Christmas is a big time for traditions, and, like many in the north-east, Fenwick is home to quite a few for me. Yes, I know a big commercial retailer shouldn’t really represent the spirit of Christmas, but it does. So there.
For over forty years, Fenwick’s Window has been a highlight of Northumberland Street, an animated feast for the imagination, for adults and children alike. Before the 1970s, the window was still decorated, with toys and characters of the day, and my dad remembers going to see it with his parents, just as he took me to see the modern-day equivalent (and yes, I’ll be honest, he still does – we’ll be going along this coming Thursday).
Once the animation arrived, in 1971, the real fun started. The full story, from the store’s origins up to the present day, is currently the focus of a special exhibition at the Discovery Museum, Newcastle, running until the 10th January 2016.
When I visited on Saturday, it was a room of pure nostalgia, full of toys from each decade of Fenwick’s history, examples of advertising from the time and, of course, plenty of information on those amazing windows. I’m not even going to apologise for being over-the-top in praise of the exhibition. After all, it is a free display, within probably my favourite of Newcastle’s museums (also free). I was one of thousands upon thousands of children who lined up to go and meet Santa, and dragged parents around the Toy Fair, and I think the window and exhibition nicely capture the atmosphere of the place.
This year is one of my favourite windows from recent years – Christmas in Newcastle, with poor old Santa crashing through Fenwick’s roof, scattering toys and reindeer across the city’s skyline, and even partly across into Gateshead. And it’s still lovely to see families lined up, waiting to filter past, and everyone else peering over the tops of heads to make sure they get the best view they can.
So, I highly recommend the exhibition (and window, obviously) to anyone in the vicinity – definitely worth a trip down memory lane. There’s even an interactive window to have your photo taken in!
In tribute to my personal (or rather, purrsonal) favourite window of all time, have a Purrfect Christmas!