With only 100 days to go until Christmas, the time has come to decide how you want to throw your money away this year.
One prime candidate appears to be the Wintertime Festival, which is taking place in a particular southeast London borough throughout the month of December. I won't name it, or link to it, because I'm not here to the provide the oxygen of publicity. But rarely have I seen quite such an over-hyped landgrab for the contents of your wallet, should you be tempted within.
According to the up-front marketing, this will be London's Most Unique Winter Festival Ever!
My inner grammarian is already screaming. Unique suggests the festival is one of a kind, in which case Most Unique is technically impossible. As for Most Unique... Ever, that's a modified absolute of logically unattainable proportions. These are empty words thrown together by a marketing team which doesn't care for truth. Bodes well.
What are the six components of this Most Unique Ever festival?
1) A Bespoke Covered Ice Rink
They surely can't mean an ice rink covered in bespoke? No, this is just the lazy use of a buzzword that was already out of date several years ago. Thirty bespoke minutes on the bespoke ice will be permitted.
2) London's Finest Independent And Innovative Lifestyle Winter Market
London's Finest is an audacious boast for a festival that's never taken place before. It's also not clear against which standards this superlative claim is to be judged. As for Lifestyle, that's another buzzword thrown into the mix, and which has landed awkwardly somewhere it makes no particular sense. Apparently the Winter Market will present an array of independent creative designers and brands. Whatever festive gifts and trinkets are available, it doesn't sound like they'll be cheap.
3) The Very Best Of Artisan Festive Food and Drink
The Wintertime Festival's publicity appears to be running at a rate of 1 Buzzword per claim. This time it's Artisan, which suggests hand-crafted treats and definitely not a few sausage stalls and some mulled wine. Again, it's impossible to believe that the refreshment selection could possibly be The Very Best, given the scale of comestible competition across the capital.
4) Magical And Enchanting Entertainment
The full festival entertainment line-up is due to be released later next week. It might be outstanding, but the only artistes I've seen specified so far are a brass band. Daytime acts on the big tented stage will apparently be family-friendly, while evening visitors should expect live music and DJs performing pop, soul, jazz, swing, classical and folk. Meanwhile wandering around the site will be a troupe of performers and street entertainers to surprise and delight at every turn. If there isn't a fire-breathing unicyclist conjuror, I'll be unimpressed.
5) An Authentic Father Christmas Experience
You what? Whatever a Father Christmas Experience might be, sorry kids, the one thing it can never be is Authentic. What's more this isn't your usual one-on-one perch on Santa's knee. Instead expect a magical and mesmerising audience with Father Christmas lasting approximately 15 minutes, in the company of up to 40 other children, concluding with a small gift and the opportunity to take part in a group photo. I wonder if you get that group photo for free, or whether it costs extra?
6) An Art Exhibition
The marketing agency appears to have run out of superlatives here. Their description is simply An Art Exhibition across all collateral. I guess that means the art won't be especially exciting.
The cunning thing about the Wintertime Festival, or the exploitative thing, is that if you want to go ice skating you have to pay twice. First you have to pay to get inside the main enclosure, which'll set you back at least £15, and only then can you pay extra for a spin on the ice.
Buying tickets works like this. Each day's operations are split into three allotted sessions of 3 hours. Evening sessions cost £18 for adults, while Morning and Afternoon sessions cost £15 before 22nd December, and the full £18 for the rest of the month. This entrance fee gets you inside to enjoy the Entertainment and the Art Exhibition, plus the opportunity to spend more money in the Winter Market or on Food and Drink. But the Ice Skating costs extra - £10 for thirty minutes - and if you want to see Santa that's another £8 per child. And because these tickets are being sold online, a 10% booking fee is then applied on top of the total amount. Ouch.
Let's have a look at how a trip to the Wintertime Festival might add up.
» An adult attending an evening session (with ice skating) should expect to pay £30.80, plus extra for food and drink.
» A family of three attending in the afternoon (with ice skating and Santa) is looking at an outlay of £81.40 if they visit before 22nd December, or £88 if they wait until the school holidays start.
» As a special introductory offer, the entrance price on Friday 1st December is only £10, with ice skating a mere £5 on top. This is no doubt a cunning ploy to make the place appear packed out on Day One, allowing photos of the "successful event" to be splashed across social media.
London's Most Unique Winter Festival Ever could be an enormous success or it could be a terrible flop. Many Londoners do seem to enjoy forking out large amounts of money to enter exclusive food and drink enclosures, especially those with a bit of added sparkle. If the entertainment options truly are magical and enchanting, it might even be fun to spend three hours inside a serviced compound this Christmas. But I suspect there'll be better places to get an Authentic Bespoke Artisan Lifestyle Experience elsewhere, with zero admission charge, and the enterprise may struggle.
The dynamic agency who came up with the marketing campaign for the Wintertime Festival describe it as a truly unique and contemporary experience and the ultimate Christmas destination. It might be the former. But it most definitely won't be the latter.
With only 100 days left until Christmas, you have plenty of time to find something better.