Designer's shock as Xmas show shuts
Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen has expressed his shock at the closure of a Christmas experience he designed after a major financial backer pulled out with nine opening days left.
The celebrity interior designer told the Press Association he was "extremely surprised" after finding out on Twitter the Magical Journey, based at the Belfry Hotel, in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, had shut down as of today.
The attraction had run into trouble before when it was forced to close one day after opening in November, following negative feedback from visitors on social media.
It reopened several days later after work to improve it, winning positive customer reviews, but last night the organisers said they had been "left in the lurch" and could not find a replacement backer.
Llewelyn-Bowen said he had not given any financial support to the project and was unaware who the backer was.
He said: "It's absolutely shocking. We found out by Twitter. Everybody was in bed feeling Christmassy and now we are not feeling very Christmassy at all.
"I was really impressed with the way they addressed all the issues the first time around and the energy and resources that went into it so I'm extremely surprised the towel's been thrown in at this stage.
"I feel appalling it is not the happy experience I really want it to be. I feel extremely sorry for everybody let down in the next nine days and also for the staff who worked on the front-line. I'm hoping they will get their money back.
"On a personal level I was so excited by the idea of designing Christmas. It seemed a perfect opportunity. I really did feel (organiser) Paul Dolan and his team were the right people to do it.
"In hindsight they absolutely were not experienced enough for this sort of event.
"I was just commissioned to create some design concepts for the experience. There was no financial backing from my point of view and no involvement in the management.
"I feel very much I was the designer and I'm a very public face so people are cross with me."
The presenter added he would be donating his fee, the amount of which he would not confirm, to a Birmingham children's hospice and said: "I do not want to make any money at all out of this experience."
A statement on the Magical Journey's website said: "We are really sorry to have to tell you this, but as of tomorrow (Tuesday 16 December 2014) The Magical Journey, based at The Belfry, Sutton Coldfield, will no longer be in operation.
"We are truly sorry. After all we've been through having to shutdown in the final week is devastating. Although we had quite the time of it in the press and on social media, feedback was great with over 600 four and five star reviews.
"However, today a key financial backer has dropped out leaving us in the lurch. We have tried desperately over the last few hours to find a replacement but to no avail.
"We are very sorry to have to break the news like this but we have explored all our options, and the situation leaves us with no alternative other than close The Magical Journey.
"In order to receive a refund you will need to contact your debit or credit card provider to claim your money via the Chargeback scheme. There are details of this scheme here: http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/problem/how-do-i-use-chargeback.
"Please do not contact The Belfry Hotel as they have no affiliation to the Magical Journey and they will not be able to assist you in any way."
An automated message on the attractions phone line said all customers who had booked for the next nine days would receive an email about how to get a refund.