John Cushing, CEO of the Thursford Collection Trust, and founder, producer and director of Thursford Christmas Spectacular, has been awarded an OBE in the 2019 New Year’s honour list for services to charity.

Taking over the Thursford Collection Trust from his father George T. Cushing MBE in the 1970’s, John, who celebrated his eightieth birthday in November this year, has spent the last four decades dedicated to the restoration of the charity’s fleet of steam rollers, steam trains, tractors, and fairground rides. The charity attracts huge numbers of visitors throughout the year, from school groups to enthusiasts, educating them on the majesty of Britain’s great industrial steam heritage.

Under John’s leadership, the museum has grown into the world’s largest collection of steam engines and organs with a transformed visitor experience including the addition of cafés, restaurant, bars, shopping village, pavilion and Bed & Breakfast Holly Lodge.

However, it is the creation of the Thursford Christmas Spectacular for which John has truly left his mark on the charity. Accompanied by the enchanting Santa’s Magical Journey fantasyland, the award-winning annual festive show has attracted nearly 6 million visitors since the first Christmas Eve production in 1977.

Still produced and directed by John, the show, the biggest of its kind in Europe, now runs from early November with well over 110’000 audience members arriving at the venue each year from all over the world, putting the tiny Norfolk village of Thursford, well and truly on the map.

Preparations for the three-hour festive extravaganza start early in the year, employing around 360 young dancers, singers, musicians, variety acts, technicians wardrobe teams, ushers, caterers and production staff, providing many of them a valuable stepping stone to long and successful careers within the arts.

John is married with two children Charlie (29yrs) and George (27yrs), both of whom continue their father and grandfather’s legacies with management positions at the Thursford Collection.

John Cushing says:

Thursford has been a lifetime’s passion for my family, my brilliant team, and I.

It has been a great privilege to work with such an amazingly talented group of people over the years, together seeing the collection flourish, and all witnessing the huge growth of the Thursford Christmas Spectacular and the joy and happiness that we have brought to so many visitors of all ages and from all corners of the world.

Being bestowed an OBE for this work is a huge personal honour for myself but also extended to my team who have been there the whole way and for which I am very grateful and feel truly blessed.