Christmas at Blenheim Palace has established itself as one of Oxfordshire’s festive must-do’s; a firm favourite for all the family. This year, over a million lights adorn the majestic gardens, adding sparkle and colour to their already quite exceptional beauty, and the magic of the experience is only intensified by the choreographed soundtrack of seasonal favourites. The historic interior of the House is equally captivating; this year reimagining the story of The Nutcracker, complete with toymaker’s workshop, a glistening Land of Snow and, of course, the Kingdom of Sweets.
We caught up with Emma Henderson, Director of Culture Creative who are responsible for putting the magnificent displays together, to find out just how much preparation goes into creating the seasonal spectacle.
When does planning begin?
We spend a lot of time thinking about Christmas – in fact all year. For both the Blenheim Palace interior and the after-dark trail in the Gardens we are thinking about the year ahead as soon as the existing one is installed.
How is the concept decided upon?
For the Palace interior, the theme is a joint decision between the Sony Music and the Blenheim Palace planning teams but then we, at Culture Creative, make the magic happen.
How long does it take to come together?
We are designing, building and bringing to life the story all year. It’s probably around 18 months from concept to completion.
How long does the actual installation take, and how many people are involved?
Inside the Palace we usually have just 24 hours. However, this year we have a team of people working round the clock for three days – it’s really special. The illuminated trail takes around two to three weeks to install and they’re working on it whatever the weather, so teams are out in the wind, rain and sometimes snow to make sure Christmas can come to Blenheim Palace.
What are the greatest challenges - both inside the house and outside in the gardens?
Working within the limitations of a heritage site both indoors and outside. We always respect the special and unique setting. It’s a privilege to do this, so we must remember which carpets we can and can’t walk on!
What would surprise us to learn?
All our baubles need to be individually glued on to the trees to avoid them being broken or lost in transit and to ensure nothing falls off. That’s an awful lot of baubles – hundreds in fact.
Is there something you'd love to do but haven't been able to achieve?
We did look at installing a helter-skelter for Alice in the Palace in 2019, sadly we weren’t able to make this happen. This year, we designed a room specifically for all our beautiful tree angels and that room became unexpectedly unavailable, but – undaunted – we have relocated them to the Chapel where they will look truly stunning. It’s has worked out even better in the end.
What's up your sleeve for next year?
We can’t tell you just yet, but here’s a clue…there’s even more snow, more ice and a very well-known fairytale for 2022.
The Christmas Trail and The Story of the Nutcracker is a co-partnership between Sony Music and Blenheim Palace and created by Culture Creative. 19 November – 2 January with the popular Christmas Market taking place between 19 November – 19 December.
For more information or to book tickets, visit blenheimpalace.com/christmas