singing beautifully and softly, including a truly stunning rendition of 'O Holy Night'
The production value on this is top notch as well with the most phenomenal and versatile choreography seeing the group of talented dancers perform everything including traditional Irish dancing to can can, impressing with truly grand and intricate choreography.
The show also boasts several variety acts including Britain's Got Talent semi-finalist Billy George, the best hula hoop act I have ever seen from the impressive Silvia Pavone, a hand balancing act from Vladislav Khvostik and expert bounce juggling from Kelly Huesca.
The show was expertly held together by hilarious comedian Kev Orkian, with several hilarious routines including an unexpected duet of 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow'. It was his ad-libbing and spontaneity that really had me howling with laughter though, especially when he interacted with a poor soul who chose the worst moment for a trip to the toilet.
Overall, this was a show that was full of surprises but managed to be consistently brilliant, right up until the stunning finale - complete with an unexpected twist.
I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything that so effortlessly immersed me into the Christmas spirit. It might have been early November when I visited but I half expected Santa to come down my chimney that night, I was so convinced by what I’d just seen. After a tough few years, getting to experience poor unbridled joy like this was medicine for the soul and created more warmth inside of me than a glass of mulled wine.
With a truly incredible show at its centre filled to the brim with some of the most talented people from all over the globe, a stunning surrounding and plenty of exciting activities to enjoy throughout a jam packed day, this really was the most festive experience I have ever had and led to a truly enjoyable and undoubtedly beautiful day. This is an experience I would thoroughly recommend for kids and big kids alike. I will be writing a letter to Santa asking to go again next year - this is definitely the kind of place you want to check twice.
Here's a taste of what you can expect should you choose to visit:
Thursford Christmas Spectacular runs until December 23rd. Tickets from £41 from https://www.thursford.com/christmas-spectacular/