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Photo Gallery: Thursford Christmas Spectacular ready to start

08:23 09 November 2012

Scenes from the 2012 Thursford Collection Christmas Spectacular. Picture; Matthew Usher.

Scenes from the 2012 Thursford Collection Christmas Spectacular. Picture; Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2012

What involves 17 dancing monkeys, 18 screaming can-can girls, one talking Christmas pudding and is reported to be worth £10m a year to the Norfolk economy?

Scenes from the 2012 Thursford Collection Christmas Spectacular. Picture; Matthew Usher.Scenes from the 2012 Thursford Collection Christmas Spectacular. Picture; Matthew Usher.

It’s the Thursford Christmas Spectacular, of course, which is beginning its 36th year.

What started as a Christmas carol concert featuring eight singers performing to a crowd of about 530 people in an old farm shed is now regarded to be the biggest Christmas show in England, possibly Europe.

It attracts around 130,000 people each year, a similar amount to the Glastonbury music festival, and is often enjoyed by members of the Royal Family. The first full dress rehearsal was held on Tuesday, when the final touches were being put in place for the 82-show run. Above are some scenes from that.

John Cushing, the show’s founder, chief executive, director and producer, said: “This will be our most expensive production ever. We have thrown a budget of £3m plus at it and no expenses have been spared to make it as enjoyable as possible.

“I never imagined that it would become what it has when I started this up.

“This show is essentially in the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere, and people travel from far and wide to be here. I think the reason that it is so popular is that we manage to get some top performers in the country here. The choreographers, musical arrangers, costume designers and others behind the scenes are also the best around.

“And, with such a big cast and so much going on, you can’t get something like this anywhere else, even in London.”

The crowds will be entertained by an ensemble of more than 120 people performing dance, song and comedy.

The shows will feature around 80 pieces of music.

With 50 coachloads of people arriving at Thursford every day, the show is estimated to be worth £10m a year to the Norfolk economy.

Mr Cushing said: “We get businesses from Fakenham, Norwich, Holt, all over the place telling us how pleased they are that the Thursford Christmas Spectacular is starting.”

He added: “I always try to keep things fresh and bring in more variety to attract new audiences.

“This year, amongst other things, we have one of the best jugglers in the world in a man named Grant Goldie, who actually grew up a few miles away in Brancaster.”

The 2010 Thursford Christmas Spectacular was attended by the future Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It was their first public appearance together since announcing their engagement a month earlier. This year’s show will feature a special tribute to the Queen to mark her diamond jubilee.

Mr Cushing said: “We often get royals here. We never know who will turn up until a couple of weeks beforehand.

“Who knows? We could get some royalty this year.”

The Thursford Christmas Spectacular runs until December 23, with two shows per day at 2pm and 7pm.

For more information, call 01328 878477 or go to www.thursford.com

During the Christmas Spectacular people can also visit the special Fantasy Land at Thursford, where they walk through a wonderful winter setting past life-sized penguins, polar bears and giant teddy bears, and pass busy elves hard at work in the toy factory. There, children will be able to meet Father Christmas. Booking is essential.

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