Who lives in a magical grotto and visits families across Littlehampton to spread Christmas cheer? Aside from Father Christmas, there is another candidate: the town mayor, Billy Blanchard-Cooper.
Renowned for his Christmas decorations, Billy transforms his home each year, with themed rooms filled with festive sights.
And he has had a very busy schedule in the run-up to Christmas, taking part in many yuletide events.
He even overcame a bout of hand, foot and mouth disease to attend all bar one of his mayoral Christmas commitments.
He said seeing all the different ways people celebrate the festive season had ‘made his Christmas’: “it is always difficult getting into the Christmas spirit, but seeing how much it means to people in different ways has been so wonderful to see.
“It doesn’t matter what age you are or what you are doing, it is all about getting involved.”
I tell people – don’t think tacky, think classy!Town mayor Billy Blanchard-Cooper on his Christmas decorations
Billy’s Christmas schedule kicked off with the town centre lights switch-on on November 25, where he was joined by Elsa and Olaf from the Disney film Frozen who he said the children were ‘in awe’ of.
He was invited to the town’s Christmas markets by Staci Mendoza-Quinn from Littlehampton’s Organisation of Contemporary Arts, and also appeared at Wickmas, Wick’s Christmas event.
One of the mayor’s favourite festive appearances was at The Twilight Tappers’ Christmas Extravaganza at the Windmill Theatre. The group is made up of 60 to 90-year-olds who want to learn tap dancing, and they performed numbers from musicals such as 42nd Street.
He also attended a Christmas tree festival at Littlehampton United Church in High Street, Littlehampton, where different groups decorated trees to raise money for the Friends of Mombasa Children.
And he is an expert judge, being renowned for his own decorations. Each year, he and his partner Chris host an open house event at their home to raise money for charity – and this years’ event was so popular they raised £668 and hosted another open house yesterday.
From Disney-clad trees to bathrooms covered in snowflakes, to a Christmas village with a working railway and fountain – which Billy admitted was growing into a town – it is a winter wonderland which took him two weeks to create.
He said: “I tell people – don’t think tacky, think classy! It comes across as opulent.”