The Secret Life of a Party Planner

Whether it’s a client wanting a giant condom, a 20 foot Buddha or 2,000 shit glasses (it turned out they wanted shot glasses ... so much for texting with one finger) – Kit and Caboodle’s team are always up for a challenge, and bring a lifetime’s career experience to dealing with the unexpected.

Take the opening of Kings Cross Square behind St Pancras. “I turned up to install a stage set and

pyrotechnics for Boris to open the next day live on national TV but Murphy’s, the groundwork team, still had paving slabs to lay – almost a thousand of them.”

What did he do? We helped to lay them of course - tar, cement, laying slabs – all part of the job before we could get on with doing what we needed to do.

“He” being our Logistics Director Sean Puleston. There was the time Sean installed a bright idea – a brand new 30 metre by 5 metre curved screen for a corporate client. It was a bright idea until the wrong projectors turned up, so they couldn’t be lined up in sequence with the screen. They did it with 1 minute 10 secs left to start. He smiles. It takes a lot to shake his cool.

A disaster is only a disaster if you can’t fix it in time, in his view.

You need to be a people person – to get the best from your crew as well as clients, says Sian, the Client Accounts Manager at Kit and Caboodle. Outgoing, energetic, extrovert, theatrical – all good qualities and she has them in spades ... but above all, a good listener.

The team obviously think so ... or maybe not, which is why she came out of the warehouse the other day to find the team had clingwrapped her car in black plastic because she gave them too much work

Aleksi, the Construction, Manufacturing and Production Manager agrees. “The backroom boys and girls need to be patient with creatives,” he says. “We’re the practical people when it comes to realising a dream – but it’s based on their genius – and sometimes we have pretty good ideas of our own.”

Sean says that he loves the diversity of being an events operations planner except sometimes conference work can be a bit boring. He remembers one, held by UK Farmers. “We spent the whole morning listening to a talk on Manure, beamed onto the big screen. Then we noticed that the speaker had a handheld mike and had left the stage to walk into the audience. The cameraman had gone to sleep!”

Sometimes the experiences are unforgettable for staff – like the time Kylie Minogue was at the NME awards – giving a prize to U2. When the crew sat down for lunch, she went and got Sean his coffee after lunch – she’s beautiful, he says. Bono was great, too, well, until Oasis turned up then things got a bit tense with the Gallaghers.

Prior to joining Kit and Caboodle, touring Hamlet with RSC to municipal council theatres is a happy memory for Sean. Dealing with council workers as backstage crew, he says their regulation boots brought the play to a standstill when the scene being played needed the staircase to appear silently following a line. “Thanks to the clumpy boots, you couldn’t hear a word,” he says. To be, or maybe NOT to be?

Tanya Clark, Creative Director at Kit and Caboodle, has many anecdotes from her years in the industry.

One of the most memorable was a “majlis” or welcome area she designed and installed at the private Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital, London for the proud parents-to-be of a young prince from the Gulf. “Everything had to be just right, no expense spared,” says Tanya.

“The chandeliers arrived from Lladro, the Spanish sculptor ... beautiful porcelain butterflies, or so we thought from the brochure. When we unwrapped them, to our horror, we saw they were naked, very buxom fairies. There was no way this was suitable for a Gulf Royal family.

I noticed a surgical glove blown up like a balloon by a member of the crew. In a flash of inspiration, I snipped a finger off the glove and “dressed” one of the fairies. She looked amazing. The glove was the same colour as the porcelain ... problem solved.

Although to be fair, when the Royal mother-in-law arrived for the final snag visit, she smiled when she saw the fairies in their “abbayas” – and said nothing.”

Suzi Clark, Director at Kit and Caboodle, remembers an early heart-stopping moment in events management, when she managed to lock the late, great Bob Hoskins, out of the Hippodrome event she was organising for Chicken Shed Theatre Company.

“As one of the charity’s valued patrons, I was mortified to see Bob’s face squashed against the glass doors. He’d arrived early, and to make matters worse he was dressed as Nikita Krushchev for the filming of Enemy at the Gates – but people still recognised him and he was being mobbed for autographs. He was very red in the face, and his language was ... colourful, to say the least. In the end I found the keyholder and got the doors opened, but it was a tense five minutes,” she says with a laugh.

Events ... always eventful. But we wouldn't want it any other way.