Parents slam embarrassing Santa event where herded kids waited 40 minutes

Organisers of a 'walkthrough Christmas experience' have apologised to families who branded the show "daylight robbery".

Parents that paid up to £125 for a family ticket on the first two days will now be offered free visits to next year's planned show, after the event earned scathing reviews online.

One reviewer said their children were "bored from the start". It was labelled "embarrassing" and "a shambles", while one person said customers were "herded around like cattle".

Jamie Webster, 32, took his two daughters, aged five and 11, to the show on Saturday night but claims his family had faced long waits in crowded, empty corridors; queued for 40 minutes to see Santa only to get 'nanoseconds' with him and a gift in a brown paper bag.

Meanwhile, he said, children couldn't hear the stories they were being told and the 'interactive' experiences they were promised didn't live up to expectations.

He told ChronicleLive: "A lot of the actors were doing their best but ultimately from start to finish it was nothing like how it was advertised.

"It was really really upsold, it was supposed to be a magical experience. The whole time we walked round all you could hear was the other groups, it was very disappointing.

"The only thing I want is that this doesn't continue to happen to other people because I just felt they were robbing people out of their money, that's the only way I can describe it, daylight robbery."

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However, the Google reviews had begun to pick up by Monday, with several five-star ratings, seemingly from parents who'd visited on Sunday, boosting the overall ratings – though at the time of writing it still stood at just two stars.

Chronicle reviewer Georgia Meadows attended and said she found it "original and creative".

Directors Kieran Stewart and Daniel Burnett said they were grateful to those who had raised concerns, and claimed they'd listened to feedback and improved the event for its subsequent days.

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They said supply chain issues had delayed the arrival of several key items, including mics for actors and branded gift bags for Santa, which had now arrived.

They also insisted queue times had now been drastically cut, with children waiting a maximum of 12 minutes to see Santa and a new activity to do in the queue.

Organisers say they'll contact those who were disappointed by Road To The North Pole on Friday or Saturday to offer replacement tickets to next year's show, which will feature a new storyline and new activities.

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Daniel Burnett said: "We're not here to make an easy profit and run, we're here to build magical Christmas memories, a lot of thought has gone into what's been created and we've done everything we can to provide what was promised.

"Prior to yesterday [Sunday] we did have teething problems. We've really taken on board what people have said and we've done our best to act on that and give people the event they hoped for.

"We are planning to do an extended run next year with a brand new story so we hope to really take on board what people are saying this year and hopefully get people back onside and to return next year.

"We can only apologise for the teething issues we experienced in the early days: we tried our hardest, but for us it's so important for people to have the experience we promised so for next year we want to invite everyone who had some issues on the first two days back to experience the event as it should be."

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