Those who had long given up hope of hearing back from Father Christmas when posting their Christmas wish list might have found themselves pleasantly surprised this month, writes Holly O’Mahony…
On November 26, Royal Mail introduced four ‘singing’ postboxes across the UK, one of which is sat right outside Cutty Sark Gardens in Greenwich. The jazzed-up postbox is easy to spot with its snow-capped top and scattering of snowflakes. Any letters posted in the festive postbox are met with one of three jolly jingles, including the sound of sleigh bells and a greeting from Father Christmas himself.
“The festive singing postboxes are the first of their kind, however they follow on from a series of other celebratory postboxes we’ve installed around the country this year,” says Jasmin Prichard, External Relations Manager at Royal Mail. In July of this year, Royal Mail covered the postbox on Soho’s Old Compton Street in rainbow colours to celebrate Pride in London. Later that month, a commemorative postbox adorned with Emily Brontë quotes was unveiled to celebrate the writer’s 200th birthday. The postbox, on Market Street in Thornton, Bradford – where Brontë was born in July 1818 – was inscribed with the 1836 poem ‘High Waving Heather’ and ‘I am Heathcliff!’ from Wuthering Heights.
Both the Pride and Brontë postboxes were returned to their traditional shade of red a month later. However prior to this year in 2012, Royal Mail painted a scattering of London postboxes in gold as a permanent commemoration of British Gold medal winners of the London 2012 Olympics. This was a one-off gesture, though, not repeated for Gold winners at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
Greenwich’s singing postbox is one of four across the UK. The others can be found in each capital city in Great Britain, with one in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast. “We wanted to share the festive spirit with as many people as we could – so we selected busy shopping areas or postboxes close to Christmas markets in our Nation’s capital cities,” explains Jasmine.
Each singing postbox has been fitted with an audio motion sensor installed on the roof inside the box. The sensor recognises when a card or letter is posted into the box, triggering the festive jingle to play. “It took us a long time to decide what sounds the postboxes should play,” says Jasmine, adding that the task was choosing jingles which would help customers posting their mail feel festive. “As we deliver letters to Father Christmas each year, we had to ask him to record a message. We also chose sleigh bells and a jingle that we felt shared in the spirit and magic of Christmas,” she says.
It hasn’t been an entirely smooth settling in process for Greenwich’s singing postbox, though. Just days after the festive postbox was installed, its sensor was robbed – no easy task I’m told by the Royal Mail representative responsible for replacing it. The culprit would have had to have a relatively slim hand and wrist to slide it into the letterbox and remove the voicebox fastened on the roof, apparently.
Unperturbed by vandalism, Royal Mail swiftly installed a new sensor and, at the time of writing, the singing postbox was back up and running. “We want to share the joy and magic of Christmas, and leave users feeling surprised and delighted,” says Jasmine, concluding that she and the team at Royal Mail hope the postbox is used as a celebratory focal point where groups of friends take selfies and children send their all-important letters to Father Christmas.
Greenwich’s singing postbox can be found on Greenwich Promenade, King William Walk, SE10 9HT.