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Loafie: Seriously Low Carb

CWC recently produced a larger-than-life loaf for Seriously Low Carb. “Loafie” ran the 2021 London Marathon to raise funds for Diabetes UK.
Loafie completed the course in 5 hours 32 minutes.

Using our in-house design team and dye sublimation printing we recreated the look and texture of the Low Carb Loaf, complete with branding and a removable Diabetes UK sweatband. The lightweight structure is durable and perfect to keep Loafie running for years to come.

Who are Seriously Low Carb? Part of the Keeto Life family, Seriously Low Carb specialise in producing low carb products and helping endurance athletes, type 2 diabetics, ketonians and others seeking a lower carb diet to support their eating lifestyle.

We caught up with Low Carb legend Andy Welch, founder of Seriously Low Carb and the marathon runner to talk about all things Loafie.

CWC: Hi Andy, it was fantastic to work with you recently and bring your product to life. What gave you the idea to run the marathon as a giant loaf?

Andy: We had so much fun working with you. When we committed to raise funds for Diabetes UK at the London Marathon I had a crazy idea in mind… I wasn’t sure exactly what it was going to be at first, it just had to be massively impactful, totally out of the ordinary and the outcome had to be maximum fun.

CWC: You were raising funds for Diabetes UK, how does your loaf help to support the lifestyle of people with diabetes?

Andy: Our diabetic family is a huge part of our customer base. Managing carbohydrate is critically important if you are either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetic, but until recently great tasting seriously low carb food just wasn’t available. We didn’t realise what a game-changer our bread would be when we launched in 2020, and now the loaves we have sold would reach into space and back. We’ve been blessed by the support from our Low Carb Legends (customers) and of course we’re very lucky to be able to support Diabetes UK in such a way.

CWC: We hope Loafie encouraged lots of donations. How did you find running in Loafie, did he attract a lot of attention and help to raise awareness of your brand?

Andy: I couldn’t recommend it enough. An hour of runners asking for selfies before the race. Five hours and 32 minutes of people calling out ‘Loafie’ & ‘Low Carb Legend’ every few seconds for the entire marathon and the finish line was euphoric, the applause I got from the support team was something else. Then afterwards…so many people coming up and saying they’d spotted me again and again and congratulating me. I couldn’t have asked for much more brand awareness, we even got on the BBC list of best costumes!

CWC: Do you think Loafie will be appearing at more events in the future?

Andy: Absolutely. We’re at the Food Entrepreneur Awards with Loafie next month. This time Loafie will be hosted by an awesome actor busting some dance moves to make us all giggle. I hope Loafie will make another Marathon appearance again sometime in 2022.

CWC: How did you find working with us?

Andy: The brief you took was absolutely on point. Your attention to detail was amazing, from the print quality to the branded wavy hair. I wore ‘Loafie’ for nearly 7 hours. The frame was very light and I didn’t have a single friction mark, that’s a top quality harness. You also manged us really well. We had crazy timelines, changed our mind at least three times and we still got Loafie delivered on time. You’re a seriously awesome team and because of you ‘Loafie’ is famous. Thank you!
 

“… thanks so much for creating our fab loafie costume, it’s brilliant! The print quality of the loaf is excellent, it looks just like our bread. Please pass on our thanks to your designers & production team.”

Rachel McDowell, Head of Marketing @ Keeto life
 

More about Loafie and the Seriously Low Carb loaf: seriouslylowcarb.com
@seriouslylowcarb

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The role of mascots in the post-lockdown world

The way we interact with one another during day-to-day life has adapted to stop the spread of Covid-19 and keep ourselves and each other safe.

As attractions and venues across the world have re-opened and adapted to the “new normal”, interactions between employees, customers and audiences have changed.

Whether you are a charity, sports team, theme park, holiday park, play centre or school, it’s likely that each time you use your mascot character, you will come into contact with a number of people. What is the role of custom-made brand mascots in the “new normal” and how can you adapt to keep your staff and audiences safe?
 

The UK staycation has been massive this summer. A key part of any family trip to a holiday park is the entertainment. We have spoken to several of our customers in the tourism industry to ask how they have been ensuring their characters are keeping their distance while also working hard

 

Outdoor stages

Some venues have outdoor spaces, where it is easier to ensure audiences are able to observe social distancing.

Distancing on stage

Markers have been placed on to stages to help performers to ensure they are distanced.

Meet and Greet

Meet and greet events are a little different, with characters no longer able to give a big, furry hug. Some companies have put floor plans in place, with an enclosed area for their character to perform, pose and interact with the audience with a photography point nearby. (Ask us about our custom printed backdrops) Queueing systems have been put in place in some venues to ensure everyone’s safety.

Social media and digital performances

Characters are using social media platforms to stay at the forefront of their audiences’ minds. There are so many different platforms available to boost your character’s presence online and keep your audience engaged even when they aren’t on site. Many parks have incorporated animated scenes into their character shows using LED screens behind the stage to add another dimension to their entertainment packages.

Puppets

Puppets are a great option, as they only need one operator. All CWC puppets are supplied with a washable glove. Each operator can have their own glove to limit any risks.

CWC recommended steps to take to keep your performers safe:

1 At present, we recommend that each character costume is limited to one specific performer where possible.
We also recommend (as usual) that performers have a minder with them at all times.

2 Items such as Coolmax Suits can be worn underneath the costume.
We recommend that each performer has their own Coolmax suit. These not only increase comfort during performances (they are moisture wicking and draw perspiration away from their bodies) but they are washable and quick to dry, meaning your performer has a clean suit for each and every performance. We’ve developed a “covid Coolmax” suit, which includes a balaclava for additional protection. Ask us for more details.

3 It is important that you properly clean and sanitise your mascot costume.
Proper cleaning will ensure your wearer’s safety, your costume’s longevity and a return on your investment. Many of our costumes last in excess of 8 years if they are correctly maintained.

4 Every costume we produce has a set of “Wear and Care” instructionsto help you to keep them clean, hygienic and looking amazing.
We hold copies of all of these, so please get in touch if you would like a set.

5 We offer a refurb service. Our team will professionally clean your character and carry out any repairs or produce replacement parts as necessary before sending your character back to you in tip-top shape. We have put additional precautions in place, keeping both the safety of our staff and customers in mind.

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Costumes with Charity

Despite the personal struggles faced throughout the Pandemic, extraordinary kindness and community spirit has shone through.

The tourism and leisure industry has been hit the hardest but thousands of talented UK makers have put their furloughed skills to good use by producing entirely different products to help the keyworkers who have been vital in fighting Covid-19.

Eager to help out, CWC linked up with Make it British to discuss the need for mass produced PPE. Unfortunately, due to the approved certification required for PPE we were disappointed not to be able to get involved in supplying PPE, however Scrubs were a different matter. Scrub Hubs popped up across the country, with members using donated funds to produce much-needed scrubs. Our furloughed staff worked hard to produce scrubs for their local hubs.

Fabric facemasks donated by Costumes with Character Russell Bear for Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice

CWC wanted to directly express our gratitude to the NHS workers, and donated funds towards the materials used by the Wigan Scrub Hub and Cyber Sausage @theatricalstagecostumes

Our Creative Director produced patterns for face masks and headbands which addressed the complaint of sore ears NHS staff were raising after having worn their masks for long periods.

The team produced over 200 masks and headbands for local care homes, customers and even characters!

We were pleased to quickly respond to the needs of a charity raising funds for the local community. They needed some replacement costume parts but had been let down by the original manufacturer of the costume.

The charity sector is another area that has suffered. Mascots are always a fantastic fund-raising tool. We have been told by customers that they receive three times as many donations when their character is present at events.
We’re always keen to support charities, offering reduced rates and donating to worthy causes. Needless to say, we love animals here at CWC and are pleased to support Compassion in World Farming (https://www.ciwf.org.uk/), the world’s leading farm animal welfare organisation.

The Rockhopper Penguin we donated to Edinburgh Zoo

We work with charities large and small, from BBC Children In Need to smaller charities such as Millie’s Trust. We have pledged to donate a character costume a year. Last year we produced Russell bear for Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice in Huddersfield (https://www.forgetmenotchild.co.uk)

Zoos have been severely impacted by the pandemic and we wanted to help out. This year we have donated a Rockhopper Penguin to Edinburgh Zoo, famed for their Penguin Parades.

“The rockhopper arrived the other day and it looks fantastic! Can’t wait to use it! Many thanks once again!”

ALEXANDER TURNBULL Visitor Experience Manager, RZSS Edinburgh

We hope he works hard for them!

The pandemic is an ongoing challenge for us all but if there ever was a time to #bekind, it’s now.

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Critters with Character!

How can you entertain your audience with a smaller entertainment team, and how can you ensure your team are able to provide vibrant, attention-grabbing shows whilst maintaining a social distance from the audience and each other?


Social distancing measures are presenting performers and promoters with some challenging issues.
Venues are having to think of clever workarounds to entertain their audience while keeping their staff safe. In the recently re-opened Disney Resort in Shanghai the much-loved Disney parade and “meet and greet” opportunities have been cancelled, with the characters instead waving at guests from afar upon their arrival at the park.

CWC is here to help! Our new range of “Critters with Character” puppets offer a perfect solution, allowing you to entertain your audience from a safe distance with a single operator.

Puppets have always been a favourite in the entertainment industry, from Punch and Judy to Kermit the Frog, puppets have thrilled and delighted audiences on the seafront, stage and screen.

In recent years at CWC, we have seen a steady increase of the use of puppets during live shows and events, both in the UK and further afield. Holiday parks, hotels and cruise ships use them for smaller, more intimate shows with their younger guests and families. Theatrical and live performance venues use them to add an extra something special to their show or bring together a concept that wouldn’t quite work as a costume or prop, theme parks use them as part of their walkabout entertainment or as an interactive addition to their scenery.

Over the years we’ve made puppets large and small: simple hand puppets, larger characters that need two hands to operate, costumes with puppet elements (such as a moving mouth or blinking eyes), and giant puppets needing a harness for the wearer to operate them.


Puppet replicas of your existing characters are a great way to introduce them to younger guests, bringing their larger-than-life personality to them without the larger than life costume, which can sometimes be intimidating for smaller guests
(We have plenty of pointers on addressing and avoiding this in our “How to be a Costume Character” tips provided with each costume).

Entertain your audience with a bespoke CWC puppet!

Our puppets are safe and hygienic for your staff. They are supplied with washable gloves which are quick to dry and can be easily maintained between uses, or each operator can have their own gloves. They also come with a stand and a waterproof tour and storage bag, so you can keep them safe and looking pristine when not in use.

We’ve introduced our first Critter and will be adding more furry friends to the gang soon. Keep an eye on our social media pages for the latest additions!
Contact us today If you would like a quote for a bespoke puppet, or want to know a little more about the “Critters With Character” range

Call us: 0161 442 8740

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Costumes with hygiene

In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, personal hygiene has become a focus. Frequent handwashing is being encouraged and masks are becoming more commonplace in day- to-day life.

Everyone has been staying at home where possible, and many of our customers have taken to the internet to engage and promote their characters and bring a smile to their customers’ faces whilst in lockdown.
As we slowly move towards the new normal, with theme parks in several countries beginning to re-open, what does this mean for your mascots?

For the time being, we would recommend limiting your character use to one specific wearer per costume and maintaining social distancing while you are in costume.
Your character “wear and care” instructions have full details about the best maintenance methods for your costume. We have copies of these available so please get in touch if you need a new copy or have any maintenance questions.
If you would prefer to have your character professionally cleaned and sanitised, our refurb team are here to help. Contact to book your character in for a full spa treatment, anti-bacterial scrub and soothing massage before they get back to work!
No one wants to put their wearers’ health at risk and here at CWC we care about your wearers’ safety.
We use top quality materials and quick-to-dry foam in our character bodies. As many elements as possible are machine-washable for easy maintenance at home, with minimal downtime.

Our preferred material for character heads is ABS plastic, which is unique to CWC in the UK.

It is the most hygienic style of character head and it’s easy to see why it is the go-to for much-loved companies like Disney.
The plastic is vacuum-formed over a sculpted fibreglass tool and the two halves are prepared by our skilled props team, who adapt the shape by cutting areas of vision and ventilation away, adding sculpted builds to the form to match your design. All edges are sanded down with 2-3 grades of sandpaper to ensure everything is smooth and safe for your wearer.

As ABS is plastic, it is not porous. Many mascot makers use cheap foams or even wadding fabric to produce their character heads.

Foam heads can be laser cut, making them quick and cheap to produce, but then the pieces have to be glued together. This is not only a lot warmer than a ventilated, plastic head but also absorbs moisture from your wearer. After a few wears this can become unpleasant and begin to smell.
In contrast, a CWC ABS head can be wiped clean with anti-bacterial spray or wipes after every use so you can be sure your wearer is working in a clean and sanitised environment.

With hygiene being at the forefront of everyone’s minds, our ABS heads really are the best and most hygienic choice for your character costume.

Contact us today to discuss your requirements; big or small, furry or smooth – we’re here to help bring your ideas to life.


Call us: 0161 442 8740

P.S Did you know we also sell puppets? Keep an eye out for our forthcoming puppet blog for more information about how puppetry in the entertainment industry is really taking off!

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Don’t furlough your mascot!

Five ways to keep your mascot working hard for you during lockdown

With our 6th week of lockdown in the UK just beginning, many mascots have been put to one side temporarily. However, this doesn’t have to be the case!

Mascots are a fantastic marketing tool, and social media platforms are providing the perfect solution to the issue of not being able to interact in person (or costume) with your target market.

Don’t be forgotten! Keep your brand at the forefront of your customers’ minds and ensure your business is ready to hit the ground running when the UK economy starts to re-awaken.

Here are five ways to help you to get the most out of your costume during lockdown.


1

Tik Tok: this video sharing app is the fastest growing social media platform in the world, with many people taking to the internet to showcase their dancing skills.

Polish up your dancing paws and give the “Oh na na na” challenge a try!


2

Instagram: this is a great platform to really promote the visual side of your brand.

Brand colours, photo montages, short videos and teasers leading up to announcements or events such as giveaways are a great way to build up excitement about your company and control your target audience’s impression of your brand. Don’t forget to use a hash tag or two to help your posts to reach your ideal customers!


3

Facebook

Frequently used to quickly communicate with and encourage engagement directly with your followers, many of our customers have taken the opportunity to create a Facebook page for their character, giving the furry face of their brand a voice with which to engage customers. The great thing about this platform is that you can post statuses, polls, photos, videos and you can share or like other people’s posts, increasing your reach.


4

Out and about (safely)

We’ve heard about several of our customers wearing their characters out in the streets to boost the morale of their local communities and raise money for good causes. We’ve seen wonderful feedback on their social media pages about this and it’s so heart-warming to see character costumes helping to give so much back to those in need during these challenging times.


5

Take the chance to pause and give your character the day off.

We are always so busy and often character maintenance is at the bottom of the “to do” list.
We have a skilled team on hand to professionally clean and repair your costumes, provide replacement parts and get the ball rolling on new designs or costume elements to help you to plan ahead and give you the edge over your competitors.

If using your character for promotions during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, to minimise any risks, we would strongly recommend that your costume is worn by one person only. We have the “wear and care” instructions for all of our character costumes on file, so please get in touch if you need a copy.
The majority of our characters can be machine-washed, and our ABS vac formed heads can be wiped down with disinfectant.

 

Stay safe and do keep in touch and let us know what your characters have been up to!

 
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instagram.com/costumes_with_character

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Costumes With Character now an employee-owned trust

Foreword by Liz Milnes, Managing Director

Liz MilnesWhen you create, manage and grow a business, the last thing you think about is your exit strategy, and this for me has been one of the most difficult challenges.

Almost 35 years on, both of my companies, Costumes with Character and Auscoz are considered to be two of the most successful mascot manufacturers in the world, providing mascots and characters for many of the most high-profile companies and character creators on the planet.

But the thing I am most proud about isn’t having founded and grown these two companies, it is having created jobs; interesting, creative and enjoyable work, in a great environment, for so many people, for so many years.

This is why succession planning to ensure the jobs were protected and company continued to grow was so important to me.

I am grateful to Postlethwaites Solicitors who introduced me to the concept of EOTS and created the Trust and structure for CWC.

Liz Milnes

CWC Management Team Costumes With Character EOT Management team: Debbie Aylward, Alison Hilton, Marie Harrison, Amanda Pritchard, Michelle Barton and Clare Kinross

After 34 years of producing high quality, practical and affordable character costumes, founder and MD of Costumes With Character Ltd Liz Milnes has transferred 100% of her company shares in to the Costumes With Character Employee Ownership Trust, which will hold them on behalf of the company’s staff.
Lego
Under the guidance of Postlethwaite Solicitors, Costumes With Character became an employee-owned company. This move is a way of preparing the company for the future by ensuring Costumes With Character remains an independent company, and the job security of the loyal staff (who have invested so much time, talent and effort in to making Costumes With Character the world class brand it is today) is safeguarded.

The success of Costumes With Character is dependent upon the skills
and attitude of the team; selling the company would put it at risk but
transferring its ownership to the staff would secure the company
long-term and preserve its current working culture for the future.

Besides ensuring the company will continue to thrive beyond her
retirement, Liz wanted the staff to see real rewards for their hard
work. This company structure means that the staff can see the
benefits of their hard work by receiving a share of the company’s
profits each year, and also have a say in business decisions.
Costumes with Character EOT Trustees L-R: Alison Dermott, Liz Milnes, Emma Stanton
The senior management team will remain in their existing roles, with
Liz acting as the MD in the transitional period, business decisions
will be made by the management team as a whole, with the trustees (who
are a combination of directors, employees and others with no
commercial stake in the business) ensuring the management team are
acting in the company’s best interests.

Employee Owned Trusts are a fast-growing business structure option in
the UK. Recently there has been growth in employee ownership as a
succession option for small and medium sized businesses and family
businesses.

“…The creation of an employee trust, is the best solution we have
found for keeping Aardman doing what it does best, keeping the teams
in place and providing continuity for our highly creative culture. And
of course, those that create value in the company will continue to
benefit directly from the value they create”.

Peter Lord and David Sproxton – Aardman

“To me, the decision to sell the company to my colleagues was an
obvious one. Nobody knew my business better than the people in it and
we’d created a culture together”

Julian Richer – Richer Sounds

Nickelodeon

Liz Milnes founded and created “Costumes With Character”, Initially called “Situation Clothing”, in 1986. Her background as a costume designer for screen and stage led her to identify a need for high quality, practical, comfortable character costumes. Liz wanted to produce costumes, which not only looked great but also carefully considered the wearer’s requirements and the practicalities needed for costume maintenance, such as ensuring the costumes were washable and individual parts were easily replaceable.

Liz relocated to Australia a number of years ago, after receiving orders from several Australian companies and seizing the opportunity to grow the business in another hemisphere. She set up Costumes With Character’s sister company “Aus Coz” in Currumbin, Queensland and has experienced great success there too, working with Dream World, The Wiggles, The Commonwealth Games 2018, The Invictus Games and The Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary among many others.
Aardman Animations
The move provided CWC staff with the opportunity to work in Australia and increased our understanding of the construction materials and methods required to produce costumes that are suitable for warmer climates.
The challenges faced in warmer countries included heat, UV fading and costume elements requiring glues more resilient to temperature than UK costumes. A base in Australia also opened up the possibility of sourcing different materials and technologies that weren’t yet commonplace in the UK.

Liz was actively involved in both businesses on a daily basis and returned to the UK for 3 months every year.

Some of the staff have been with the company from the very beginning and have seen it go from strength to strength.
 


Costumes With Character now produce over 400 costumes and puppets every year for a range of industries and household names including:

Tourism

Tui, Thomas Cook, Bourne Leisure, Parkdean Resorts, Away Resorts, Greenbank Holidays, Pontins

Sports

Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool FC, Chelsea FC, Leeds United

Leisure

LEGO, Aardman, Nickelodeon, Dreamworks, Sealife, Nando’s, Hollywood Bowl, SPI leisure

Charity

BBC Children in Need, Macmillan, The Christie, Cancer Research

Retail

Early Learning Centre, Marks and Spencer, Silent Night, Unilever, Slush Puppie, Kellogg’s


See full commentary by Liz Milnes
 


See our Work

Read more about employee ownership at Postlethwaits Solicitors: https://postlethwaiteco.comwww.employeeownership.co.uk

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Charities

It is so important for charities to increase awareness of the cause they support and many assume that a professional, high-quality mascot is beyond their budget.

We understand that mascots are a vital, eye-catching tool, which help to raise the profile of a charity, encourage fundraising and help them to stand out at a busy event.  Mascots provide an instantly recognisable face for your brand, and help you to be instantly recognisable at events.  We want every charity to have this opportunity and this is why we are keen to regularly support charity with a yearly costume donation to the charity of our choice, and special discounted rates, no matter the size of the organisation.


BBC Children In Need’s Pudsey and Blush, Millies Trust’s Geoffrey and Georgie (right)

 
Charities we work with include: BBC Children in Need, Macmillan, Millie’s Trust, Soi Dog Foundation, Merlin’s Magic Wand, Cancer Research UK, Claire House Hospice, Francis House, Children’s Adventure Farm Trust, The Christie and Zoe’s place to name a few.

We recently donated a character to Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice, Huddersfield, just in time for Christmas.

 

Fundraiser Lynsey Marshall reached out to us via our website:

“…As a local charity relying heavily on charitable donations from the community – income generation is our number one focus outside of the care delivery aspect. 

 Building awareness and engagement at our events across West Yorkshire is of upmost importance and the one thing we hugely lack in comparison to other charities is a mascot…Being a small charity with an equally small budget – I wondered if this is something you might be able to help us with …”

Forget me not children’s hospice is based at Russell House in Huddersfield.  The hospice provides respite for patients, carers and siblings as well as offering support for families in their own home.

“Our vision is for a world in which children and young people no longer face life-shortening conditions. And until that day comes, our mission will always be to offer them, and their families, as much support, love and laughter as they can handle.

Time after time, people who meet us tell us they’re astonished that a children’s hospice could be so happy. The day we stop surprising people like this will be the day we put our coats on and go home. We believe in creating joy, holding onto it, and spreading it – and yes, you can do that in a children’s hospice.” 

As with many charities the majority of their support comes from donations.  They only receive 3.3% of their income from the government. As such they frequently hold fundraising events to enable them to raise the funds they need to continue to provide the Yorkshire area with outstanding support.    We set about designing an eye-catching character, based on the charity’s logo – a flower.  We also noticed that they sold a small bear online and produced two further designs, one with a branded T-shirt and one with their signature branded purple hoodie.  The designs and fabric samples were sent over to Lynsey and the families at the hospice picked their favourite.

 

Meet Russell The Bear!

Russell is ready in time for Christmas and was launched at the charity’s annual “Little Lights” Christmas event on 2nd December.  This is an event that brings together bereaved families to celebrate, remember and reflect upon their loved ones’ lives. The feedback we received from the charity, patients and supporters was wonderful, with many taking to social media to comment on the charity’s new, cuddly mascot.  He was the star of the show, with Lynsey telling us:

“He was amazing, he went down an absolute storm…as soon as he came out the event came to life!” 

 

The charity plan to feature Russell at upcoming fundraising opportunities and events such as bag packing, their Santa’s grotto at Trinity Walk Shopping Centre and their annual Huddersfield Colour Run.   You can support the valuable work Forget Me Not children’s hospice does, read more about their events and keep up with Russell’s appearances on their website.

Facebook @forgetmenotchildrenshospice

Twitter: @ForgetMNotchild

We were delighted to work with Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice and know that Russell will work hard throughout the community to encourage many donations.
 
If you need a character for your charity we’re here to help.  Call us on 0161 442 8740 or email  to really get your brand noticed at an affordable rate.  If you already have a CWC charity costume who is in need of a refresh, take advantage of our refurbishment service.  We offer a special discounted rate for returning CWC-made charity costumes. Our team will fully clean and repair your character costume, bringing it back to an excellent standard ready to fundraise for you again.

Contact  to book your character’s place.
 

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Dames, cows and slapstick: the history of pantomime

It’s Panto Season!

Pantomime has for a long time been a seasonal British institution. A pilgrimage of tradition for many families in the UK. Love it or hate it, panto brings out the child in us all.

Shouts of ‘it’s behind you’ and ‘oh no it isn’t’ boom around the theatre hall. Cast members goading the audience to participate as they search high and low for the culprit who hides in plain sight. Pantomime, for those who haven’t been, is jolly good fun!

During our 30+ years of existence, we’ve had the pleasure of constructing numerous costume items and animals (most notably horses and cows) for this fabulous form of theatre so I thought I would share a little bit of panto history with you. It is, after all, the time of year they call… panto season.

Where it all started

Commedia_dellarteMany people will be surprised to learn that pantomime didn’t originate in the UK and holds many of its roots in a style of classical theatre called Commedia Dell ‘Arte, popular in Italy throughout the 16th and 17th Centuries. This style of sketch based theatre brought about the notion of ‘stock’ characters. Stock characters were made to represent stereotypical social types, such as the servant, the clown and the lovers to name a few.

Performing in small groups, the typical Commedia troupe was usually mobile. They would travel between towns, performing outside in the main square or at court for the towns folk to enjoy. Often masked, the troupe would play out conventional plot lines, drawing inspiration from current events or re-enacting historical performances with an improvisational twist and well-used jokes of the time. Since a lot of the performance is improvised, this allowed the actors to adapt plots to highlight local news or scandal, keeping the performances current and relevant to the localised area.

Character Development

With the evolution of Commedia Dell’ Arte, each ‘stock’ character developed a distinct set of characteristics. Speech, props and costume became signature styles, synonymous with particular characters. With most of the actors wearing masks, dialect and gesticulation was exaggerated. This emphasised the differences between the characters and added to the comedy element of the performance. This style of theatre became popular across Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries thanks to the mobile nature of the performers, slowly making its way towards England during the early 17th century.

Adaptations of the original Commedia characters became commonplace in English theatre. Slowly adapting the stories over time which brought about the development of the English Harlequinade. This put the character Harlequin (Commedia Dell ‘Arte’s Arlecchio character) front and centre. Harlequin had what was known as a ‘Slapstick’ that he would use to hit pieces of scenery to initiate their change. Over time, this character developed from servant to magician. By the late 1700’s, Harlequin, as a character, had become so popular that more elaborate plots and scenery were devised to incorporate his success. Along with it, came the birth of ‘Slapstick Comedy.’

Modern Pantomime

By the Victorian era, pantomime had become a regular festive event. Classic tales were adapted and revised to work on stage. The introduction of the principle boy (usually a female lead role) showed that pantomime could adapt and stay current with the flavour of the time. Well-known variety stars of the day began to cross over and star in popular pantomimes. This brought about a change in the cast, and with it new characters. It wasn’t until the 1930’s that radio and television stars became a commonplace attraction in pantomimes. This has since become a tradition still held in modern-day pantomimes.

A horse, of course (or a cow, or a cat, or goose)

Be it Daisy the Cow in Jack and the Beanstalk, Tom the Cat in Dick Whittington or Mother Goose’s Fowl. The role of the animal companion in pantomime has long since been a staple part of the performance. Skilled animal actors would don the costume (often in pairs for front and back legs) and perform alongside the high-profile actors of the day, wowing audiences into believing they were the real thing… with a little bit of imagination of course. Here at CWC we have made many pantomime and theatre animals from cows to kangaroos and horses. Interestingly, when one thinks of pantomime animals, cows and horses come to the forefront of the mind. However, horses are relatively rare in panto performance and feature far less than cows, cats and geese.

Dames and Drag

Part of pantomime since the mid to late 1800’s, the Dame is a well-known character in many of the staple seasonal favourites. Widow Twankey, Mother Goose and the Queen from Puss in Boots are all popular examples of the pantomime dame. They all have one thing in common. They are played by a male actor. The dame flips the script and plays on the comedy of flamboyant costume and cheeky innuendo in a way that only a drag act can. Most pantomime dames have a voluptuous shape. This calls for padding in all the right places and sometimes even a full body suit. This creates the illusion of an exaggerated feminine figure and helps to bring the magic to life.

If you’re planning a pantomime and need help with body suits, cows, horses or even geese then don’t hesitate to contact us with your requirements.

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Five weird and wonderful Easter characters from around the world

Easter Bunny

Easter is on its way, and for millions of kids this means that both chocolate eggs and the legendary Easter Bunny are on their way – however, not everyone around the world anticipates a bounding, big-eared egg bandit visiting them each spring!

  This important Christian holiday is celebrated in various countries with the help of some truly curious critters and creatures you may never have even heard of – and we think they’d make for some truly alternative Easter mascot designs!  Here’s our pick of some of the most interesting Easter characters and traditions loved in other cultures.

The Easter Bells (France)

easter-bellWhile not a creature or a critter, bells are hugely symbolic in France at Easter time– it’s thought that all the church bells across the land spring from their towers and fly to Rome, where they not only rub shoulders with the Pope, but also make sure they load up on traditional Easter sweets and goodies to share back home.  Keep an eye on any church bells you might spy the next time you’re France-bound – they’re all hiding secret pairs of wings!

The Easter Bilby (Australia)

easter-bilby
Australia has a magnificently wild and wonderful culture, and their Easter celebrations fit in rather nicely with this trend.  While the Easter Bunny may have found his way into the hearts of children across the West, the Easter Bilby is celebrated as a local cousin down under.  The character was first brought into the public eye in 1991, as environmental campaigner Nicholas Newland wished to raise awareness of the damage that rabbits caused to Australian flora.  The Easter Bilby was born, therefore, as a fitting symbol of local wildlife without the negative connotations!

The Easter Witch (Sweden)

easter-witchIf you thought witches hid away until Halloween each year, you’ve clearly never made your way to mainland Europe during the spring!  Easter Witches are commonly found across Sweden and Finland  – in the form of children dressing up and gifting handmade postcards/drawing to their neighbours. In return, the children receive a few pennies or Easter sweets for their efforts. Sounds fairly similar to trick-or-treating in the US – but beyond this, it’s not uncommon to see images of witches riding broomsticks and carrying a cauldron of goodies around Easter time in Scandinavia.

The Easter Cuckoo (Switzerland)

easter-cuckooWhen you think of cuckoos, you generally think of those odd little clocks – and where do they come from?  Switzerland!  The Swiss really take cuckoos to heart around Easter, too – as their traditional egg-carrier is not a rabbit but a native bird.  The Easter Cuckoo is brightly coloured and high-spirited, and particularly lucky children may even be able to snatch a few chocolate cuckoos of their own!

The Easter Fox (Germany)

easter-foxWho would have thought that the bunny’s natural foe – the fox – would be the one delivering the treats and the goodies out in mainland Europe?  Germany is another country rich in curious heritage, and it’s thought that both the Germans and the Dutch helped to spread the tradition of the Easter Bunny across the West.  The Easter Fox is perhaps less common these days as the Bunny has largely taken centre stage, but it’s nice to see that he still has a role in some parts of Germany!

There you have it – no one seems to celebrate Easter in quite the same way wherever you look – though awaiting chocolates and treats is fairly universal!  No matter who brings the kids their eggs and goodies this year, why not treat them to an Easter character with a bit of added history?  Give the Easter Bunny the year off – you must surely agree he deserves it!

easter-eggs