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YOU can tour the Trafford Centre Christmas lights in our new gallery. To experience the UK’s first animatronic lights scheme, you’ll have to come down to the Centre for yourself!

MALLS: The hanging decorations on the Malls revolve all day to catch the light.

LIGHT FANTASTIC: Water and light meet at the Christmas Barton Square.

YUM: Hot snacks are freshly prepared for festive shoppers at Barton Square.

SWEETS AND TREATS: Continental stalls welcome you to try their wares at Barton Square.

CAROUSEL: The Victorian Carousel at Barton Square lights up the night.

SING-SONG: Over at Barton Square the Christmas Singing Bears Show entertains the crowds.

SPINNING: Baubles open to reveal revolving Christmas trees inside!

BAUBLE: Giant animatronic baubles open and close throughout the day.

SLEIGH: Santa flies his sleigh under the sky ceiling of The Orient.

FERRERO: The stunning Ferrero Rocher sculpture hanging from the Main Dome outside Selfridges.

Calendar boys go on sale!

Looking for a novel Christmas present for a loved one? Why not consider doing your bit for charity at the same time, and invest in a copy of one the most stylish 2011 calendars we’ve ever seen!
Always Charity Calendar 2011

COVER STAR: Jodie in the nuddie.

The handsome rugby lads at Salford City Reds (sponsored by The Trafford Centre) have taken the plunge to become real models for the day. We’ve dressed them and undressed them, posed them and even covered them in make-up – and the results are astounding. See more pix here!

Retailers from across The Trafford Centre got involved in the calendar, from Debenhams to Selfridges, and from LEGOLAND to Mamas & Papas, giving us toys and clothes and props to help create each look.

rugby calendar

COLD: At ChillFactore.

All proceeds from the calendar go to our favourite charity the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Appeal. For this great cause, our buff models braved sub-zero temperatures at ChillFactore indoor ski-slope, acted like dummies in shop windows at John Lewis, and one was decorated as a Maori warrior by artists at the Selfridges’ cosmetics counter Illamasqua.

Each month stars a new player, and each is themed so you won’t get bored of looking at your calendar through the whole of 2011.

For more on the Always Charity Calendar, and to buy your copy online for £8:49, just click here – or, you can follow our progress on our Facebook fanpage.

rc

FACE IT: Jack gets serious.

You can also buy the calendar in the Centre from our friendly Customer Service desks in the Main Dome and on Peel Avenue. The price in person is just £6.99 – so don’t forget to pick up your copy next time you’re in the Centre. (Fans of the team can buy direct from the team store at the Willows stadium).

I must send a big thank-you to everyone who has bought a copy so far – your support is appreciated, and we know you’ll love your calendar!

And watch this space as we see how much money we can raise for this vital children’s charity…

* FOR more info and preview images, just click here!

Xmas Lights at Barton Square

SPARKLE: At Barton Square.

Well, I think The Trafford Centre has really excelled itself this year with the brand new Christmas lights. What do you think?

They really are the most stunning I’ve ever seen here!

After a fantastic switch on event with X Factor favourite Ollie Murs, everyone around the Centre has been getting used to the new festive outfit adorning every inch of the place.

With lots of time and effort put into this new lights scheme, the designers have done something very new, with the UK’s first-ever animatronic displays creating a dance of light and movement at every turn.

Xmas Lights on the Malls.

Baubles: Dangling on the Malls.

Huge Christmas baubles hang from the atrium of each mall, gently opening and closing to reveal bright, spinning Christmas trees at their centre.

Wreaths of lights decorate the Orient, with gorgeous Christmas trees twinkling away merrily. Every palm tree and every lamp-post it seems is drenched with thousands of bulbs – which are now greener LED bulbs which use far less energy than the old-fashioned bulbs the Centre used to display.

The old favourite talking Christmas tree is back on Lower Peel Avenue, and last year’s highlight the Ferrero Rocher installation in the Main Dome is back – and looking as amazing as ever.

You really can lose yourself staring upwards at that gravity-defying sculpture.

Over at Barton Square we have the multi-coloured conical Christmas trees which are my favourite, I would dearly love one in my own garden. Then the magical Ice Palace grotto takes pride of place in the Square, alongside the classic Victorian Carousel and festive stalls. It’s Christmas wherever you look!

Xmas Lights in the Orient

SLEIGH: In the Orient sky-ceiling.

I’ve gathered some fun facts about the new lights to delight and amaze you – but there is no comparison for coming down and taking a look yourself. Why not bring your camera, and take some fab photos for friends and family elsewhere in the world, to show them how we do it in style at The Trafford Centre? Remember to look up while you’re in the Orient, to spy Santa and his sleigh streaking through the sky!

Let me know what you think of our Christmas lights – any favourites?

Light Fantastic Facts!

WOW – 30,000 Christmas baubles from Finland have been hung around the Centre

GEMS – More than 6,500 sparkling jewels will be glittering into the New Year

CRYSTAL – 5,000 crystal droplets have been polished for the display

HOLLY – 58,000 holly leaves have been used

LIGHT – 280,000 LED light bulbs will shine, using a third of the electricity of the old tungsten bulbs

HUGE – In all, the Centre has strung up more than 10,000m of lights

GOLD – 300m of gold-plated poles hold the decorations in place

ICE – 3000 icicles sprout from balconies and stairways

GIANT – 1,000m of Christmas garland will be used

CRAFTED – The enormous 10 metre Christmas tree has 1,100 branches, individually applied!

Ice Palace Grotto

MAGICAL: The stunning Ice Palace in Barton Square.

THE elves have been hard at work in Barton Square building the largest, most splendid grotto The Trafford Centre has ever seen!

Sponsored this year by Christmas hit movie Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the brand new Ice Palace Grotto and 4D Cinema opened at the weekend to a flurry of eager families, keen to get inside and meet Father Christmas himself.

Ice palace Grotto and 4D Cinema

ICE: The Snow Queen welcomes guests.

This year, just like the characters from Narnia, our visitors walk through a magical wardrobe door into a surreal world – quite unlike the outside. A fabulous 4D cinema experience awaits, as the hilarious Rocket the Reindeer movie is shown, complete with wind and bubble effects!

After that, children are guided to Father Christmas in his grotto, where they can pose for photos and chat with the man behind the myth, and also receive a lovely present to help them remember their day.

As you can see from these photos, Father Christmas has spared no expense this year in creating his festive outpost at Barton Square. Magical characters and twinkling light displays really transport you into the world of Christmas, and get everyone at the grotto in the mood for this wonderful time of year.

Ice Palace Grotto and 4D Cinema

BEAST: Magical characters abound!

[With our traditional Victorian carousel just next door, and a host of festive stalls selling such faves as mulled wine and bratwurst, the entire square has transformed into a winter wonderland, cascading with lights and the sounds of the Singing Bears dressed in all their festive finery.

I am taking regular walks to the Square to soak up the lovely atmosphere. The only question to ask is: how many bratwursts can one person eat in a day?

* For grotto prices, and to book online to avoid a queue, just click here.

* HAVE you entered the magical Ice Palace Grotto and 4D Cinema? What did you think?

WHEN I saw these new images from cosmetics brand Illamasqua at Selfridges, I knew I had to share them with you; they are simply stunning.

They are part of the new Autumn Winter collection from this dramatic brand, and really exemplify the darker, bolder side of contemporary cosmetics.

I’m a big fan of Illamasqua – they are quite unlike any other cosmetics brand I know. Edgy, provocative and daring, the night-time products they create appeal to the counter-cultural woman – this is the direct opposite of “barely there”. And as we in the Northwest head into Pride weekend, I imagine quite a few drag queens will be lashing on these stunning products to amazing effect.

Illamasqua has created a series of characters to show off their new season range, from Mistress of Ceremonies, through Dark Angel Reaper, to the Queen of the Gypsies, devouring a juicy pomegranate like some latter day Persephone…

I think you’ll agree the characters are breath-taking – and not a little bit inspiring.

If you have a devil lurking inside you, this range could well be the one to drag her out. Enjoy.

JUICY: Queen of Gypsies

FAB: Queen of Gypsies


AVATARISTIC! Mistress of Ceremonies

* YOU can find Illamasqua on the ground floor of Selfridges, just enter via the Main Dome and look to your left. The Art of Darkness collection is released on September 16th. Watch the Illamasqua blog for more images as they are released.

I was enjoying my daily envy-walk around the hallowed halls of Selfridges today when I was stopped in my tracks by the most eye-popping display of cupcakes I have ever seen.

Cupcakes, you say?

Not just any cupcakes.

SEXY: Which one's for you?

These rainbow delights are the tasty work of Sale bakery Jellytots and Dollymixtures, who have arrived at Selfridges on a mission to make cupcakes the most fashionable treat of our times.

Almost designed to appeal to the fashionistas, each cake has a unique style, a hand-made appeal, and just enough calories to count as fun – but not enough to ruin the line of this season’s LRD that you love so much!

COLOUR: To match any outfit.

Louise Jones, from the bakery, told me: “Our cakes and our branding slots perfectly into Selfridges. They look sophisticated and stylish, but maintain the fun aspect of cupcakes whilst having a home baked fresh taste with absolutely no artificial ingredients or preservatives’.

Giant cupcakes

Louise and her talented team have branched out from the traditional vanilla sponge cake, into flavours of the month, and weekend specials. They can even create a jaw-dropping giant cupcake, to create that stunning birthday party centre-piece, or a treat for a loved one they will never forget.

All their cupcakes are hand-created, fresh every morning – and as you can see from the images they sent me, there is a fair amount of artistry and fun going into these cakes, as well as vanilla pods and sugar strands.

The big question: do they taste as good as they look?

FRUITY: One of your five-a-day?

Well, I buckled immediately and bought myself a cake at only £1:80 a pop – and I have to say, it was delicious; moist, fresh as a daisy, and almost too good-looking to eat.

You could muster an army of these little beauties, piled up into a wedding display. Or scatter them on cushions and light them flatteringly with fairy lights. Or you could box them individually into bijou little gifts for your office pals.

Or you could do what I did. Which is demolish one in double-quick time.

* Selfridges have a special opening offer on for Jellytots, buy any cake and get mini-cupcakes thrown in for free! Cupcakes start at £1:80 for one, 6 for £10 or 12 for £20.

HAVE you tried a cupcake from Jellytots and Dollymixtures yet? What did you think?

We’ve had an exciting week here at the Centre, with the opening of the amazing Thai restaurant ChaoBaby in The Orient, a stunning new Pandora store at the Dome – and the Aerial Extreme adventure course just around the corner.

But as well as brand new attractions, I’ve seen some facelifts going on in some of our old favourites, as retailers invest their cash in creating an ever more enticing environment to shop in.

LUSH: The new-look store.

LUSH: Bright and inviting...

The lovely Lush store on Upper Regent Crescent re-opened yesterday after a make-over, offering a much simplified lay-out with a country kitchen table consultation area, where customers are encouraged to sit down and discuss their skincare needs with one of Lush’s expert consultants.

The store says: “This new look really takes things ‘back to basics’, encouraging a laid-back shopping experience, with friendly expert advice.”

Refreshed

We love the staff at Lush, and their enthusiasm for their great products – what better way to set all that off than with a fresh new store that makes the customer king, and highlights the best products for them?

PINK: The new Shoe Room at Next.

HEAVEN: One of the new Next Shoe Rooms...

And over at Next, we’ve seen the opening of their fabulous new Shoe Room. The overall look is “glamorous, feminine, inviting and fun – featuring round display tables and undulating display units, with super-comfortable curved seating in bright girlie pink. The same pink shade is used for the display blocks on which shoes are presented. ”

So that will be for the ladies then!

Everything is now presented right at the front of the store, which is a new thing for Next and certainly focuses the mind on their incredible shoe ranges.

But once again, a store is not a store without its staff – and Next offer really well-trained and fashion-savvy staff who can offer you ideas and inspiration, as well as measuring your feet perfectly.

Which goes to show once again, it’s not just good looks but great service that makes you popular with Trafford Centre shoppers!

HAVE you seen the new-look stores at Lush and Next? What do you think?

FISH: Your Mall Rat gets a nibbling.

I finally managed to take 10 minutes away from my desk to pop into Appy Feet today – and enjoy what must be the most bizarre pedicure in the world!

Appy Feet (in case you haven’t seen the news) is the brand new concept in footcare at The Trafford Centre. The attractive temporary store on Upper Regent Crescent contains a host of fishtanks, next to which stand wooden benches. There are two stages to the process – first, you sit on the bench and plunge your plates of meat into the cool waters of a spa bath, to clean them of chemicals and sock fluff – before then spinning round on your bottom and plunging your feet into the actual fish tanks on the other side.

Immediately, schools of Garra Rufa fish crowd around your toes and ankles, looking for a spot to latch onto. The sensation is quite a shock, and I have to admit I screamed and pulled my feet out straight away!

But after some gentle encouragement from the staff, we were brave and plunged back in again.

Screams

At first, I couldn’t watch the fish at work, as I was trying to take my mind off what was going on. But after some minutes, I relaxed into the treatment and the screaming stopped. By the end, I could see why people have become firm fans of these finned therapists – with some shoppers going weekly, or even more often.

As a talking point, I don’t think I can imagine anything better than getting a pedicure from these amazing creatures. The fish were fed – and I will dine out on this story for months to come!

After ten minutes an alarm went off to tell our helper Michael that our time was up. A quick squidge of foot cream to rub into our feet, and with shoes and socks firmly back on we headed back to the office – giggling all the way.

Foot treatments start at £10 for 15 minutes, and you can also have your hands done for 5 minutes at just a fiver. Christina White, the business brain behind this new arrival at the Centre, told me the fish are particularly good for people with skin complaints like psoriasis.

But even if you don’t have dry skin, or psoriasis, you must have a dip at Appy Feet – if only to say you’ve been eaten by fish, rather than the other way around.

Read my previous post about Appy Feet here!

OUR brand new Legoland Discovery Centre has certainly made a splash since opening, with numerous TV news crews coming down to take a look inside this brilliant attraction.

The VIP launch saw Manchester City players and soap stars mingling with your Mall Rat amongst the bricks, and enjoying the fantastic 4D cinema. (In case you don’t know, if 3D is when the images seem to reach out and touch you, then 4D is when images really do reach out and touch you! In this case, real snow, rain and wind lash your face as you laugh at the trials of Bob the Builder – it really took our breath away.)

We found this lovely film on YouTube made by some big fans of Lego – which shows the inside of the Legoland Discovery Centre for those of you who haven’t seen it yet. You can see from the smiles on the children’s faces that Lego must be getting it right – and if the reaction of the children I took to the launch is anything to go by, then LDC is in for a busy year!

My favourite part has to be the Miniland – with miniature replicas of famous landmarks made entirely of Lego. And pride of place in the Manchester scene is your very own Trafford Centre – with a Lego dome, and a mini Barton Square.

It must take months to create these sculptures, and a lot of talent – but it is a very weird feeling to stand next to a little version of where you work.

Another highlight is the café – which sells healthy snack options for kids at very reasonable prices. I was impressed that it wasn’t all turkey twizzlers, but some good juice and fruit options. The last thing kids at Legoland need is a sugar rush – they will be excited enough as it is!

HAVE you been to LDC yet? Let me know what you think!

Take a look at our latest Summer Style video, currently playing on the Big Screen in the Orient. There’s some great ideas for relaxed weekend wear – perfect for this Bank Holiday weekend!

Which look is you?

FASHION AT THE TRAFFORD CENTRE

SUMMER LOVING: Fashion from The Trafford Centre.

We’ve been poring over the latest images from our superb Spring Summer Fashion Shows last weekend – and with the sun peeking through the clouds today it has really got us in the mood for summer!

Lots of shoppers enjoyed the lively shows in the Orient, as we displayed pieces from retailers like Calvin Klein, Zara, Bench and Karen Millen.

You can take a look at the online galleries here, and see what summer trends you’ll be buying into.

MELLOW YELLOW: Our support shines out.

For St David’s Day this evening, we turned our glorious main dome bright yellow in support of the very special Marie Curie Cancer Care campaign.

Marie Curie Cancer Care is a national charity that looks after terminally ill cancer patients, either in their own home or at dedicated hospices.

And during the month of March they have their annual Great Daffodil Campaign – when they sell daffodil badges to raise important funds that help them to treat more people – some of whom might be Trafford Centre staff or customers.

DOME: Painting the Town Yellow!

[With the new LED technology powering our dome, we are able to switch colours to almost any shade we like. We know that thousands of people notice when we do this – not least the many motorists who zoom past us on the M60 just nearby.

So what better way to raise awareness of the daffodil campaign than by switching an iconic landmark yellow?

For the rest of March, you’ll be seeing events and fund-raisers across the country for Marie Curie – and you can support the campaign really easily by buying your daffodil at participating retailers – in The Trafford Centre, they are Café Rouge, Barburito, Pesto and Space NK.

Take a look at the Marie Curie Cancer Care website for more details.

IN DANGER: The wild lion.

The Trafford Centre likes its lions. You can see that from the array of marble beasts which guard the Centre at various entrances, especially outside The Great Hall.

But did you know that real lions are in serious danger of extinction? Fifty years ago there were around 200,000 lions in the wild – today, there are barely 20,000 remaining.

That’s a drop of 90% in wild lion populations – a shocking decline that makes some experts worry this proud creature might never recover without urgent and international help.

Thankfully, someone cares enough to do something about this. Lionaid is a new charity set up to bring attention to the plight of these large cats in Africa.

To drum up attention, and to show what the world might be like without lions, the charity is taking on a massive UK tour of prominent public lions, and shrouding them in black material as a thought-provoking reminder of how these amazing creatures could easily disappear into history.

The “Where Have all the Lions Gone?” campaign begins today (March 1st) in Glasgow and ends on the 31st March in Trafalgar Square – with 11 UK cities in between (Blantyre, Blackpool, Manchester, Liverpool, Nottingham, Norwich, Birmingham, Bath, Cowes, Portsmouth and Rochester).

So at 10am on March 7th, the Lionaid crew and their local supporters will be at The Great Hall near Regent 13 car park, to hold a solemn ceremony in which 8 of our lovely lions will be temporarily shrouded.

Click to visit Lionaid online.

Come down to the shrouding ceremony, or click on the Lionaid logo to visit their website for more information, and clear instructions on how you can get involved.

THE spectacular main dome of The Trafford Centre will light up a bright yellow next month, to mark the start of the national Great Daffodil Appeal.

Daffodil badge

DAFFODIL: One way to support the appeal.

This annual month-long event aims to raise more than £5million for the Marie Curie Cancer Care charity – a vital organisation that employs thousands of doctors and nurses to provide care for terminally ill cancer patients, whether at home or in hospices.

About 70% of the charity’s income comes from generous donations from people and businesses. That will be added to this year, organisers hope, with the proceeds from the sale of daffodil badges.

But selling those badges and winning that public support relies on awareness. People need to know about the Great Daffodil Appeal before they will support it – and that’s where The Trafford Centre Dome comes in!

With many thousands of staff and customers passing under the dome each day, and hundreds of thousands more passing the dome on the motorways just outside the Centre, it remains one of the most iconic and best-recognised land-marks in the city.

We know that people really do notice when we change the colour of the dome lights (Gallery) – and we couldn’t think of a better cause to switch the lights for than Marie Curie Cancer Care.

So on March 1st, the start of the Appeal, we will be bathing the dome in yellow lights to remind everyone to take part and support this fantastic charity.

You can help raise funds by buying your daffodil at participating stores – Café Rouge, Barbourito, Pesto and Space NK. Take a look at the Marie Curie Cancer Care website for more details.

DANCE: Colour and noise!

I’m really looking forward to our Chinese New Year celebrations this month, as we are expecting a very special visit from some very famous performers.

The incredible Shaolin Monks will be taking to the Main Stage on the afternoon of February 13th, to stun our shoppers with their gob-smacking stunts and combat moves.

There are around 10,000 Shaolin Monks in the world, and as well as being great fighters, they are great marketers. Since the 1970s, the monks have been very active in the world of popular culture – which has helped them survive in a world where many ancient traditions fall by the wayside.

Some of you will remember the 1970s TV series Kung Fu starring David Carradine. That great series featured the Shaolin temple and first turned the monks into a global phenomenon.

And since then, younger generations have been introduced the monks via rap stars the Wu Tang Clan, the Mortal Kombat computer games – and even honorary mentions in The Simpsons!

So this New Year, it’s the turn of The Trafford Centre to showcase this talented temple. They’ll be using shields and sabres to show off their skills – joined by death-defying acrobats and some more sedate traditional Chinese arts.

With some delicious traditional Chinese food from one of our many restaurants, you couldn’t ask for a more authentic start to the Year of the Tiger.

You can read a full run-down of the acts on stage here, and we’ll be publishing a gallery of photographs straight after the event, so watch this space.

MASTERCLASS: At The Beauty Theatre.

THE fantastic miniature theatre we’ve created on the Malls had a very special premiere this week – with the help of some eager students from Warrington.

The class of eleven media make-up students were the first people to experience The Beauty Theatre, there to learn tricks of the trade from uber-cool cosmetics house Illamasqua.

Illamasqua come from a very theatrical background – its roots lie in club culture, and the alternative scene. This means Illamasqua make-up is brighter, bolder and a little more outrageous than other labels – and the perfect product to show make-up students how dramatic they can be.

Phillip, the talented artist from the Illamasqua counter at Selfridges, gave a great masterclass in the application of different colours and styles.

The course tutor Debbey told me afterwards the presentation was ‘inspirational” – which is exactly what Illamasqua aim for.

So if you fancy some top tips for creating a wow look, pop to the Illamasqua concession on the lower level of Selfridges – you’ll never look at make-up in the same way again.

YOU can check out my press release on this story here.

AROMA: The scent of summer will send you...

Did you know that the average human nose is able to recognise more than 10,000 different odors?

Or that aromas can effect our brainwave patterns, and effect mood, memory – and even your maths ability?

These are the amazing findings of neuroscientists who have spent years investigating how our sense of smell effects us – and it’s these findings that convinced us to try out a new technology at The Trafford Centre, starting next week.

A company called Brand Aroma will be setting up scent stations during our Beauty Theatre event, to pump the smell of summer across the malls. We hope these evocative aromas help people to feel relaxed, and contented – and more likely to enjoy the vast array of beauty experiences we have lined up for next week.

Heathrow Airport has used the scent of pine needles to calm anxious flyers, while the London Underground has used birdsong as well as pumped perfumes to enhance their….less attractive stations.

The Trafford Centre’s nose led us to a scent called “Summer” – a fresh, light, floral perfume that will trigger memories of cut grass, picnics and long days lounging in the sun. Our aim is to remind people of the changing of the seasons – and the need to change with them if we aren’t to appear dated, or old-fashioned.

Personally, I would prefer either the scent of a new car interior, or failing that, the aroma of my mum’s cheese and onion pie (the best in the world!). But I get the feeling that cheese and new leather seats won’t create the fashionable image The Trafford Centre strives for!

You can test out the theories for yourself next week, as hidden machines near to The Beauty Theatre on Upper Regent Crescent send out nasal messages to our shoppers.

Let us know what you think!

When we first came up with the theme for this year’s beauty week at The Trafford Centre, a million ideas sprang to mind – and now the best of those ideas are turning into reality!

We chose the theme of “Beauty Theatre” – partly because the Centre is such a dramatic place, and partly in response to the cosmetics trends coming from the catwalks this season, which predict theatrical make-up in bold colours and styles.

DRAMATIC PLANS: How our Beauty Theatre might look...

One of our funkier ideas was to create a miniture theatre on the Malls, to host presentations for our customers. As you can see from the original drawings, we’ve gone all out to design a fantastic looking space that really makes you feel like you’re at the centre of something special.

The Theatre has a front-stage area which seats 30 people, each of whom will have pre-booked their tickets (hint, hint). Here, make-up mad shoppers will get to hear the beauty secrets of the rich and famous, every day from Feb 1st to 7th. All the techniques used by actors themselves will be explained, at set times through-out the day. (Download our Beauty Theatre Guide for full info).

BACKSTAGE: For one-to-ones...

Then, round the back, we have the back-stage area. This is the star’s dressing room, where customers will receive exclusive one-on-one sessions with consultants, helping you achieve that million-dollar Hollywood look – for FREE!

The Beauty Theatre will be dressed by the super-talented people over at The Royal Exchange Theatre (link), who will use curtains and props and lighting to great effect. I can’t wait to see the finished thing, and then see it in action.

The “premiere” of The Beauty Theatre is February 1st, and we expect it to be a sell-out show, so book your tickets now to avoid missing out.

And if you are lucky enough to get a seat, tell me all about it!

HISTORY: A No17 advert from yesteryear.

I had a really interesting meeting yesterday with the archivist from Boots the Chemist, who is planning to open a very special exhibition here at The Trafford Centre.

Our ‘Beauty Theatre’ event starts on February 1st, and to celebrate the festival of beauty and style, we are creating a free exhibition on the Malls – with some fascinating exhibits taken from the store cupboard at Boots!

Boots has been trading for more than 150 years, and in that time they’ve witnessed a lot of changes – not only in drugs, cosmetics and gifts, but also in the way they run a business and treat their staff.

Luckily, bosses there have had the foresight to squirrel away much of their history – including adverts, products and even staff training manuals.

The archivist brought some amazing old cosmetics to show us, from the famous Number 7 range, as well as postcards and clippings. Incredibly, the famous No7 line was launched in the 1930’s, and although it looks very different today it’s still a staple item on many a mum’s dressing table.

The Boots Exhibition will open for one week only (Feb 1-7) and will show a variety of documents that reveal the evolution of the brands – especially in Manchester, which boasted an enormous Boots long before this Mall Rat was even born.

Why not pop down during Beauty Theatre to see how many of the old products you can recognise? Keep an eye on our website for opening times, and where to find the exhibition.

HUGE snowfalls around the Northwest have created a winter wonderland at The Trafford Centre – but it is business as usual today as an army of snowploughs, gritters and people with spades managed to get everything moving again.

WONDERLAND: The roads are clear around the Centre.

Bus services are back up and running (though with some warnings of possible delays) and the major roads around the site are snow-free.

Yesterday, I was forced to run the press office from home – which was very easy thanks to my laptop and Blackberry.

And many of the journalists I spoke to were also working from their sofas – which was slightly bizarre, but shows how much less dependant some trades are on a fixed office!

We did manage to open more than half our retailers yesterday – but as the snow continued, we realised that getting our staff and customers home safely was our priority, so for the first ever time since we opened in 1998, we finished early because of poor weather.

Twenty tonnes of grit was a welcome delivery this week – and our teams have been out pushing snow from the car parks, and gritting the roads.

The Salford City Reds Media Day that was planned for tomorrow has been cancelled, as the rugby players have found it impossible to get out of their towns and villages. But you can rest assured that if you can get to The Trafford Centre, we have a warm welcome waiting for you here.

You can keep an eye on Trafford Centre updates on our main website, and I’ll update this blog with any more news.

Great Hall: Josh and dozens of musicians rock The Great Hall.

THE Great Hall is buzzing today thanks to the largest band it has ever hosted!

Josh’s Band (from the infectious T-Mobile ads) was here to film the latest instalment of his national tour around the UK.

Already, Birmingham, Bristol, London and Edinburgh have heard the catchy tune that accompanies the ads – and today was Manchester’s turn.

Loads of shoppers were roped into the ad – and even a couple of our red coated Security staff picked up tambourines.

The advert will air from next week – and we know you won’t be able to miss the stunning Great Hall chandelier right in the centre of shot!

 

I’ve just returned from my first visit as a paying customer to the brand new Kodak Express Print Lounge here at The Trafford Centre – and I have to say I think I’ve fallen in love with it!

FASHION: Easy print out with Kodak.

The concept is simple; the Lounge offers instant printing of your digital images, whilst at the same time serving delicious coffee, cakes and sandwiches.

I had some images from the recent Christmas Party Wear Fashion Shows which were lurking on my Blackberry. What a nice idea to have hard copies, I thought. And you already know how much I like coffee – so why not kill two birds with one stone?

The Lounge itself has been done out very nattily – it’s comfy, but with a reassuring edge of ‘tech’.

There is a terminal at each table, which takes your images in disc format, memory stick, floppy disc – whatever you happen to have. I had none of these, so instead I Bluetoothed my images across, and had them printed in colour, with added funky borders and text, within seconds. How 21st Century, with added cake!

The idea is novel, but it’s the ease of execution which really impressed me about this new retailer.

You could fill you camera’s memory card with great images of your visit to The Trafford Centre – pop in for a last coffee before home time, and be presented with a wallet of your artwork before you head for your car! Price-wise, it costs me only 30p for a colour print, which was less than I expected.

The great thing is that the whole process was really fun – and I’m already taking new images on my phone with a view to printing them out for the lovely staff here to see.

*Check out the World’s First Kodak Express Print Lounge on Upper Peel Avenue at The Trafford Centre. Open NOW.

What a fantastic night that was!

We’re still coming down from the ceiling, after last night’s Christmas Lights Switch on with JLS.

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ON: The moment JLS switch on the lights.

It was definitely the biggest event we’ve ever held at The Trafford Centre, and I’ve spoken to so many people who said they had the time of their lives.

I was in charge of media and celebrities, so I have some great images of myself with Stavros Flately, Fe-Nix, Chris Fountain and even Gary Wilmott!

The press were blown away by how popular the event was, and I have to say once the lights went on I have never seen the Centre look so magical.

We did have some traffic issues, mainly because of two accidents that occured off site which blocked the roads. At one point, these jams even blocked our star act JLS – but luckily they managed to make it through on time, and stunned the Orient with a breath-taking version of Umbrella, plus their new single Everybody In Love.

The JLS fans were out in force – the hardcore JLS forum members all seemed to have “JLS” written on their faces, so they were easy to spot.

At one point I stood with my cameraman on the ship and waved at 7,000 people – and 7,000 people waved back. What a crazy feeling!

If you made it to the show, let me know what you thought of the acts. Send me your pictures too!

Oh, are we excited over this one!

Construction has begun on the newest jewel in the Trafford Quays Leisure Village crown, and that’s the incredible Airkix attraction that’s taking shape next to the indoor ski centre ChillFactore.

DARING: TV's Bear Grylls enjoys an Airkix moment.

DARING: TV's Bear Grylls enjoys an Airkix moment.

Airkix is an indoor skydiving experience, which uses enormous air-fans to suspend flyers above the ground, and give them the sensation of freefall – but without the need for an expensive airplane! The attraction is set to open in 2010, and we suspect it might just cause a stir amongst the daredevils of the region.

There’s a short list of things that can stop you from flying – for example, if you weigh more than 18stone, or are wearing a hard cast.

But for the most part almost anyone can have a go, and the Airkix people are also very experienced in helping those people living with disabilities to experience the joy of flight.

I remember seeing these things on TV years ago, but I would never have believed they would be created especially for public use. Celebrities have been queuing up to fly, including ace adventurer Bear Grylls (pictured) – and I can imagine a few Corrie stars taking the leap when the fans start spinning next year.

I hear on the grapevine that a large percentage of people who visit the first Airkix in Milton Keynes are real-life sky-divers, who use the facility for flying practice because it is so close to the real thing. How cool is that?

Watch this space for more news on Airkix as it happens, get your helmets ready for the ride of your life!

WILL you be taking a flight on Airkix? Tell me about it!

AWARD: (l-r) TV's Tina Hobley, TTC's Caroline Hall, The Mall Rat, and award presenter Anna Warrilow, from sponsors West Midland Safari Park.

AWARD: (l-r) TV's Tina Hobley, TTC's Caroline Hall, The Mall Rat, and award presenter Anna Warrilow, from sponsors West Midland Safari Park.

I had a lovely evening in Birmingham recently, as The Trafford Centre picked up another award for our work on groups visiting the Centre from all over the UK.

We were at the Hilton Metropole near the NEC, taking part in a sparkling ceremony that bigs up the best destinations in the UK for coach parties.

Coach travel is big business in Britain, as more and more tourists opt for one-day, or short-stay vacations to explore the hot-spots.

We welcome hundreds of coaches throughout the year, and we try to ensure that we give each coach the same kind of personal service you can expect if you visit us on your own, or with family. These efforts were rewarded last week, when we won the award for Best Shopping Venue in the UK, from the readers of Group Leisure magazine.

It’s the second time in two years we’ve won the award, and that’s a tribute to all the hard work our staff do in welcoming huge groups to a safe and fun stay at the Centre. Because this award was voted for by readers, it’s extra special to us, and The Trafford Centre marketing team and I were only to eager to go and bask in the glory, and meet a few industry leaders along the way.

So a huge hello to everyone we met that night, including TV actress Tina Hobley who presented our award, and the folks from Charity on Wheels, who will be bringing a coach-load of people to see us in a few weeks time for a mega-shopping trip!

I was also bowled over by the amazing staff from Group Leisure magazine, who were so excited at this, their biggest event of the year. Their enthusiasm for the group travel market was so obvious, and I soon found myself looking at brochures for coach trips to the Highlands.

Now that’s marketing!

HAVE you visited The Trafford Centre as a coach party? What did you think?

THE builders are busy this week, preparing for the grand opening of the new Kro Bar, in The Great Hall.

If you are a local, you can’t help but have noticed this award-winning Danish dining and drinking experience, as it already has high-profile branches in the city centre.

We knew it wouldn’t be long before their bold, contemporary and stylish bars were headed our way to The Trafford Centre – and lo and behold, they have taken the last empty space in The Great Hall, behind The Orient. This luxury dining space has really put itself on the gastronomic map, with it’s Carluccio’s Italian spot, and the incredibly popular Las Iguanas.

CHIC: The Piccadilly Kro Bar.

CHIC: The Piccadilly Kro Bar.

The newcomer will create 60 jobs here at the Centre – so if you fancy your hand as a Kro member of staff, why not pop down to our Jobcentre near the bus station for an application pack?

Diners can expect a delicious range of Danish-inspired foods, and the great draught and bottled beers for which the brand has become famous, all in a super-chic atmosphere. The other Kro bars I know also stock newspapers, so I hope that’s something the new place adopts too.

The property team here at the Centre are over the moon to have secured this new deal, especially as Kro is truly a local firm, and really fills out The Great Hall with a funky new offering.

The venue is set to open next month, and your Mall Rat will be one of the first over the threshold to sample their Nordic wares!

LOVE Kro? Tell me about it!

I got the shock of my life when I arrived for work this morning, to see this enormous red hot air balloon floating outside our offices at The Trafford Centre!

GIANT: The Redrow balloon

GIANT: The Redrow balloon

It’s our 11th birthday today, so my first thought was:  Someone’s got us a birthday balloon!

 Of course, I had been warned that the homes specialists Redrow were bringing a hot air balloon – but I’ve never seen one up close, and had no idea they were so large!

I met some customers out in the car park at lunch, who told me excitedly that they’d just been up in the balloon.

 ‘Did you get a good view of the Centre?’ I asked.

 “Nah!” they sniffed – “We only went up about eight feet!”

 Health and safety clearly applies as much in the air as it does on the ground…

 The eye-catching behemoth will be promoting first-time buys and part-exchange deals on homes for the rest of the day – so if you fancy a go in a hot air balloon (just not very high!) then get yourself down to car park Regent 13 now!

George Sampson, champion dancer

George Sampson, champion dancer

I’ve just been looking at our YouTube Channel, and trying to work out which of our videos is the most popular (the things you have to do for a board report!).

For ages, the lead video was the massive Ricky Hatton promo we held in The Orient – and thanks to a little widget in YouTube, we were able to tell that most of the many thousands of people who watched that vid were from the Philipines, and were Manny fans, rather than local people logging on to see their Mancunian hero! Just goes to show, you never can tell.

But what’s this, as I peruse the figures for last month’s YouTube audience  – the biggest hit at the moment is clearly George Sampson’s Christmas Message. Now, for those out of towners who might not know, George Sampson was the winner of Britain’s Got Talent, when he was a local schoolboy from Warrington who danced for pennies on Market Street before finding fame. He turned on our Christmas lights last year. (I looked after him for part of the day and he’s a lovely lad, but he never sits still.)

Far be it from me to wonder why people want to watch a Christmas message in the middle of summer, but they certainly do – more than 7000 views, and peaking.

In case you are wondering, that’s his sister with him in the video, who danced with him on stage here at TTC, and was like a mini-George.

I know this hyper-active dancer has film projects in the pipeline, and we loved his debut single when he showcased it here at The Trafford Centre, so I can only imagine that with the loyal fanbase he clearly has, that anything this talented local lad touches will turn to gold.

If you were listening to Radio Wave on the Fylde coast last weekend, you might have heard a reference to The Trafford Centre Girls, taking part in the 5k Race for Life.

BRAVE: Ann, left, and Sue do us proud.

BRAVE: Ann, left, and Sue do us proud.

My two brave colleagues Ann Sullivan and Sue Mullally ran through wind and heavy rain in an amazing time of 45 minutes, raising more than £500 for vital cancer research along the way!

I’m told that Ann in particular ran the course ‘like a whippet’ – which is no surprise, as our limber receptionist is well used to exercise thanks to her dancing regime in various amateur dramatics productions. The local Blackpool radio station spotted the pair clad in Trafford Centre red, and pointed them out to the audience at every lap.

It seems even being associated with The Trafford Centre is a short-cut to fame – and in this case, a very welcome fortune.

Well done girls!

I was lucky enough to be given a guided tour of the new MediaCity that’s currently springing up at Salford Quays – and what a massive project it’s turning out to be!

Hundreds of doozers are crammed onto the various building sites around the place, as they construct studio facilities, shops, and residential towers in preparation for the arrival of various BBC departments.

HUGE: Media City UK

HUGE: Media City UK

The owners of The Trafford Centre also own the land over at the Quays, and my colleagues there have been busy for months arranging one of the biggest emigrations of BBC staff the organisation has ever seen. I was particularly impressed with the idea of ‘waxies’ – or ‘water taxis’ that will ferry people along the canal from the city centre, and out to the Quays.

That same canal reaches right up to The Trafford Centre – which leaves me with the tempting idea of grabbing a boat after work to get to one of our team building nights out in town. Life jacket anyone?

If you haven’t seen the works at MediaCity recently, do take a look. The bricks are stacking up with at a great rate of knots, and in three months time it will no doubt look completely different to how it appears today.

You can read more about the plans on the Media City UK website, or follow progress via the Manchester Evening News.

You can’t, however, book a waxie.

Yet.

WE’VE been enjoying a new look of our own at The Trafford Centre this week, as the long-awaited changes to the lighting system in the Main Dome were finally switched on.

Engineers have replaced the old sodium lighting with sparkly new LED lights, controlled by a central computer. Much like your blog page options, the digital RGB system means we can now make the lights any colour we want! The new wardrobe looks incredible – I was at a friend’s flat near to the Centre last night, and the clear cold Manchester evening was lit up by the red dome in the distance.

dsc_7195This is the Dome in it’s usual blue – like the other two domes on the boulevards of The Trafford Centre, it’s been shining in this rather arresting blue for more than ten years. The colour has become a signature of the kind of outre architecture of the Centre.

 

 

 

dome-redder-24

Then for Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day last weekend, we turned the colour of the Dome to red, and for the first time the profile of the Centre (which is seen by literally millions of eyes in the course of a month, as the cars fly by on the nearby M60 motorway) changed completely.

 

 

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And on St Patrick’s Day on Tuesday, we turned the Dome green – to match the traditional colour of the festival of the Emerald Isle. (I have to say, the Green Dome is my favourite so far, it looks proper space age!)

Take a gander at the other colours we’ve tried out so far in my Dome gallery, and if you want to read more about it, read this newspaper article.

Before you ask, the scheme cost about £40,000 to create – but in the long run it will save us money, as the new lights are much more environmentally-friendly. They only use a fraction of the power of the old lights, and have to be replaced once every ten years or so – rather than once a year like the old system. So we’re saving on those leccy bills, and helping the planet look better, for longer.

Who says being Green can’t be stylish!!?

Well, we can’t say we’ve suffered as much as other areas of the country this week with the great swathes of snow which have come sleeting in from the Antarctic Circle (I imagine.) (See BBC News)

 It’s been many years since since large amounts of snow fell on Britain, and many schools and councils have been caught short in preparation. We face issues of salt shortages just like everywhere else in the UK, with mile after mile of road around The Trafford Centre site requiring gritting during weather like this – tonnes of the white stuff getting thrown down every day,  it’s a mammoth task. Luckily, it’s worked for us so far and we’ve had zero traffic issues over the snowy days.

On a lighter note, my colleague Paul went a walking around the site yesterday, so I asked him to take his camera and snap a few pictures of the Centre in the snow. I might turn them into next year’s Trafford Centre Christmas card!

Snow at Wildespool Wood

Snow at Wildespool Wood

Fir trees by The Orient

Fir trees by The Orient

View from our management suite

View from our management suite

An icy pond at Wildespool (no ducks)

An icy pond at Wildespool (no ducks)

Just needs some baubles and lights!

Just needs some baubles and lights!

Icy Barton Square from the campanile

Icy Barton Square from the campanile

Snow around the ski slopes - with much more inside!

Snow around the ski slopes - with much more inside!

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