Inside an unassuming warehouse at Trafford Park, a hive of Christmassy industry is well underway.
Huge faux fir trees are being adorned with glistening baubles and tinsel and there are Santa statues peeping out of the corridors with five feet high reindeers, while metres of twinkling fairylights adorn the shelves.
This is the home of Manchester’s Christmas Decorators – the team responsible for decorating many of the city’s busiest bars, restaurants and live venues with festive sparkle on an industrial scale.
A team of four full-time “elves”, headed up by owner Gavin Stirrup, have spent the past few months getting everything ready for what is now their busiest time of year.
Everything they create is bespoke – and their clients’ festive wish is their demand. Recent requests have included 6ft high candy canes, a life-sized Polar bear and even a Christmas unicorn.
They are responsible for possibly Manchester’s most extravagant Christmas lights install – at celeb haunt Italian restaurant Rosso on Spring Gardens. This year they’ve added even more lights to their Christmas set up, and the exterior glistens with a giant golden bow that dominates the top of King Street.
Incredibly, Gavin and his team have to get all of the Christmas decorations installed inside bars and restaurants overnight at this time of year, so as not to disrupt the daytime trade, so they really are like Santa’s elves.
Gavin was originally a builder by trade, but after the financial crash of 2008 semi-retired from business.
He said: “I got itchy feet, and a friend of mine was doing the Christmas decoration business and I had some ladders so got involved. It sounded like a fun part-time job!”
Since then Gavin has built up trade to become one of the most in-demand Christmas decorators in the region – bedecking the likes of the Bridgewater Hall, The Botanist bars, Grafene restaurant, Market Street’s Debenhams and a host of Manchester commercial and residential properties.
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Gavin, from Old Trafford, started out creating the Christmas decorations on his living room floor with wife Debbie – and the following year it grew to the shed. It got bigger every year and now they have a huge business unit on Trafford Park that is already creaking at the seams from all the festive decorations crammed inside.
The earliest festive installs began in October, but now that we’re in November the team are getting seriously busy. They pretty much work around the clock right up to Christmas Eve, when last minute requests often come in.
Emily Hatsell, 27, from Chorlton and Nicole Kennedy, 25, from Failsworth have been working for the business for seven years and love getting all the festive treats ready for customers.
Nicole said: “People ask me what I do for a living and I say I’m kind of a Christmas elf!
“We go into businesses at midnight and by the morning we have created a Christmas wonderland. It’s quite an amazing job, really.”
They have to keep up on the new trends in festive decorations, with copper and rose gold a key look this year, but some old favourites always remain – including reds and golds.
At their Rosso restaurant install alone, a spectacular 50,000 lights have been used, 1500 feet of luxury garland and two giant Christmas trees.
The busy elves do get to have Christmas Day off – but work starts again on Boxing Day, with many businesses already wanting the decorations to come straight down once the big day is over.
The team get to have a break from it all in January, but by February it’s straight back to business refreshing their stock and creating new bespoke fittings.
Gavin beams: “It’s a year round job to make things special for these few festive weeks.”