Sussex Santa stand-in’s big transformation

The Argus: Sussex Santa stand-in’s big transformation Sussex Santa stand-in’s big transformation

As Father Christmas prepares himself for the biggest night of the year, one Sussex Santa is just finishing a mammoth shift.

Paul-John Harris, 64, today ends his 13th festive season as the county’s leading grotto Santa. Having previously spread his festive cheer in Brighton and Eastbourne, this year he made dreams come true in Crawley’s County Mall.


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Mr Harris said: “I absolutely love it. If I wasn’t doing this each year then I wouldn’t know what to do.

“I’m an entertainer at heart so I like to make people happy. It is great fun to joke around and get the parents involved too.”

The actor, who has appeared in the likes of Eastenders, Holby City and The Bill, first tried out as Santa in Crawley in 2000.

He went on complete spells at various Debenhams stores across Sussex as well as stints at hotels including The Hilton Brighton Metropole.

But for all the smiling faces, festive singalongs and Christmas tips, there are screaming children, annual toy research and a long list of Santa faux pas.

He said: “You want to be able to talk to the children and make each visit personal – so I have to keep up to date with the new toys and trends. This year it’s all about Furbies, Moshi Monsters and One Direction.

“Some things never change though.

Over the years the likes of Lego and Thomas the Tank have always been popular.”

He added: “There are also a number of rules. Firstly, never promise anything. I’ve also learnt never to ask about daddy and whether he is at home. It can cause real problems.

“It’s hard work but I love it. I hope to do it again next year.”

Mr Harris admitted, “I’m not a particularly Christmassy person, but once I put my Santa costume on all that changes – it transforms me.”

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