Every year, thousands of temporary staff are hired to help out over the festive period. From santas and elves to shop jobs and events planning – it’s a minefield of workers making sure your Christmas is a cracker. Here, we go behind-the-scenes with four festive workers.

Dan Clarkson, Potted Panto

For Dan Clarkson, it’s not a normal Christmas if he isn’t wearing a frilly dress and delivering innuendos to a hyperactive audience.
For the past five years, the CBBC presenter and his partner in pantomime, Jeff Turner, have performed Potted Panto, the frenetic double-act playing out seven classic shows in just 80 minutes. The actor, 32, describes the show as an “anarchic, chaotic look at panto”. Clarkson has been performing this fundamentally British artform since he was 12. It’s every actor’s bread and butter, he says.

“As far as I can see, panto works because men are dressed as women, women are dressed as men, the prince gets it on with a man, who is dressed as a woman, they all tell inappropriate jokes, and the adults don’t mind if the kids see it,” he explains.
In Potted Panto, at the Vaudeville Theatre, in the Strand, from December 18, Clarkson and Turner play every character from Prince Charming and the seven dwarves to the wicked queen and the Christmas fairy.

It takes flawless costume changes to make things work. But it doesn’t always. Clarkson says: “Jeff once got his Cinderella transformation wrong, so I was stood on the stage as a chicken, while Jeff was in the curtains and had just pulled his breeches off so was standing there on the side in his Y-fronts. Try explaining that to the audience.”

See pottedpanto.com

Jamie Wells, Winter Wonderland

If a dreamy Christmas is about romantic nights ice skating beneath a twinkly sky, cups of steamy mulled wine, and a spot of fun on a fairground ride, then Jamie Wells is the dreamweaver.

The director of PWR Events, Wells curates Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland each year. This is his 22nd year on the job and he has pulled out all the stops to include attractions such as an ice rink that wraps around the bandstand, with overhead fairy lights, plus the “biggest and newest” fun house, shipped over especially from Germany. It takes 12 months of planning to make it all happen. He says: “Christmas day is my only real day off. All year round we’re looking for inspiration. It’s a hard job.”

%TNT Magazine% winterwonderland

The pay off is seeing people enjoy it. Wells, 41, adds: “We’re happy for people just to come and sit on a bench in the Wonderland with a packed lunch and enjoy the atmosphere.

“In fact, the next best thing to ice skating is sitting rink-side with a hot chocolate in hand watching people fall over. It can be very entertaining.”

See hydeparkwinterwonderland.com

Santa Claus, Hamleys

Arguably, the big jolly guy in the red suit puts in more hours on Christmas Eve than humanly possible. Until then, we are reliably informed he and his elves have been assiduously grafting away, carving and painting toys for all the good boys and girls out there, between appearances at Hamleys.

Despite being busy, Father Christmas (who insists he is, indeed, the real Father Christmas) takes time out to tell us what’s on this year’s lists.

%TNT Magazine% santas

“The toys the boys and girls have been asking for are Moshi Monsters Talking Plush, The Leap Pad (kids’ iPad) and the Air Swimmers – giant flying helium-filled fish. The dads want the Silverlit Gyro Spy Cam Helicopter and the mums want a Lagoona Hydration Station to help them sleep,” he says.

To entice Santa to deliver those gifts, he says he’d prefer sugar-free cookies so he can eat “as many as I like”, and a power jet for his sleigh “to get around the world quicker”. Don’t leave the big guy hanging.

See hamleys.com

Russell Davey, West End Events

Russell Davey is the man who makes sure your office Christmas party goes with a bang. And it’s what the company director devotes himself to year round.

“It’s highly seasonal work. In the first half of year you’re finding concepts and venues, plus doing marketing, then from July onwards, you start executing it all,” says Davey, from Covent Garden.

While firms are always looking for cheaper options and will scrimp on food and entertainment, there’s one  budget which hasn’t changed – booze.

Davey, 38, says the best thing about Christmas parties is that anything is possible. “As long as you can deliver, then can never really be a disaster,” he adds.

See westendevents.co.uk