Alnwick costume designer helps create festive feel at Blenheim Palace

A BAFTA-winning costume and set designer from Alnwick is reimagining the story of The Nutcracker as part of a new festive feature at Blenheim Palace.

Thursday, 25th November 2021, 10:00 am
Mandy Bryson and Clare Elliott create their festive display. Pictures: North News

Clare Elliott and her assistant Mandy Bryson together with a small team of designers is transforming the interior of the 18th century Oxfordshire palace with a spectacular re-imagining of the classic Christmas tale of toys that come to life.

Clare, who is senior designer at Belford-based Culture Creative, has spent the last 12 months in her workshop creating the magical world before transporting, and then painstakingly installing, it in the State Rooms of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

"For us, it's felt like Christmas since April as the workshop has been filled with giant nutcracker soldiers, gingerbread men, sugar plum fairies, candy canes, Christmas trees, oversized presents and angels," she said.

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Mandy Bryson creates tree angels for Blenheim Palace.

"I have always loved the original 19th century short story by Hoffmann, which was the inspiration for Tchaikovsky's hugely popular ballet, and so to have the opportunity to bring my own version to life was very exciting.

"The fact my 'stage' is the magnificent and historic interior of what's often described as Britain's greatest palace makes it all the more special," she added.

This will not be the first time Clare has had the daunting task of installing her creations among the priceless art and artefacts of the palace, birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill and the ancestral home of the Duke of Marlborough.

"This will be my third Christmas display at Blenheim Palace, having previously designed both Alice in Wonderland and Cinderella-themed interiors there," she said.

Clare Elliott, senior designer at Culture Creative. Picture: North News

"Although I am now quite familiar with the surroundings, it's still a daunting experience and we will be working around the clock to ensure everything is installed and ready to welcome its first visitors on time," she added.

Running until January 3, the story of The Nutcracker is just part of a series of festive-themed experiences taking place at Blenheim Palace this winter.

Visitors can also explore the illuminated family-friendly one-mile trail where over a million lights and lasers have been installed or take in the traditional Christmas market.

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