Belinda's Bash

Belinda Naylor-Stables

Revisiting Santa 
This is the last Belinda’s Bash for the time being – so I thought I would do something extra special to mark the occasion. In this unprecedented interview Santa Claus shares his view of global warming, his tastes in art and music, plus his philosophy of play…

B: Santa, thank you for inviting me to your secret location. It’s been quite a journey to get to you – and I must congratulate you on your team of reindeer. They look in very good fettle considering they are over 2000 years old.

S: Thank you for the compliment. We take animal welfare very seriously here.

Santa Claus profile

Santa Claus in profile

B: Although the elves blindfolded me for the ride, apparently for my own safety, the sensation of flying through the sky on a sled was phenomenal. How often do you take to the skies like this?

S: Well the reindeer and I are in training for the whole year, as you can probably imagine. And contrary to popular belief I have to keep my weight down so that the reindeer can keep their speed up. So it’s fewer mince pies for me and the reindeer these days. Ho-ho-ho.

B: You have to admit that for some children the thought of a strange man entering the house in the middle of the night via the chimney could be scary. Also, some parents perceive the Santa story as a blatant lie. How do you advise parents to handle these concerns?

S: Well you know, children understand that the realm of story involves the magical and unreal – and it’s normal for them to just play along. For sensitive children you might mention it’s a particular honour to be visited by a mince-pie-eating saint, because a saint, by definition, is a really good person.

B: You don’t think a visit by a saint, who also by definition has been dead for at least 100 years, in your case about 2,300 years, could be a bit worrying too?

S: Ho-ho-ho. Technically speaking I suppose I am ‘undead’. We’ve purposely built our magical brand to overcome that – and people seem to respect it, I don’t think anyone has gone so far as to portray me as a zombie in a film… yet! Ho-ho-ho!

B: On the subject of zombies, I heard that you and the elves saw the Zombie Elves - Dawn Fields' film that came out in 2012. How did that affect you?

S: That was a difficult year. The elves threatened strike action over the film and wanted it banned. It took long and serious union negotiations for them to eventually see the funny side of it - some even admitted to enjoying it.  But that film is not for the squeamish or fainthearted I can tell you!

B: So looking round your mansion of a house, a fantastical log cabin of enormous proportions and a cavernous basement, can you tell me a bit about the philosophy behind the art you collect for your home?

S: I first got hooked on art in July 1988 when I went to an iconic exhibition called Freeze, conceived and curated by Damien Hurst in an empty London Port Authority building in London Docklands. I’ve been following the Young British Artists and ever since – though they’re not so young now. Ho-ho-ho. I like art that reflects the playfulness of humans and animals.

B: What about photography?

S: I particularly like photographers who capture magnificent tundra landscapes and animals. Ralph Lee Hopkins is a favourite.

B: What is it that fascinates you about these photographs so much?

S: Ice, in particular, is wonderful. It’s actually the planet’s playtime in cryogenic suspension. That’s what I see when I look at ice, playtime sleeping. When ice wakes up it’s water. And water is the greatest player on the planet you know, constantly shifting, shaping, sculpting.

B: So in your view global warming is bringing the planet’s playtime back to life.

S: Yes, you can put it like that. And it’s unfolding with great drama and elegance. But we all need to understand there is a dark side to play too - the ability to play havoc. So I’m an avid follower of the Arctic Arts Project too. 

B: I understand you have the biggest ice sculpture collection on the planet in your basement.

S: I go to the London Ice Sculpting Festival every year and always take something home with me. It takes place in mid January – but they don’t let you know the location until quite close to the actual event. I also like the Arctic Artists’ website, with tips on reducing global warming.

B: Have you seen those musical instruments made of ice?

S: You have hit on a particular interest of mine there! Terje Insungset is a favourite. I listen to a lot of Icelandic Metal too -a particular favourite is Unlock the Shrine by The Ruins of Beverast. Ho-ho-ho. I’m also a great fan of Snow Patrol and Arctic Monkeys.

B: Of course. And we mustn’t forget your fans either. Have you got a message for your adult fans at Herts Visual Arts?

S: Well I reach out to the child in everyone. So I say: keep playing - it’s the secret of success.

B: What about the children you don’t ever reach - have you got a message for them?

S: I reach every child really. But if they're not aware then I say: you don’t need me to come down your chimney to give you the top ten toys of the year. Enjoy those special gifts of imagination and play for the good of mankind – and you’ll see you have all the gifts you need!

Ho-ho-ho. Happy Holidays!

If you know of any playful works that Santa would particularly like, let us know…