DONKEYS are very important characters when it comes to nativity plays, but kids don’t need to don costumes any more because schools can hire the real deal.
Mark Ineson, of realdonkeys.com based near Kirkhamgate, has 16 that he lends to schools who want to add a bit of authenticity to their Christmas shows.
The 34-year-old has been running donkey rides on Blackpool Beach for the last 15 years and decided to branch out into donkey hire while business slowed when the resort’s seafront was being given a makeover.
He said: “Donkeys play a vital role in the Christmas story because it was a donkey that carried Mary to the stable.
“Children know they were present at the birth of Jesus Christ and having a donkey at an event gives them a physical link to the true meaning of Christmas.”
The award-winning donkeys are also available for light switch ons, galas, parties, educational visits and even TV appearances.
Mr Ineson said: “We filmed Blue Peter’s Christmas show this week, and they’ve been on Animal Planet and appeared alongside Peter Kaye on his spoof reality TV show Britain’s got the pop factor. I even got a call from someone at Simon Cowell’s TV company saying they wanted to hire a donkey for Britain’s Got Talent. They had got my number from Peter Kaye, which was really surreal.”
Mr Ineson’s became interested in donkeys as a little boy when on holiday in Blackpool with his parents.
Brothers Martin and Norman Patchett, who have run donkey rides on the beach there for decades, used to let him help out in return for free rides and taught him everything they knew.
He said: “There are strict rules about working donkeys on the beach and you have to have a licence.
“No one over 16 years-old or eight stone can ride them, and Friday is traditionally donkey day off. They are such lovely animals, which a perfect temperament for working with children.
“They are just so laid back. Parents and grandparents like their children to meet them and ride them because it’s something they can share with them from their own childhoods, and it is nice to take them into schools because some children have never been to the seaside.” To find out more, or to book, visit www.realdonkeys.com