Meet our "Chief Elf"...
Creating magical moments doesn’t happen by accident - there are lots of elves in the Bluestone Christmas cog, all led by our very own in-house "Chief Elf" - Liam Hewer.
Liam works in a colourful office den where he turns our children's dreams into reality – whether it’s seasonal delights or unforgettable outdoor experiences - he’s our Free Range brain!
Read on to uncover the untold secrets behind Christmasland and how Liam transforms the magic from paper or pad, to the BIG and memorable Christmasland that it is today.
What is the inspiration behind Christmasland?
Magical moments and treasured memories, it’s as simple as that. The Christmas season holds such power, regardless of your age, the magic always fully takes over. It truly is a time for FREE RANGE FUN filled with fantastical imagination and delightful silliness where everyone can embrace the fact they are still - and always will be - a child at heart.
It’s the season I love most as children get to experience an often-supressed authenticity and the magical side of their "big people” which is often hidden in busy lives with endless responsibility. In turn, the adults are helped to not just remember but also re-connect with the joy, wonder and innocence of their long-forgotten childhood.
Christmasland at its core is about creating a platform of play for this magical bubble of time, to make sure our guests' investment of time can become the quality time it deserves. The fact that our Bluestone family gets to be a part of that is invaluable to us, as we share those magical moments that become treasured memories for each generation.
What is most important to consider when designing Christmasland?
Be funtagious and be a sponge! Every stage - from design through to build through to execution - it’s so much fun! I know when we are onto something truly exciting when everybody else gets swept up in the excitement too. The hardest part of my job is having to wait so long from the initial design to see the guests faces when they arrive. That’s the real magic for me.
Not many readers know that I have had the joy of being a part of the Bluestone Christmas product from the very beginning. From once upon a time being one of Santa’s apprentice elves to the now honoured position of his chief Imagineer - and nothing quite compares to that feeling. I will always be an elf at heart and the joy it brought me is something that will always inspire me and feed my enthusiasm to keep that magic alive. That’s where the sponge comes in! I love to soak up all experiences: What worked? What didn’t? What’s the trend? What’s a valuable tradition?
You have to break away from your circle of influence and what you know. Surround yourself with and speak to those who think differently to you as that’s when you truly find inspiration and creative solutions. It’s important to remember what it was like to be a child too (not too hard for me, my poor wife). We wanted to create experiences where there is no limit on interaction and inquisition. Nothing is worse than being a child and seeing incredible things but being told: “Don’t touch that”, “Be on your best behaviour”, “Sit still and be quiet” (shudders) or, for that matter, being a parent who feels they have to say those things. At Christmasland we want our guests to take control of the narrative and be the heroes of their own adventure. We create the platform and enjoy the ride!
When does work start on Christmasland?
Ha! My life truly is like that WHAM song: “Oh, I wish it could be Christmas everyday…”
That’s the joy of Christmasland and, working for the big man, you really have to have a love for the season as you are working on it year-round. It’s really hard to switch off because there will always be something that triggers an idea in the back of your mind. Something so far out and out of context that the elf part of your brain grabs hold of it, sugar coats it and rolls it in magic reindeer dust.
I’ll find myself suddenly singing a Christmas song in the height of summer - yes, I’m one of those... and I’m not sorry about it!
I’m just so very thankful for the incredible team we have here at Bluestone for understanding how my brain works- they are the ones who deliver on the whirlwind of ideas and execute them to what our guests see.
Eat, sleep, Christmas – REPEAT!
What makes Christmasland at Bluestone different to anywhere else?
For me it’s the passion and the people – they are the beating heart of Christmasland. What always blows my mind about Bluestone is how incredible the team are here. Year-round it never seems to change. But at Christmas there is that real sense of belonging, best described by a term used here in Wales called ‘hiraeth’.
There is a culture which seems to be an innate part of the DNA here, to genuinely care about how people feel and to feel connected and invested in impacting everyone's happiness. The staff do that for one another as second nature and it really does create a genuine family atmosphere and buzz around the resort that’s a pleasure to turn up to, day in, day out. As I’ve already said, it’s about a sense of fun that’s free range – not faked, force fed, manufactured or processed because that’s not who we are. We can’t expect our guests to have fun if we aren’t natural in the process! It’s about the fantastical characters and the beautiful individuality of our people coming together to create this magic. Christmasland is owned by all the staff and the final product is a real reflection of that team effort and quality of care.
How does the magic switch on so fast after the Bwbach Season?
It truly is a sight to behold with tireless planning from the magic makers (Operations Team) and an all-in effort from every Bluestone department (there are 20 of them!). As the lights fade and the buildings lock on the last day of Bwbach, the elves appear from everywhere. Our Bluestone family really do pull together and each and every decoration is placed with care -under the watchful eye of Alison of course (Chief Elf of resort decor).
What does Christmasland mean to you? What makes it so special?
Christmasland celebrates that golden age when magic is real - the age of the TRUE BELIEVERS. An age when practicality fades and imagination soars. (And, as an added bonus, pulling those who are beginning to transition to being a “grown-up” back into the magic. As an elf that was always such a rewarding feeling when you could see the children letting go one last time, and the adults seeing that happening. I’m actually giving myself goosebumps- what am I like?!).
The last few years have been challenging as we had to really consider what entertainment could look like. But it also gave us an opportunity to really analyse this question. Elves have always been the core of our entertainment and not surprisingly ELF is what helped us figure out the answer. To us, ELF stands for Enchantment, Love and Family. It’s a word that encapsulated the feelings from years gone by and what has become the foundation for Christmasland. Those three elements are, for me, what makes it so special.