Meet the people working to make Christmas special in Cheshire

Canon Peter Howell-Jones

Canon Peter Howell-Jones - Credit: Archant

While we eat, drink and make merry, spare a thought for those who work tirelessly to make the festive season special. Janet Reeder meets some Cheshire people behind the most wonderful time of the year.

Cannon and Ball star in Aladdin at the Crewe Lyceum

Cannon and Ball star in Aladdin at the Crewe Lyceum - Credit: Archant


Comedy duo Cannon and Ball are the stars making wishes come true at Crewe Lyceum in the magical and spectacular panto Aladdin from December 10th-31st. They play PC Tommy and PC Bobby.

What do you enjoy about being in panto?

Tommy: We’ve been doing panto together for a long time, this is our fourth decade doing them, and although the titles and characters change, they’re just good plain fun, and such a wonderful Christmas tradition.

Bobby: Our act works in panto, there’s a lot of banter between us both so within the framework of each panto we can carry the story along while still giving our audiences a bit of Cannon and Ball.

What’s your favourite pantomime/role and why?

Harry Shepherd at The Chester Grosvenor

Harry Shepherd at The Chester Grosvenor - Credit: Archant

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Tommy: We’re going to have a great time as PC Tommy and PC Bobby. We’re part of the Peking Police Squad so have plenty to do keeping Aladdin in check and then helping to rescue him from the evil Abanazar. It’s a panto adventure with special effects, a flying carpet, a genie and lots of colour and movement, it’s going to be a funny, spectacular show.

When do you start working on the role?

Bobby: We actually launched the panto in September at the Lyceum where we met with some cast members and the press, but we’ve been in discussions with Qdos Entertainment, the producers of the panto.

Tommy: The real work starts two weeks before we open. In pantomime you have quite a short rehearsal period so your time is taken up with costume fittings, technical rehearsals, press interviews and learning lines. Getting a large show ready is hard work but we have a great laugh doing it.

The good things and bad things about working over Christmas?

Bobby: We’ll be performing the show almost forty times, two shows a day with just three days off during the run so it takes a lot of stamina to keep going.

Canon Peter Howell-Jones

Canon Peter Howell-Jones - Credit: Archant

Tommy: On the plus side it gets us out of Christmas shopping! And we get to play to a different audience with each show.

What is your own Christmas Day like?

Bobby: After the Christmas Eve show I’ll head home to Lancashire and Tommy will head for York so we can enjoy a day with the family. I rest as much as possible, eat turkey, watch the Queen’s speech, spend time with my loved ones and then wake up on Boxing Day ready for another two-show day.

Tommy: I’m exactly the same, although having appeared on Celebrity MasterChef earlier this year I’ll probably be roped in to help with the cooking this time!

Julie Arnold

Julie Arnold - Credit: Archant


Harry Shepherd, has been the resident manager at The Chester Grosvenor for the last 14 months. He has been married for eight years and have three wonderful children.

Why is Christmas such an important time of the year?

Winter is my favourite season and in particular Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. I think there is something so comforting about coming out of the cold into the warmth, and I enjoy the contagiousness of goodwill in the festive season. This extents into everything we stand for in the hospitality industry as in essence, we are people pleasers.

When do you start organising your Christmas schedule?

Our Christmas preparations start in our debrief early in January. This provides us with the perfect opportunity to reflect on Christmas just gone whilst still fresh in our minds with the view to ever enhancing our guests experience each year.

Carolyn Latham in Tatton Library

Carolyn Latham in Tatton Library - Credit: Archant

How do you make it happen?

The credit for everything we do must go to our wonderfully dedicated team, who work tirelessly to great and build upon everything Grosvenor. This attention to detail and luxury is extended to every napkins fold and dish served.

Matthew O'Brien

Matthew O'Brien - Credit: Archant


The Vice Dean at Chester Cathedral is, Canon Peter Howell-Jones, who is responsible for overseeing all the day to day business involved throughout out the year and over Christmas.

Who do you do it for?

Everyone. People come for all kinds of reasons not just spiritual ones. There are lots of ways we engage with people. They come because it brings back memories, or because of events such as our Christmas tree festival which is very popular. It can be a place for relaxing and opening up and a place to celebrate the birth of Christ. That’s very important to us.

When do you start organising your Christmas schedule?

We start in January because we have so many bookings here throughout the year. There are community groups, schools and charities who all want to stage their own events so we need to know what we are doing and then we can plan all the other things to go around that.

What is your own Christmas Day like?

I live in the beautiful location of Abbey Street, right opposite the cathedral in one of the 18th century houses, which is a rather nice perk of the job. I’m married with four children - all grown up but they all descend on us for Christmas. They begin to arrive two or three days before, then on the day I d all the services finishing at about 1.15, then we come home and have some nibbles sitting down to Christmas dinner at around 4.30pm.


Event planner Julie Arnold is the owner and MD of Entertainment Today and has been staging a whole host of prestigious private parties and charity fundraisers for nearly two decades.

Why is Christmas such an important time of the year?

We are hectic all through the year and work on all the major charity balls through October to November, then it’s the corporate and private Christmas parties. We also organise Scotty’s Little Soldiers for children who have lost one or sometimes both their parents in conflict. We aim to give them a Christmas to remember. We also do a lot of weddings at this time of the year.

How do you make it happen?

We start in January as all the venues get booked up very early and take it from there.

What is your own Christmas Day like?

It’s like a mini event in itself as I have eight children and step children and 14 grandchildren. It’s like Santa’s grotto in our house on Christmas Day. But if there are more than 10 people turning up for dinner we go out and let a restaurant take care of everything. We don’t get much downtime as we have all the New Year Parties to organise straight after Christmas.


Carolyn Latham one of the two mansion and collections managers at Tatton Hall responsible for the magical themed Christmas extravaganzas staged in the big house. This year Tatton’s theme is Roald Dahl’s Gloriumptious Christmas Mansion.

When do you start working on Christmas?

A year before, In fact we are already finalising the exact details of Christmas 2017 and by the end of January we will all have a proper idea of what we are doing and will be ready to approach our creative contractors to work up the proposal.

How do you make it happen?

We get creative in January and February working out what our chosen theme will look and feel like. So we started working on this year’s Roald Dahl concept in November 2015, looking at how it might be realised. Each year we have two or three themes worked up and decide which will be the perfect fit for that year, so in the past we’ve had the Nutcracker. A Christmas Carol and Winter Wonderland.


Matthew O’Brien is the 26-year-old designer behind Matthew O’Brien who has a boutique and Atelier based in Rufus Court just off Northgate Street Chester.

Why is Christmas such an important time of the year?

Christmas is when our clients need to look that extra bit glam and be able to attend Christmas balls and parties with the peace of mind what they will be wearing is truly one of a kind. We also have to remember this is an important time of year for our winter bridal customers, who during this time will also be finalising their bridal wear.

When do you start organising your Christmas schedule?

In early October when we begin sourcing fabrics for our client’s winter coats and outerwear, which includes the finest wools and cashmere. During this time we will be expecting to start our charismas consultations, discussing clients’ needs for November and December.

How do you make it happen?

To make everything possible, during one of our busiest times of the year we rely on our strong team behind the scenes, along with a considerably organised client order wall. This is where we keep track of all bespoke and made to measure orders on one large wall. One person that helps me keep everything on track is my head seamstress, she ensures that we are keeping on track and deadlines are always met.

What is your own Christmas Day like?

Our preparations in the home start on Christmas Eve morning when we make our way to Chester Cathedral then we make our way over with the children to the old fashioned sweet shop, where we buy sugar mice to decorate the table. Christmas day starts quite early with the arrival of my niece and nephew accompanied by other close relatives. We all exchange our gifts followed by Christmas lunch and plenty of champagne!

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