"I turned up for work in our local Tesco 14 years ago and learned my Lottery syndicate had won the Lotto jackpot."
Weird and wonderful purchases of lottery winners like Elaine & Rob Leason, from Driffield, feature in a unique and uplifting photo exhibition to mark the 25th Birthday of The National Lottery.
The photo exhibition will be placed at the historic lottery-funded Fulham Palace and will run from 30th October - 10th November. The collection showcases the inspiring, obscure and heart-felt stories behind what winners of The National Lottery have purchased with their prize money.
Elaine Leason, 59, won a £1.4M share of a work syndicate at Tesco in Driffield, in July, 2005.
She lives in the town with husband Rob, 66, – AKA Santa.
Elaine said, “Rob is a big bloke, and our best Lottery buy is a luxury Santa outfit which is massive and fluffy and heavy and which he fills out perfectly!
“When he steps inside that suit, he isn’t a man dressing as Santa – he really IS Santa.
“The joy on the faces of local children when they see him is heartwarming. For us, it’s a magic which you can’t see elsewhere.”
Elaine and Rob have always been crazy about Christmas and following their National Lottery win Rob now dresses as Santa every year and Elaine dons her elf costume as his helper.
Elaine added, “We just love to spread a bit of happiness.
“I turned up for work in our local Tesco 14 years ago and learned my Lottery syndicate had won the Lotto jackpot.
“It was a chaotic day. I rang Rob but he was at work on a roadside and couldn’t hear me. Our daughter Samantha caught a bus to tell him the news.
“The win enabled us to throw ourselves into charity work and one Christmas the Round Table had a Santa Sleigh and no Santa. They said they were short of one, and nobody wanted to go out in the cold.
“I rang Rob and said, ‘Quick – we need a Santa in 10 minutes!’ Rob worked outside as a builder, so the cold didn’t bother him. He stood in as Santa that night, and never looked back.”
Elaine said when she didn’t know what to get for Rob the following Christmas, Rob said he would love a proper Santa outfit!
Elaine said, “I went to a fancy dress shop and there is was – a thick cape with lush material costing £150! That was 12 years ago and it has brought so much joy to so many people.”
Meanwhile, Elaine wears an elf outfit, including pyjama bottoms, striped tights and a hat she found in a supermarket.
Elaine added, “We certainly never expected each Christmas to be like this.
“From the little girl who asked Rob last year for a real-life donkey, to the children who roll their eyes and say ‘I saw you yesterday and told you what I wanted,’ they have taught us the true meaning of Christmas!”
The stunning exhibit details 25 individual photographs of winners and aims to tell their individual stories and paint a picture of their fascinating lives. From Cath and Bill Mullarkey’s dream of building a beautiful home in St. Lucia, to Richard & Faye Davies’ £20K field for their dogs to enjoy and Matt Evans’ football-themed garden, the exhibition covers it all.
Andy Carter, Senior Winners’ Advisor at The National Lottery, said, “It is always wonderful to hear about the truly amazing things that National Lottery winners do with their money.
“This exhibition is a fantastic showcase of whacky and obscure hobbies, to the generous, heart-felt and even surprising stories that winning The National Lottery has enabled some of our 5,500 millionaires to have.”
The first National Lottery draw was on November 19th 1994. The exhibition is a celebration of winners to mark the 25th Birthday. Over the last 25 years, 5,500 millionaires have been created from The National Lottery and over £71 billion in prizes has been given out. In total, £40 billion has now been raised for good causes and more than 565,000 individual grants have been made across the UK - an average of 200 lottery grants in every UK postcode district. Each week, around £30 million is generated for good causes.
The photos are being displayed at the historic Fulham Palace. In total, £9million of money raised by National Lottery players has been invested in Fulham Palace and the surrounding Bishop’s Park.