Meet the Maker – Natalie Johnson-Rolley
At Christmas, Santa’s workshop comes alive with the sight of elves checking their lists and checking them twice and The Royal Mint transforms into a bustling hive of festive activity. Whilst Santa takes care of making the toys, our makers are busy crafting beautiful coins, ready for you to find in your stocking on Christmas morning.
Helping to prepare our workshop in time is Natalie Johnson-Rolley. Having previously decorated sets for theatre shows such as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and High School Musical, as well as TV programmes, including Sky’s Roald and Beatrix: The Tail of the Curious Mouse, here is how Natalie is now bringing the traditions of Christmas to life at The Royal Mint Experience.
What did you want to do when you were growing up?
“I was introduced to the theatre as a drama student in school when we were taken on two trips that totally inspired me. The lightbulb moment was walking into the New Theatre and going backstage – I don’t think I can describe that feeling of seeing the set design and thinking, ‘this is me’. Preparing The Royal Mint Experience for Christmas has brought me exactly back to where my heart is and to the buzz of the theatre!
“My inspiration has always come from the artists of Walt Disney. The detail on the background landscapes for all aspects of their work, from the original cartoon features and the painting of the animation cells to the move into digital design, is phenomenal. The number of hours and animators it takes to produce their works of art is mind-blowing.”
What was your inspiration for The Royal Mint Experience at Christmas?
“I wanted to give everyone who visits a very magical experience, whilst keeping true to The Royal Mint’s ethos. I started my research by going on a tour at The Royal Mint Experience and I was also inspired by the creative team, who I have enjoyed working alongside. I wanted to ensure that the workshop is glowing, vibrant and traditional, with a lot of sparkle and magic.
“It has been interesting to include references to the coins and the tradition of putting coins into stockings at Christmas. The coins add something that is not always at the forefront when you think of Christmas, so it was important to include them in the activities that children will be able to do during the tours. There’s so much to see and learn – don’t forget to hang your stocking up on Christmas Eve!”
What makes Christmas magical for you?
“I love Christmas, with its twinkly lights and snow and spending time with my family. As a child, I loved going to spend the day with my nana and grampi every year. They lived in the Cynon Valley and the sense of community was wonderful – there would be people in and out of the house all morning, while my nana was cooking the lunch for us all. It seemed chaotic at the time but, looking back, I realise how special that was.
“We opened our presents at home in the morning and then there were more gifts in the front room at Nana’s, which we were told had been delivered by Santa too – we were forbidden to go into the room until the adults had watched The Queen’s speech!”
What are your own family Christmas traditions?
“We continue to open our family gifts in the afternoon, all gathered around after we have finished dinner. For the past 30 years, we have also put shiny new coins in the children’s stockings. My mother-in-law collects them during the year so we have a handful to pop into the stockings for Christmas morning, as this has always been a tradition for her.”
Make Christmas Magical at The Royal Mint Experience
This Christmas, enjoy The Royal Mint Experience as never seen before – glistening with snow and full of festive magic.
You might not realise this but Santa relies on The Royal Mint at this time of year to make all the coins you might find in your stocking. Whilst the elves are busy making toys, we are drawing on our 1,100-year heritage, making coins, including shiny silver sixpences, and other pieces for you to discover on Christmas Day.
Celebrate the story of coins with our family event at The Royal Mint Experience, where visitors can join in Christmas activities for all ages. Write your letters to Santa, pop them into our special postbox, strike your own festive coin and, of course, meet Father Christmas at the end of the tour. You can also discover more about the tradition of hanging up stockings on Christmas Eve, which is said to be inspired by jolly old St Nicholas and a sack of coins!
St Nicholas was a fourth-century Greek saint who liked to give presents anonymously to those less fortunate than himself. He heard about a local nobleman who had lost both his wife and his money and been forced to move into a peasant’s cottage with his three daughters, all of whom were of marriageable age. The nobleman could not afford to feed his daughters, let alone give them a dowry to offer to each groom’s parents, but St Nicholas knew that the nobleman would be too proud to accept charity. When he spotted that the girls had hung their stockings to dry on the chimney ledge, he decided to climb down the chimney and put a bag of silver coins into the oldest girl’s stocking.
The following day, St Nicholas climbed down the chimney again and placed a bag of coins into the second daughter’s stocking. The day after that, he tried to do the same for the youngest daughter but the nobleman was hiding in the room and caught St Nicholas in the act. St Nicholas begged the nobleman to keep his secret but word got out and soon everyone was hanging stockings on their fireplace in the hope of receiving silver coins.
Visitors to The Royal Mint Experience this Christmas can also have fun on their tour, hunting for a 2021 Silver Six Pence. In a festive pastime, many believe was brought to Britain by Prince Albert, tradition dictates that on Stir-up Sunday, the Sunday before Advent, families gather in the kitchen to make the Christmas pudding, placing a silver sixpence into the mix. The person who finds the sixpence in their piece of pudding on Christmas Day should see it as a sign of wealth and good fortune coming their way.
Celebrate these coin traditions at our special Christmas event at The Royal Mint Experience. Book your place today for the perfect, festive family day out and make magical memories with those you love.