London Life Places

the winter festival

December 17, 2012

I love that london is so festive and i love to see festivals, markets and shows where hoards of people come together and enjoy themselves.

The southbank’s winter festival  is such one place. Until the 7th january 2013 you’ll be treated to buzzing christmas stalls, food markets, festive events and mulled wine. London, in the winter, is at its best when it’s cold and sunny. Saturday was a rather mild day and, for once, i was greatful it was dark in the late afternoon when i had a couple of hours to go down to take some photographs.

Be sure to check out the website for upcoming free events and festivals as, for example, the 3 days real food festival finished yesterday.


I don’t remember seeing so many people in one complex since the olympics back in the summer. Stalls were buzzing, families with kids were in abundance and as for food stalls, well….. except for the real food festival, there was everything from crepes to doughnuts, waffles, stews and sausages with everything in between.


I was glad to see masterchef winner’s wahaca’s southbank experiment. A pop up restaurant built from 8 recycled shipping containers, arranged on 2 overhanging levels. Apparently they also popped up with a street food cart!


Stalls or better, little wood huts were brimming full and everyone seemed in a festive spirit.

winter festival

Oh hello, some wood hut decoration.

The carousel was in full swing with queues forming.

The view on a clear evening is spectacular and it never seizes to amaze me!



I love the lit up concrete buildings.


Now, these 2 fellas below told me that there were going to be around 1000 santas congregating in trafalgar square. ‘Sure, i thought to myself’, pull the other one, as they were already heavily tipsy!’ Little did i know that they spoke the truth.

Apparently it’s called the santacon. Their website says the following:

What is Santacon?

It is a non-profit, non-political, non-religious celebratory parade of Christmas cheer, goodwill, and funIt is not a membership organisation, just a traditional event in London, created by whoever wants to take part. Originally called the Santathon it was changed to Santacon due to the similarity with other events of that name taking place in other cities. Nevertheless there are customs, and veteran Santas have put together this evolving guide of how to make it work well. There is no particular reason to dress up in Santa suits, run around town, give gifts, sing songs, have strangers sit on our laps, and decide who is naughty or nice – but it’s a lot of fun – so Santa does it anyway. Everyone loves Santa and Santa loves everyone!

For santacon’s rules and reminders, do click here! Fascinating stuff!


I arrived in trafalgar sqaure far too early but couldn’t stay on. To be honest, I was quite glad to leave, as more and more ambulance sirens were heard and i bet that there wasn’t one sober santa anywhere to be found!



It’s not all about christmas. It was also hanukkah. In honour, each year there is a giant menorah at trafalgar square that gets lit. The lighting of the menorah took place on saturday 8th december and the menorah remained in place until yesterday 16th december. I love that the menorah is being erected close to the christmas tree for a truly multi-cultural winter celebration!


How was everyone’s weekend? Did you visit christmas markets, do your christmas shopping, go to festivities, parties, festivals?

With all these festivities, let’s not forget the tragic school shooting in Conneticut last week and those families who will not be celebrating.  A letter circulated on twitter, entitled: i am adam lanza’s mother. If you haven’t seen it or had a chance to read it, do so. It’s truly heartbreaking!

Next week is christmas. next week i go on holiday. Yay! Happy monday. Do come and visit back here on thursday x

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  • Reply Catherine Bedson December 17, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    This event is amazing Tina, how beautiful! I’d love to have a cold Christmas one year to experience all these beautiful markets & lights & festive atmosphere. The Santa’s are so funny, good on them! Happy Hanukkah to you. Where do you spend Hanukkah? I agree lovely to see the Christmas tree & the Menorah co existing. Xxx

    • Reply tina December 23, 2012 at 1:03 am

      Thanks Catherine. Wow, I suppose I take it for granted to have a cold winter. Actually I’m not sure I’ve had many hot Christmases… Thanks for all your support! x

  • Reply Chi@106 December 17, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    Happy belated Hannukah, Tina!
    I do love the modern take on the menorah. 🙂

    What superb photos! I never quite manage to take decent ones once the sun goes down – you must tell me your secrets someday. 😀

    The Winter Festival looks and sounds amazing – I’ll certainly make an effort to go. Thanks for sharing the link! x

    • Reply tina December 23, 2012 at 1:04 am

      Well, not sure I like the Menorah but I like the principle of having it next to a Christmas Tree:)

      I will let you in to the secret…. Paige… she’s the guru who has taught me loads in about 10 mins.

      Hope you get to the Festival before it shuts down. It is fun, especially when dark x

  • Reply Holly December 17, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    What a festive post, the images are just magical, and those lit up concrete buildings, oh my! Thanks for taking us along 🙂 I also like the idea of the Xmas tree and the menorah close together – Happy Hannuukah, btw – xox

    This weekend I visited Lucia Weihnachtsmarkt in der Kulturbrauerei – best one I’ve been to in Berlin as of yet! Not too glitzy and loud.

    Xx. Holly.

    ps. have read “i am adam lanza’s mother”. Yes. Truly heartbreaking and a very important point of view. My thoughts go out to all those affected by this tragedy.

    • Reply tina December 23, 2012 at 1:07 am

      The concrete buildings are total fab. The Southbank complex is so 70’s and rather ugly but they’ve jazzed it up with the lights etc and it’s made a huge difference. Clever solution!

      Never heard of Lucia’s Weinachtsmarkt.. sounds amazing. You cannot really beat the German Xmas markets!!

      I wonder how the families of the Conneticut shooting will cope this Xmas!
      Thanks Holly x

  • Reply Louise de Miranda December 17, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    Oooh I missed that 🙁 I miss London and feel that there is still so much to do and see these days and I had too little time. I want to go see the exhibitions in V&A en Somerset about fashion, more pop-up stores, etc. I even checked flights and hotels to return the end of this week. Flights are cheap but the hotels are just too expensive.:-(

    Your photos are stunning. So clear! What kind of lens do you have? Did you use a tripod?

    • Reply tina December 23, 2012 at 1:10 am

      London is huge and even after nearly 33 years I still sometimes feel I haven’t seen everything:)

      Hotels are expensive but there are better options. Remind me in the New Year to tell you about them!

      Thanks. I use a Canon EFS 18-200mm It’s bloody heavy but often worth it! No, I don’t use a tripod but try and keep as still as I can when shooting x

  • Reply Igor December 17, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    Wow, this looks a bit like a German Christmas market in London:-)) Great pics, as usual!!

    • Reply tina December 23, 2012 at 1:10 am

      Well, not quite but they did a good job:) Thanks Igor!

  • Reply Ingrid December 17, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    Evocative post Tina. I’m not sure about Santas on mass. I think I would have hightailed it out of there too! Happy Holidays x i

    • Reply tina December 23, 2012 at 1:11 am

      Santas en mass…. haha! Yep, was glad to take a shot or two and get out of there.
      Thanks Ingrid x

  • Reply geraldine December 17, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    Your photography really captures that festive Winter’s night. It reminds me of the beautiful Christmas market we went to in Hannover recently. Glad I still have time to take the kids there.

    On a different note, I find that article ‘I am adam lanza’s mother’ so heart wrenching. We are so blessed with our children, that sometimes we forget that others may not have it so easy. I truly believe that stigmatisation against mental illness is reducing but I think there is still a long way to go. I think the government need to give community services for mental illness a better look – there are lots of pockets of good care but the overall problem seem to be a lack of joined up care. Also, the burden on carers are so high. More needs to be done there. It’s so sad what happened. My thoughts go out to those mourning their loved ones.

    • Reply tina December 23, 2012 at 1:14 am

      That might be a good thing to do after Xmas and before the New Year.. the kids would enjoy it!

      I agree with the mental illness comment. It’s still such a taboo. I went to a great evening a few months ago, hosted by Psychology magazine (if I remember correctly) and it was all about mental illness being more accepted at the work place. It’s still such a taboo and yet most of us are affected in one way or other (even if minor).

  • Reply Theresa December 18, 2012 at 5:16 am

    All the shots of the beautiful lights are making me smile. It’s so festive. Happy you got out to capture all the festivity and enjoy some of it yourself. I think we’ve got something like Santacon here in the US.
    Friday’s event was truly heartbreaking and senseless. As Ann Curry wrote in a tweet: What must we do to stop unstable people with guns from killing innocents in America? #WhatIsTheAnswer The article you share above is truly eye opening, Tina. Thank you for sharing it. Everyone here is screaming gun control, as we should. But, at the same time, I think we also need to take a hard look at how mental health issues are dealt with (or not dealt with as the case may be) in this country.

    • Reply tina December 23, 2012 at 1:15 am

      Yes, gun control is very important too but people must not overlook the very real issues of mental illness. You guys have had a tough year in many respects. may 2013 be easier and filled with joy x

  • Reply parisbreakfast December 18, 2012 at 10:06 am

    Fabulous post Tina!!
    I didn’t realize Santacon was universal
    But of course!

    • Reply tina December 23, 2012 at 1:15 am

      Thanks Carol.
      I didn’t know it was universal either:)

  • Reply Sam Lennie December 18, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Ahh yes, lovely market – my sister went on Saturday and had an absolute Christmassy ball. I spent some time with hubby enjoying the Birdington’s lovely new pad and their equally wonderful hospitality 🙂

    Great photos as ever Tina x

    • Reply tina December 23, 2012 at 1:16 am

      Thanks Sam. Glad that London was a good host to you and sis… ah, please you and Birdy had a good time x

  • Reply Anya Jensen December 18, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    Again Tina, you have me swooning and wanting to be in London (do I see a pattern forming here:) Happy belated Hanukkah – I love the multicultural celebrations in London- so fab,

    • Reply tina December 23, 2012 at 1:17 am

      Pattern noted!!

      Hopefully see you in 2013 xx

  • Reply Laura December 18, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    We were lucky enough to visit the southbank the previous Saturday. It’s so lovely this time of year and our visit coincided with the chocolate festival too 🙂 Your photos are fantastic and I hadn’t noticed the wahaca pop-up (yes, I know!) so it’s great to see that. I hope you have a very Happy Christmas!

    • Reply tina December 23, 2012 at 1:18 am

      I know I missed the chocolate festival and I remember you going to one last December just after we first met!
      Merry Christmas love x

  • Reply Deborah Lee December 19, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Lovely images … they really give a flavour and feel of London at Christmas!

    • Reply tina December 23, 2012 at 1:19 am

      Hello Deborah, thank you for stopping here. Merry Christmas to you.

  • Reply noreen December 26, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    hello tina!
    i love the photos looking down on the lights and the people. did you go inside and upstairs to shoot them? really beautiful and fun. the santas are a bit scary. glad you headed out before things got too wild. joy to you!

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