Darren Parry, 53 as Father Christmas

Santa won’t be taking on his traditional chimney dive in Nottingham this Christmas as entertainer couple swap it for a not so discreet knock on the door to save the season from Covid.

The most wonderful time of the year doesn’t have to be ruined for little ones across the county and beyond thanks to one woman’s business which has kept kids smiling through the year.

Jayne Darling, 45, Nottinghamshire, had to think of a new way to keep her party business booming trough lockdown after the entertainment industry took a hit and saw her princess party company almost fall to the ground back in March.

She was worried for the future as her usual hectic December diary was looking bleak of engagements and no freelance work as a 1940s re-enactment singer.

Jayne Darling as an elf ready to visit Mercia Marina in Derby

She said: “I cried for three days… nobody knew what support we were going to get, had the whole diary wipes out within the day.”

Jayne’s company, Absolutely Amazing Parties were set for their best year yet since launching the business back in 2012 when Jayne first dressed up as a princess for her twin girls’ 5th birthday party.

This year she has decided to brave the cold with her team of actors to provide doorstep Santa visits and even managed to drag her husband along for three weekends of socially distanced drop-ins at Mercia Marina in Derby.

“I literally had to approach men in the street with the offer if they looked nice enough”
Jayne Darling, owner of Absolutely Amazing Parties

Jayne and her partner, Darren Parry, 53, took on one of their biggest bookings at the marina to encourage supporting local stores after they have been closed for several months this year. They also wanted to keep costs low by taking on the roles themselves.

Jayne explained how difficult it was to find a man willing to be Santa, she said: “No one is willing to get dressed up, I literally had to approach men in the street with the offer if they looked nice enough”.

The company are now providing doorstep Santa experiences for children across the East Midlands where you can choose a visit from Santa, one of his elves or even Frozens Queen Elsa for a festive twist on their usual princess experiences.

Sophie Alice Brown as Queen Elsa during a socially distanced princess visit

Despite Nottingham being a Tier 3 zone, the visits are still able to go ahead under government guidelines and parents have discretion over whether Santa is allowed into the home or not.

Jayne said: “We now have explicit permission to go into homes which we couldn’t do in the first lockdown. It was more limiting before as we were considered none essential work”.

The Santa visits follow a theme of your typical Shopping centre Santa where your child can speak to the big man himself, ask random questions about his life in the North Pole and test Elves on their knowledge of reindeer names.

Children will also have a more personal experience than your typical five-minute knee-sit. Santa will bring with him a nice list certificate for your child, a small gift and reindeer dust to ensure his trusty Rudolph doesn’t miss your house on Christmas Eve.

All visits are completely Covid safe and staff will carry hand sanitizer, have fresh gloves after every child and spray down the infamous red suit between visits.

The doorstep deliveries are available across the East Midlands including Nottingham, Leicester, Derby and Mansfield. There are also virtual options for those of you further afield.

Jayne Darling, owner of Absolutely Amazing Parties, as Mrs Clause

Absolutely Amazing Parties has been running after friends and parents were impressed by Jayne’s princess performance at her own daughters’ birthdays back in 2012

It wasn’t long before Jayne saw herself in demand which led to her hiring another two princesses in 2013 to provide themed parties including games, songs, dance and etiquette lessons.

This soon grew to the point the company was working with over 20 freelance actors which has unfortunately dropped down to five since the first lockdown took away work opportunities.

As well as their princess experiences, the company have now grown to include Superhero’s, Star Wars characters and even a Greatest Showman experience.

The first lockdown was devastating for the company as it was unknown when they could be up and running again any time soon.

Jayne said: “We’ve taken a massive hit, it’s devastated us really, the online stuff just doesn’t cut it in terms of money but it’s keeping us visible.”

The original princess/superhero party package came in at £185 for a two-hour party for around 30 children compared to their online calls which are just £45 for a 30 minute singing session.

As well as Santa visits, their princess and superhero parties also took a doorstep approach as well as hosting zoom parties with school friends who were unable to celebrate together.

In order to make the experiences just as magical, Jayne had to invest in good quality lighting, backdrops, sound gear and editing equipment to improve advertising and the parties themselves.

Tom Pipes doing superhero training as Spiderman during a doorstep party during summer

As a company that considers itself sustainable and ethical, Jayne ensured she kept costs low and made use of any thing she had lying around, the company even went paperless.

She had recording studio gear lying around from three years previous, spent £60 on lighting and turned her living room into a photography studio.

Jayne said: “We have really had to take care of what we spend  and buy, repurposed costumes, everything is second hand, we hardly buy anything new”.

Alongside running her party business, Jayne has been doing freelanced work as a 1940s re-enactment singer and does talks on music from the era.

She said: “Singing, performing and other hobbies are just in you, you can’t change hat by having someone else force you into something different”.

The Santa visits are running until Christmas eve with plenty of slots available to book a magical experience for your little ones.