Meet the team who illuminate christmas
From a warehouse just on the outskirts of Bristol, Christmas starts early with a huge checklist of tasks to make sure a vast array of commercial festive lighting and dazzling city centre illuminations sparkle.
Preparing over millions of Christmas lights for commercial installations is no quick task. A dedicated team of skilled Electricians, Warehouse Managers and installation experts, backed by a group of Project Managers get to work during summer. Their jobs involve testing, cleaning, checking, designing and preparing for festive lighting installations across the Capital and beyond.
Together, the team make sure that every installation is a sight to behold. Lewis Jones talks us through the scale of the task and how it all gets done, in time for the festive season.
Identifying schemes and commercial designs
It all begins with the creative minds coming together to identify schemes for the season. Working closely with the Project, Team Branch Manager and clients, we carefully to create schemes that fit specific locations, budgets and designs.
Typically, this includes, streetlight motifs, large cross street display panels, festoons and light ceilings. Some of the features are pretty sizable with one of the nodes that goes above Bond Street weighing in at an impressive 100kg+ per feature. We also erect and dress around 20 real Christmas trees, all from a local supplier.
Talking of Christmas trees...
We hold one of the largest, ground mounted walk-through illuminations currently available in the UK. Standing at an impressive 25m with a large, 2m walkthrough archway, this giant will be the centre of social media attention. It has previously been used at Wembley and is currently available for hire this season. If you are looking to make a statement, contact us to find out about hiring this ground feature.
Fresh, innovative commercial lighting displays
We try and keep things fresh and exciting with around 10 new schemes being designed for this year. As we have such a large stock, we are able to transfer different lights to different cites. This keeps costs down for clients but also brings new displays to areas to keep things interesting. This year, from the Bristol branch, we will be responsible for around 60 displays!
Collaborating with Project Managers
Once the schemes are decided, the real coordination begins. Our team liaises with our various Project Managers to understand the scope of work required for each installation. We take note of any changes or unique elements that clients want to incorporate and work with our suppliers to get the designs fabricated. A big focus is on how we can incorporate recyclable and sustainable materials.
About three months before installation starts, Project Managers will also start to apply for the relevant permits, permissions and road closure notices. This means we have the correct paperwork well in advance of the installation period to avoid delays.
We get a full specification to ensure the infrastructure will support the displays, including undertaking wind and snow loading calculations. About a week before the installation process starts, we visit locations to complete pull tests. Site specific risk and method statements will also be drawn up ahead of any testing and installation.
Meet the project managers
Across our regional branches, we have dedicated project managers for commercial festive lighting projects. With over 80 years’ of combined experience, they can bring any lighting scheme, display or idea to reality.
How do we inspect, test and repair the Christmas decorations?
Inside the warehouse
A crucial step is testing and inspections. This is where the magic starts to happen.
Mat labels every light, LED, feature and tree so that it is accounted for in the warehouse system so we can quickly locate it.
We give every light and fixture a thorough inspection, ensuring they are in perfect condition.
This includes the important PAT test, Karl leads that operation. If we find any damaged lights or metalwork, we’re quick to repair or replace them.
When the festive season is just around the corner and everything is inspected and tested we develop installation programmes and resource plans.
Installation starts at the end of September and the majority of displays are active by the 1st December. We will usually have around 20 teams of two out, with cherry pickers across the London. The other branches will follow a similar schedule.
The work is completed through the night and finishes with us sending a nightly update report to the client. We have to co-ordinate with shops, businesses and the public as we need to work with road closure notices which can be very challenging in central London. In total, the installation takes around 10-11 weeks.
“You can never have too many lights on a Christmas Tree”
When it comes to dressing Christmas trees, we have all lost count of how many we have done! It’s a skill when you’re dealing with 10m high trees with thousands of lights per tree. Then, start from the top and work tightly down. We also have to be mindful of vandalism, so we try and keep the lighting out of arms reach to minimise the chances of things being moved!
“No one likes to untangle Christmas lights”.
Lights, camera action! Switch on Events
Once everything is prepared and double-checked, it’s time for activations. If we are decorating a bustling shopping street or adorning a town square, our team works tirelessly to ensure that the Christmas lights shine their brightest.
Without wanting to ruin the magic, the lights are turned on with devises that look like TV remotes! One of the best things is to take friends and family to London to see the displays that we have worked on for the last 6 months, it’s a really proud moment for everyone.
What happens when the lighting schemes are on?
Throughout the festive period, we will have an emergency response team, on call 24/7 should there be any outages. We also schedule daily checks and walk-about to make sure the lights are all in tip top shape.
So, the next time you stroll through the streets and look up, remember the passion, planning and hard work of the team behind the scenes.