Phil Whitehead takes over Father Christmas role in Southampton's 'Christmas Road'

Daily Echo: Phil Whitehead as Father Christmas Phil Whitehead as Father Christmas

CHRISTMAS celebrations are in full swing on one Southampton street thanks to dad-of-six Phil Whitehead.

He has stepped in to play the role of Santa Claus in Broadwater Road, dubbed “The Christmas Road” after starting spectacular festive parties more than 25 years ago.

For more than 20 years the part was taken by Ivan Nicholls but last year dozens of children were left disappointed when Mr Nicholls was forced to hang up his white beard and red coat due to ill health at the age of 88.

Not one to let down the little ones, Phil, 49, has embraced the festive spirit by splashing out more than £2,000 to be crowned the new Father Christmas.

Phil, who is a self-employed painter and decorator, bought two model reindeer costing £100 each, and bought and designed his own grotto, which has wheelchair access.

He has even embraced the “keeping up with the Joneses” attitude of the street by illuminating his house with flashing bulbs and even decking out his work van with Father Christmas, a snowman and flashing lights.

His neighbours have been so impressed by his enthusiasm that Mr Nicholls himself has even passed down his old outfit which Phil pulls on every night from 7pm until 9pm to make dozens of visitors smile.

He has even tasked helpers to hand out balloons and bags of sweets.

Phil, who lives with his wife Emma and three youngest children, said: “I was at the trade counter in B&Q when I bumped into a neighbour and they said I could be the new Santa. I just laughed it off and said I couldn’t do it, I am far too busy.

“But when I got home I spoke to my wife and kids and asked them what they thought and that was that. I went out, bought a grotto and all the lights and the rest is history.”

Phil has already been putting on fabulous nightly appearances in his grotto.

He said: “It makes it, seeing all those smiling little faces, and children think I am some kind of superhero.

“I might not last as long as Mr Nicholls but this is it now, I have spent all this money, I can’t not do it next year. In fact it will be bigger and better.”

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