Interview: Laura Perry | Livingnorth.com

Interview: Laura Perry

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The Botanist
We sit down with Laura Perry, of the specialist decorating firm Team Festive, to talk about the business, her best designs and what she gets up to at Christmas

Tell us about Team Festive?
We’re a professional Christmas decorating company – in fact at the moment we believe we are the only Christmas decorating company between Edinburgh and York, So it leaves us quite alone in our profession. We’re a year-round business, supporting people at their busiest time of year, whether that’s their business or just personally in their homes.

How did you get into the Christmas decorating business?
I worked in events for about 13 years, and used to do all sorts of crazy installations. Then I read a blog online that was ‘10 ways to get mums back into work’. I wasn’t a mum at the time but I was out of work, and number eight was to become a Christmas decorator, and I was like, ‘Oh wow I could do this.’ So I started doing research and looked into the competition. To produce what we’re producing now has taken about five years, so it’s been a long time in the making.

What is your typical day?
A lot of interviews! There’s a lot of being the face of the business, which is sort of my thing, and then we have an amazing team of 14 installers and decorators behind the scenes that I get to take all the credit for. They do all the hard work and then I jump into project manager mode when we’re on site. I’m wearing a hard hat, steel capped toes, high vis vest and it’s a total transformation because my clients are used to seeing me in a fancy coat and a business dress and I turn up in steelies and they’re like, ‘What’re you doing? I didn’t think you’d be putting the lights up Laura!’ And I say ‘well someone’s got to do it.’

Where is the coolest place you have decorated?
Probably the Botanist, because of the dome. People said it changed the skyline of Newcastle, because now when you look at it from the BALTIC you see the illuminated dome across the whole city, so for lasting impact, I think something like that. We think we decorated the largest Christmas tree in Newcastle last year, which was 30ft tall, with a two metre star on top of it, it was on Osbourne Road in Jesmond, at St George’s Church, so we’ve had some pretty big projects. We decorated Newcastle Utd’s football stadium last year – it was their 125th anniversary year and they wanted to make a real statement, so they got us in to decorate.

Do you prefer decorating houses or the big halls?
I don’t really have a preference, I just prefer working with people who need our service. If people really need your service they appreciate what you do. The Botanist have absolutely loved what we did for them, putting those lights on the dome. It’s a permanent installation, so every time I go in there they go, ‘Ah, it’s you!’ And they talk about how great the lights are. I do have one family who I decorate for in Cleadon in South Shields – they actually get Christmas cards every year through their door thanking them for decorating their house so nicely because everybody comes to their driveway and takes photographs. So I normally come back in January to take the light’s down and we have a cup of tea and read through all the Christmas cards that we’ve kind of jointly received, and it’s just really, really lovely that they’re making such an impression on their neighbourhood.

What’s the best part of the job?
It’s got to be the instant feedback. As soon as you’ve finished decorating and you open the doors to a shopping centre and the public walk in you get it. I was at St James’ Park last year when they opened the doors on a match day just after we’d decorated and people were stopping and taking photos of the decorations. It’s just really nice to see their reaction. 

Do you have a signature decoration?
It has to be the two metre star for the top of the trees. It’s a three dimensional, beautiful piece and I’m going to put one in Newcastle this year somewhere so keep an eye out for it.

What’s your favourite part of the North East?
Well my dad’s from South Shields, so it’s got to be the beach at South Shields, if I had to pick somewhere. 

What does your house look like for Christmas?
I tend to decorate my family’s houses rather than my own. Whenever I’ve decorated my own house, generally someone will call me up in a panic last minute. Last year a lady with a holiday home in Northumberland called me up and said it had just been booked for Christmas, did I have an amazing tree that she could put in there to make it feel Christmassy? And I was looking at mine in the lounge saying, ‘I’ve got this beautiful black and gold tree, would you like a black and gold tree?’ And she was like, ‘that sounds perfect!’ So yeah, I’d rather decorate my sister’s fireplace or for my mum I do a huge decorated wreath every year, so it’s more for other people really.

Do you have any Christmas Day traditions?
Other than sleep? No I have Christmas Dinner with my whole family – it’s really low key, nothing big.

What’s your favourite Christmas song?
We listen to them all season, and my clients – when we’re decorating their hotels, bars, restaurants whatever it is – they put Christmas tunes on because they think people will like it. But by the time you’ve heard them for eight weeks, none of them is your favourite.

What about a Christmas film?
I don’t have a favourite Christmas film. We have such a busy day, we just have the TV on, so it’s kind of like whatever’s on this Christmas. We watch the Queen’s Speech, but I think that’s for Grandma mainly – she likes it. I do like Love Actually, I think that might be up there with my favourites.

www.teamfestive.com

Published in: November 2018

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