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Inside Countdown to Christmas

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

On 1 December, Countdown to Christmas launched on campus – a 16-day celebration of the most wonderful time of the year. A week in and the festivities are well underway. Over the last seven days, there’s been: live music, a Christmas lights switch-on, street food, Ferris wheels, and more! There’s even been a visit from the big man himself, Santa.

But what does it take to bring Christmas to thousands of staff and students? We spoke to Dave Oram, Head of Event Management, to find out.

Students on Ferris wheel on campus

What was the inspiration behind Countdown to Christmas?

The University works incredibly hard to offer students a fantastic experience and, this month, we wanted to give students a proper send-off before their winter break. And what better way to do that than with just over two weeks of celebrations and festivities!

Many students stay on campus over the holidays too, so we wanted to give them their very own Christmas before the University closes on 22 December.

The main aim of Countdown to Christmas though is to unite the entire University community – staff and students alike – and spread some much-needed festive cheer after what’s been a tough 21 months for us all.

What role have you played in bringing Christmas to campus?

I’ve been involved behind the scenes, getting stuck into the nitty-gritty of delivering Countdown to Christmas. Pulling off a campus-wide event for thousands of staff and students is no easy feat. Everything must be seamless from start to finish, which is why I’ve been responsible for the event’s logistics, making sure that everything runs as planned and to schedule.

I’ve also had another huge responsibility: sourcing and decorating the University’s Christmas tree outside the Bramall! I’m responsible for all the lights in Chancellor’s Court, plus Old Joe’s festive makeover too.

Green and red lights outside the Bramall. Outside lit with Christmas tree and lights.

Who have you worked with to bring the event to life?

I’ve worked extremely closely with Student Services, offering them the event management support they needed to transform their idea into a reality. It’s been a campus-wide effort though really; there’s been a lot of collaboration with Estates to ensure that everything’s running smoothly, and the rest of the Conferences & events event management team have been instrumental in transforming campus for the festivities.

What’s been your biggest challenge?

We had only three weeks to bring Christmas to campus, and on a limited budget too. To have been able to offer staff and students a fantastic programme of activities and get campus decorated in such a short amount of time is a testament to great teamwork. I know that Countdown to Christmas wouldn’t have been possible without us (Student Services, Conferences & events and Estates) all pooling together our expertise and resources.

There was also a slight hiccup with the festoon lights in Chancellor’s Court; a van backed into them and brought the whole lot down. Thankfully, I managed to get them back up and running in time, but it’s taught me a valuable lesson for the future: always hang your Christmas lights as high as possible!

Christmas projections on Old Joe

What’s been your favourite part of the celebrations so far?

My Countdown to Christmas highlight has been the Christmas light switch-on. On 1 December, hundreds of students and staff gathered to watch Chancellor’s Court and Old Joe light up the night sky. Even Santa made an appearance with his reindeer and elves in tow! It was wonderful to see so many people getting in the festive spirit – it makes all the hard work worth it.

It’s been great to welcome Digbeth Dining back to campus too. It’s always a pleasure to work with them and see what exciting new offers their vendors have. I’ve really enjoyed tucking into some of Birmingham’s best street food, and I know our students have too.

Street food stalls on campus from Digbeth Dining Club

Countdown to Christmas will run until 17 December. Check out the event programme to find out what’s coming up next week!

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