Following a Dream

Seven years ago, Christmas became more than just a time of year for Mike and Alison Battle as they decided to launch Britain’s premier family Christmas experience: LaplandUK.

As we all begin the countdown to Christmas day, an unarguable amount of efforts from parents across the globe is grafted to ensure that this festive season is magically enchanting for our little cherubs.

Many parents share a passion for the wonderment of Father Christmas and the lead up to the big day, but for one couple leaving a mince pie and carrot for the man in red, and his accompanying reindeers, was not enough…

The inspiration for the idea came xseveral years after Mike and Alison Battle, and their four young boys, had visited Father Christmas in Lapland, Northern Scandinavia. It was in 2007 when the couple had an “Emperor’s clothes” moment; it dawned on them that flying little ones up and down to Lapland in one day (12 hours travelling time), potentially facing -30 degrees, and incurring great financial and environmental expense for a day was simply madness. And Mike and Alison knew they weren’t the only ones, with many British families fleeing the UK to seek an authentic Father Christmas experience for their young family.

But the real tipping point for them was their growing awareness of environmental issues and the message that we all need to reduce our collective carbon footprint. From this, and in true entrepreneurial style, after recognising something needed to be done Mike set about creating LaplandUK: Britain’s premier family Christmas experience. “Ultimately I liked the idea, Alison liked the idea and we felt that as an example to our boys, that’s what life is all about – following your dreams – so we set up LaplandUK,” explains 48 year old Mike.

However, what credentials are required for setting up a business venture like this? Well, in order to make Mike’s dream a reality he chose to leave a successful career in the financial markets. “The decision to create LaplandUK was somewhat of a fork in the road,” recalls Mike, “either I carried on my city career or it was time to take a complete change in direction.” His wife Alison had been working as a primary school teacher for 20 years when the project began to take off. She had been at a large inner city primary school in South East London where she specialised as an infant practitioner and taught children with special needs. “It was an extremely difficult decision to leave teaching as I adore working with children and always felt I had the perfect career,” says Alison. Despite leaving a career in teaching, by joining LaplandUK Alison brings a child-centred approach to the business. But beyond all, the couple share an undeniable love for Christmas. “Being passionate about both Christmas and the wonder of childhood, is encompassed together in this job. I feel privileged to be able to help create, for families, a unique and charming festive experience that will stimulate children’s imaginations and influence how children think of Christmas,” says Alison.

Although Alison and Mike knew they had a big job ahead of them, they knew getting their team right was a prominent piece to the puzzle. So they set about employing the best in the business, securing the management team who ran The Brit Awards to produce LaplandUK and partnered up with some experts in the industry, including the world renowned rocking horse makers the Stevenson Brothers.

Fast forward seven years and award winning LaplandUK has captivated thousands of young children from far and wide, and is regarded as the company who’s put the magic back into Christmas. But not without severe hard graft, and it’s the company’s attention to detail which is second to none. The LaplandUK team truly understand how precious childhood is and how priceless and fleeting a child’s belief in Father Christmas can be. Families have an overwhelming desire to preserve their children’s innocence and create magical memories for the whole family to cherish and this is LaplandUK’s ethos.

LaplandUK put the children at the forefront of everything they do, after all they are the VIPs for the day. “Our staff are highly enthusiastic, they undergo great training with “Creating the Magic” days stressing upon every member of staff the importance of their role and staying in character – at the end of the day, one thoughtless comment could shatter a child’s belief,” informs Mike.

“The whole experience is made up from layers of details,” Alison adds, “A magical day is created one bit at a time – from Mother Christmas’ Kitchen where the children decorate gingerbread to meeting Father Christmas himself, everything is meticulously planned and implemented.”

And when I say they’ve gone the extra mile, you only need to look at their artefacts and decorations sourced straight from Scandinavia or the hand written letters from children around the world sent to Father Christmas, to gauge the authenticity. I can assure you that no stone has been left unturned. As you can only visit LaplandUK through advanced booking, this gives the opportunity for Father Christmas to know something about every child, as information is secretly provided with specific details about the children at the time of booking. Children totally believe they are in the presence of the “real” Father Christmas – after all how else could he know so much about them?

But developing young imaginations, is what Alison is used to, stemming from her 20 years as a teacher. She has a great awareness of how to create magic for children by really getting into their minds and developing young imaginations. “My years as the school’s Language Coordinator affirmed my belief in the power of stories and the imagination to develop the creative minds of children,” says Alison. In LaplandUK she has been able to combine her two great passions: Christmas and the wonderment of childhood.

It’s not been an easy journey, but through combined strength and their passion they are incredibly proud of the end result. “I have no regrets,” says Mike, “and although it can be very challenging at times, especially when dealing with a family’s emotional belief in Father Christmas, I am proud of the example we are setting our children.” And what a fantastic company to inspire their children, “Our sons think LaplandUK is great, if slightly surreal at times,” laughs Alison. And although Christmas may only enter many families lives once a year, it’s completely normal for the Battle family to be discussing Father Christmas’ reindeer around the Sunday dinner table on a lovely summer’s day. The whole family get involved, and continue to feel honoured to be a part of the experience. “If you are lucky enough to have a child in your life at Christmas it’s important to make it unforgettable as all too quickly this magical time has passed,” says Mike.
Which, to me, sums LaplandUK up. ✿