When retired economics teacher Bernard Clore lost his regular seasonal job to an on-screen Santa at a call-centre in India, he vowed to make a stand, setting up a ‘Real Santa’s Grotto’ hut at the ‘Occupy Bristol’ camp on College Green. Makeshift huts and shacks had first appeared during the previous day, as some protestors were finding their tents a bit chilly.
While some inhabitants welcomed Bernard as a victim of the forces of global capitalism, others complained that the grotto was destroying the ethical fabric of their ‘slum city’.
More eyebrows were raised when Josie Atkinson, an unemployed media studies graduate, began selling Christmas-themed cup cakes from an adapted shed donated by her father, a manager at the troubled Gardening Universe chain.
This morning, a billboard appeared featuring a Banksey-styled graffito of Santa Claus hanging in a noose from a Christmas tree, bearing the legend ‘This is not a Xmas Market’. Rumours were soon circulating that Bernard is in fact the infamous Bristol graffiti artist incognito. Sceptics argue that this would fly in the face of Banksey’s principles as a visit to the grotto costs £3.95.
By lunchtime, a facepainter, miniature bouncy castle and hotdog stand had joined the camp. Crowds swelled further this afternoon after four ‘Father Christmases for Justice’ abseiled onto the roof of the neighbouring Council building, to the sound of ‘ And So this is Christmas’.
The average queueing time for the grotto is around five hours, with today’s official queue now closed. A few newly erected tents are said to be occupied by families intending to be first in line tomorrow morning.