David Kohlert in London

How the English learnt to love German Christmas traditions - A German/German-British success story by David Kohlert

David Kohlert beim Weihnachtsmarket 1977. So fing alles an...
David Kohlert beim Weihnachtsmarket 1977. So fing alles an...
I first got that little gleam in my eye at the Christmas market in Berlin on the side of the Wall which used to be the capital city of the GDR. The Father Christmas figure must have really inspired me…

After relocating to Frankfurt-am-Main in 1983, a long time before the fall of the Berlin Wall, I tried out a variety of jobs. I studied medicine and was employed as a carer, I worked for the ‘Malteser’ (a Catholic aid organisation) and built up a company for the development and production of glove puppets.

At this point the Christmas market entered my life once again. I had my first ‘big successes’ at small Christmas markets around Frankfurt. At first I put in mini-appearances at the weekend events, shivering in the cold at a little outside stand measuring 1 square metre. Then I built myself a small market trailer, 1.6m x 1.8m, which I could just about fit into and put on performances of puppet plays.

First stand in Covent Garden in 2000. © David KohlertWith this trailer I made my first big appearance at the top Christmas market in London’s Covent Garden, right in front of the Royal Opera House. The market was a big attraction and I found myself infected by the British virus!

Over the next years I got to know my business partner Frank Hehl in Nuremberg at the toys trade fair. Frank supplied Christmas markets with lovingly manufactured artistic wooden craftworks from the Black Forest in south west Germany.

We decided together to spread the contemplative and tranquil German Christmas atmosphere to Great Britain. So I took part in diverse markets in Milton Keynes, Glasgow, Bristol and other small towns and distributed wooden handicraft from the Black Forest, together with glove puppets. The sales stands started to get bigger…

After several years of slow growth and increasing stand sizes, my colleague Frank and I decided to try out organising our own fairs. Our first ANGELS’ CHRISTMAS MARKET took place in Cambridge in 2008 under the umbrella of Cambridge’s town twinning partnership with Heidelberg. Here 24 huts formed a circle around an ice skating rink.

Angels Christmas Market, Hyde Park 2011 © David KohlertThis ignited our little culture export business. The organisers of the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, who already knew me as a tradesman from day one, were convinced by our concept and in 2009 gave us the chance to take part in this event with a mini-market of 11 huts. That year there was already an offshoot, the FAIRIES’ CHRISTMAS MARKET with a total of 124 Christmas stands offering artisan handicrafts, gifts, Glühwein, Bratwurst and all kinds of ‘German Christmas romanticism’ and contemplation as a contrast to the loud and colourful bustle in the park – just like East Berlin in the old days, at the Alexanderplatz….

Contact: Angels Event Experience Ltd., 1 Park Road, Hampton Wick, Kingston, Surrey, KT1 4AS
German Office: Fahrstr. 59, 64832 Babenhausen, Germany

David Kohlert
December 2012

Translated by Annemarie Goodridge

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