Like a lot of department stores,Fenwick has a tradition of creating special Christmas window displays.
A tradition that began in 1971 and has continued every year since.
Despite opening branches elsewhere,the window display has always been reserved solely for the flagship Newcastle store. Shown below in 2013. And the theme of that very first display was Camberwick Green.
A few pointers from both pics, above & below ....
Pointer #1. Despite the Window sticker just referring to "Camberwick Green" the 2nd pic is Trumpton Town Square of course.
And not only are there characters from both series but they also gate-crash each other's tableaux.
With Mrs Cobbitt being notable for appearing in both.Despite not actually appearing in any of the Camberwick Green episodes of course. But let's cut them some slack on that one !
Pointer #2. The absence of the Firemen must surely mean there was at least one other window - ?
Pointer #3. I'm not sure who or what the little creatures are dressed as Santa -elves,pixies,goblins trolls ?
But they were a slightly leftfield addition,whatever they were.
Pointer #4. You can see the lines cut in the floor where the figures would have moved along.
Pointer #5. PG rated ? The first pic appears to show young Paddy Murphy being decapitated by the windmill !
The Future ? ....
Success always breeds expectation.
So from 1972 onwards they've had the almost impossible task of making every year's display "the best yet".
Months of planning and building that can be dismissed as "not as good as last year" within just a few moments of unveiling.
And where do you even begin these days,when information technology has made it so difficult for anyone to be "wow'd" ?
Personally I love the physicality of automata.
And whilst they may look slightly odd to anyone weened on Pixar and Disney,maybe it's their old world quirkiness that will actually help to keep them relevant in the increasingly slick world of virtual reality.
The other thing in their favour is that both Fenwick and their christmas window tradition are so deeply routed in Newcastle's psyche you'd imagine any decisions about the future won't be based solely on cold hard cash.
Quite how they work out any direct correlation between the display and december's sales figures is anyone's guess.
Or maybe it's that even darker art of "brand awareness" driving the whole thing.
But let's hope it does actually deliver a sales spike of some description,because our high streets are full of the ghosts of big brands who people talk fondly about in retrospect but didn't support at the time.
The sort of people who bemoan the demise of Woolworths despite only popping in twice in 20 years to buy some pick 'n' mix.
And Fenwick certainly aren't immune.As they were forced to close 4 of their 11 other branches around England in 2017 alone.
So the christmas display may either be the least of their worries or something to cherish even more as they retreat to their heartland.
One thing's for absolute certain though ....
It was a lot easier dealing with the levels of expectation back in 1971 !
Can you add anything ? ....
Arguably the most surprising thing I've learnt while putting together this page is that the theme for the following year's 1972 display was .... brace yourselves .... "Chigley" !
Which is maybe no surprise given the huge success of Camberwick / Trumpton version.
But you still wouldn't have put any money on it actually happening.
So the hunt is now on for some [any] information about that one as well.
And it would also be nice to fill in some of the blanks from the 1971 version too ie. some stills,video ... more information about the designer,Keith Spark etc.
And if you can add anything I'd obviously love to hear from you -email on home page
On this page - a look at the 1971 Fenwick Newcastle christmas window display.
Tv advert ....
Sadly,I've yet to find any footage of that 1971 display in action.Although it would be surprising if there wasn't some local news reel in a vault somewhere.Or maybe even some personal 8mm footage.
So,as always with these things,never say never.
But,in the meantime,here's a tv advert plugging the event as well as the christmas goodies on offer in-store
Probably safe to assume it was only shown in the Tyne Tees ITV region.
And whilst the end result may look a bit underwhelming by today's standards,it certainly wasn't the cheapest ad they could have produced by any means. Because ...
1. It was voiced by John Le Mesurier at the height of his Dad's Army fame.
Although even he struggles with a particularly lame script. His Wiki
2. It uses some of the original Trumptonshire models [plus some additional interlopers] in specially filmed segments.
And,stop motion has never been cheap,no matter how basic the approach.And,as you'd expect,this is indeed pretty basic.
Although the only really amateurish bit had nothing to do with stop motion - cue the falling snow overlay used at the start ....
The man behind the idea for such displays was the then chairman Christopher Fenwick.
A large furniture store opposite theirs was planning a big christmas re-opening after a fire,and he was looking for something to steal their thunder.
And he found it on a trip to Paris with his display manager,Bill Cass,when they saw the level of attention a retail window was getting simply because it had a moving display.
He recruited a designer called Keith Spark to put it all together,and the rest is indeed history.
In fact,Spark was to do the windows for each of the following 12 years.And,amongst other things,later went on to collaborate with UK theme park legend John Wardley designing attractions at Alton Towers and Chessington World of Adventures.
Every year there's a different overall theme.
But the only recurring theme throughout the entire run has been the use of automata
And whilst their inclusion certainly isn't unique to Fenwick,it's probably the only large scale window display in the UK where their use is absolutely guaranteed.
As are the months of planning and undisclosed amounts of money that continue to go into making it all a reality.
And here's a particularly eye-catching example from 2006 - "Gulliver" [your browser may reduce the size]
1971 display pics
Here are 2 still photos of a couple of the windows ....