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CHRISTMAS CREATIONS: making firms’ festive dreams come true | City & Business | Finance





With a £1 million turnover forecast for 2020, the British commercial displays group is now looking to extend its services, from design to installation and storage, to other key calendar highlights, such as the Chinese New Year and summertime events. Being strictly seasonal has however served Creations very well. Among its latest show-stoppers are the glittering Christmas tree beside London’s Tower Bridge and new interactive golden photo frames for perfect selfies amid decked halls in Exeter and north London’s Paddington. “This is our most successful year to date,” says founder and managing director Alex Walters whose business roots lie in theatre and stage design.

In 2010 amid the recession fall-out he identified a new market supplying smaller independents, offices and larger homes with Christmas-themed designs to help boost trade and spread some comfort and joy. 

“Christmas is the time when people are always willing to spend a bit more, particularly for something special, and this was the era when the idea of affordable treats came into its own,” he recalls.

From that modest start, Christmas Creations has grown into all-commercial services for shops, centres, squares, hospitality and leisure venues with projects from Scotland to Cornwall broadly in the £2,000 to £100,000 range.

Customer and public expectations fuelled by Instagram opportunities have helped drive the trend and demand for more inventive displays, but the sector remains very small where operators are concerned.

The main reason for that lies in the meticulous management required on top of the creativity for this kind of magic making, says Walters.

“We visualise clients’ briefs and colours with mood boards and providing samples. Our mission is to make them stand out from the crowd whether that is contemporary or traditional, using LED or electroluminescent lighting, fabrics, holographic foils, aluminium or modern fibre glass.

“Some of the work is in our own unit or by commissioning other UK manufacturers and metal fabricators if frames are needed for attaching the lights.”

Much of the build and assembly is carried out at the company’s unit in Watford, Hertfordshire. While Creation’s reputation as being a safe pair of hands for the logistical practicalities, with the correct insurances for working at height, electrical installation, public safety the like, has been fundamental to its success.

When the jollies end it also removes and stores the displays for the next time. “We can then modify them which is good for budgets, and now offer some three-year contracts on a leasing basis,” adds Walters.

Aside from Creations own team of five, its success has created regular freelance work for 25 more traders – designers, electricians and florists.

The business is now promoting itself more actively and joined the  Christmas in July event this year, a cost-effective collaborative festive showcase for retailers.

Branching out into other annual events though will need Walters seeking external investment for the first time.

Appropriately enough for a man who has been responsible for the appearance of many angels, one of the business kind he thinks could now help Christmas Creations reach greater heights and overcome cash flow issues arising from having to pay long in advance for stock.

This year the fashion is for festoons of baubles to hold sway while grottoes are on the wane and unicorns, despite a lot of trendy decor predictions, are not really in the running.

“Elaborate or understated, an entire new look can be created from familiar themes with a new touch,” advises Walters for whom the best present is always when the lights come on – and stay that way.


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Ottawa education workers still teaching special-ed students at schools want safety checks





Some Ottawa educators say they are concerned about the safety of classrooms that remain open in schools for special-education students.

Ontario elementary and secondary students have been sent home to study virtually because of the dangers posed by rising rates of COVID-19. However, special-education classes are still operating at many bricks-and-mortar schools.

The special-education classes include students with physical and developmental disabilities, autism and behaviour problems. Some don’t wear masks and require close physical care.

Two unions representing teachers and educational assistants at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board have sent letters to Ottawa Public Health expressing their concerns.

It’s urgent that public health officials inspect classrooms to assess the safety of the special-ed classes, said a letter from the Ottawa branch of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, which also represents the educational assistants who work with special-needs children.

“In the absence of reasons based on medical evidence to keep specialized systems classes open, we are unsure as to the safety of staff and students in these programs,” said the letter signed by president Stephanie Kirkey and other union executives.

The letter said staff agreed that students in specialized classes had difficulty with remote education and benefited most from in-person instruction.

“Our members care deeply about the students they work with and are not only concerned about their own health and safety, but also about that of their students, as they are often unable to abide by COVID safety protocols that include masking, physical distancing and hand hygiene, thus making it more likely that they could transmit the virus to one another,” the letter said.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board has 1,286 elementary and secondary students in special-education classes attending in person at 87 schools, said spokesperson Darcy Knoll.

While final numbers were not available, Knoll said the board believed a large number of the special-education students were back in class on Friday at schools.

In-person classes for other elementary and secondary students are scheduled to resume Jan. 25.

The school boards provide PPE for educators in special-education classes as required, including surgical masks, face shields, gloves and gowns.

Several educators interviewed said they don’t understand why it has been deemed unsafe for students in mainstream classes to attend class, but not special-ed students.

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Ottawa sets record of 210 new COVID-19 cases following lag in data reporting





Ottawa has now broken its daily record for new COVID-19 cases twice in 2021, with 210 new cases added on Friday amid a lag in data reports from earlier in the week.

The nation’s capital has now seen 10,960 cases of the novel coronavirus.

Ottawa Public Health’s COVID-19 dashboard reports 977 active cases of the virus in Ottawa, a jump of more than 100 over Thursday’s figures.

One additional person has died in relation to COVID-19 in Ottawa, raising the city’s death toll in the pandemic to 395.

The record-setting case count comes a day after Ottawa reported a relatively low increase of 68 cases. Ontario’s COVID-19 system had meanwhile reported 164 new cases on Thursday.

OPH said Thursday that due to a large number of case reports coming in late Wednesday, the local system did not account for a large portion of cases. The health unit said it expects the discrepancy to be filled in the subsequent days.

Taken together, Thursday and Friday’s reports add 278 cases to Ottawa’s total, a daily average of 139 cases.

The new single-day record surpasses a benchmark set this past Sunday, when the city recorded 184 new cases.

Ontario also reported a new record of 4,249 cases on Friday, with roughly 450 of those cases added due to a lag in reporting in Toronto.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 also continues to climb in Ottawa. OPH’s dashboard shows there are currently 24 people in hospital with COVID-19, seven of whom are in the intensive care unit.

Three new coronavirus outbreaks were added to OPH’s dashboard on Friday. One outbreak affects a local shelter where one resident has tested positive for the virus, while the other two are traced to workplaces and private settings in the community.

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Ottawa family dealing with mould issue in apartment grateful for support





OTTAWA — An Ottawa family, who has been dealing with mould in their south Ottawa apartment, is grateful for the support they have received from the community.

“I would like to say big very mighty, big thank you to everyone,” says Nofisat Adeniyi.

Adeniyi lives with her three sons in a South Keys apartment. Her son Desmond turned to social media on Sunday to seek help for the family, saying they’ve been dealing with mould in their unit and it has taken too long to fix.

“I see my mom go through a struggle everyday; with three kids, it’s not easy,” says 16-year-old Desmond Adeniyi.

He setup a GoFundMe page to help the family raise money to move out. After gaining online attention and the story, which originally aired CTV News Ottawa on Tuesday, they have been able to raise over $30,000.

“Yes! I was surprised, a big surprise!” says Nofisat Adeniyi, “We are free from the mess that we’ve been going through.”

The family was so touched, they decided to pay it forward and donated $5,000 to another family in need, “A lady my son told me about,” says Nofisat Adeniyi.

The recipient wants to remain anonymous, but when she found out from Adeniyi, “She was crying, she has three kids; I remember when I was, I can feel what she’s feeling – because I was once in those shoes.”

CTV News Ottawa did reach out to the property management company for an update on the mould. In a statement on Wednesday, a spokesperson for COGIR Realty wrote:

“We respect the privacy of our residents and are unable to disclose any specific information regarding any of our residents. We can, however, let you know that we are working with the residents and are making every effort to resolve this matter as soon as possible,” said Cogir Real Estate

The giving did not stop at just cash donations. “When I saw the segment, the thing that struck me the most was how easily the situation can be resolved,” says mould removal expert Charlie Leduc with Mold Busters in Ottawa.

Leduc is not involved in the case, but appeared in the original story, and after seeing the mould on TV wanted to help.

“This isn’t something that we typically do, but given the circumstance and given the fact that this has gone on way too long, our company is willing to go in and do this work for free,” said Leduc.

The Adeniyi family may now have some options, and are grateful to the community for the support.

“Yes, It’s great news — you can see me smiling,” says Nofisat.

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