England

Christmas grotto firm goes bust leaving workers unpaid

Grotto hire sign
Image caption The company ran Christmas grottos across the country

A company that failed to pay workers in Santa's grottos around the country is going out of business, the BBC understands.

Grotto Hire UK, owned by Hull-based Agility Events, announced that it was going into liquidation in an email to unpaid staff.

Anna Louise, who worked in Hull's Princes Quay shopping centre, said more than 130 staff across the country were owed thousands of pounds.

The BBC has contacted Agility Events.

Ms Louise said she was owed more that £1,000 and was "really upset" at the news.

"When I opened the email up last night I actually burst into tears, because I sacrificed so much time with my kids," she said.

"I had to keep saying to my eldest, 'Mummy is not going to be away for too long - after this, we're going to have lots of pennies and we can do lots of nice things' - and now none of that's going to happen.

"I'm genuinely heartbroken because we needed it, we really needed it."

'Dire straits'

Mike Gower, who played Santa in Hull, said he was owed more than £1,200

He said a number of his fellow workers in Hull had been "left in dire straits".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Thousands of children visit Christmas grottos each year

"One of the younger elves has lost her home because she didn't get paid in November, she didn't get paid in December and she couldn't pay the rent," he said.

Shopping centres around the country contributed to the set-up of the Christmas attractions, with Grotto Hire UK responsible for running the grottos and dealing with ticket sales.

In the email to workers, the firm's director Tony Jennings apologised and said the closure was "due to financial pressures".

"We are extremely saddened by this as we know how hard you have worked to provide an outstanding experience throughout," he wrote.

"We have explored all avenues to continue to trade and rectify our cash-flow problems but sadly we do not have the funds to continue."

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