Hiring a VW campervan for your special occasion

Above: Kitty Orme with her pride and joy, Birdie and Betty

Above: Kitty Orme with her pride and joy, Birdie and Betty - Credit: Archant

Kitty Orme, of Dunham on the Hill, near Chester, is a woman who lets nothing stop her from achieving her dream, writes Kate Houghton

Birdie needed restoring from the frame up

Birdie needed restoring from the frame up - Credit: Archant

prettifying a campervan for weddings and events was never part of Kitty Orme’s plan. ‘I always wanted to be an art teacher,’ Kitty tells me. ‘I qualified and worked in that role for 13 years. When I was offered a position in London at a very creative school, somewhere supportive of the arts, it was a dream come true. It was an amazing job – but London is a very expensive place to live. A friend of mine was getting married and we went to a wedding show together. I saw a photo booth, which are very popular at weddings these days. I looked at it and knew I could do better.

‘All my savings were getting sucked away by living in London and I couldn’t see how this would improve, so I decided to give it all up, come home to Cheshire and set up my own business.’

Luckily Kitty’s parents were not averse to having their grown up and gone away daughter return to the nest, giving her time to work on her grand idea.

‘I took a little time to research some ideas, invest in a decent camera and printing equipment and start to create. I wanted a portable studio, in effect, one I could theme or decorate to suit any occasion or client.

Kitty with Birdie set for a wedding

Kitty with Birdie set for a wedding - Credit: Archant

‘My first thought was an airstream, but they’re such a lot of money! A friend with an old Morris Minor referred me to their friend Dave, who restored old campervans and cars, thinking that this might be a solution.

‘It was January 2016, a freezing cold and icy day, and I convinced my dad to come with me to see Dave (known as V Dub Dave) at his workshop in Lancashire. He has turned out to be an amazing man with a true passion for VWs. He pulled open the doors to his barn and I was faced with 10 campervans, all in various states of restoration. It just clicked for me, right at that moment; it was an Aladdin’s Cave of possibilities. Unfortunately my budget didn’t stretch to any of the vans he had in progress, at only £10,000.

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‘Dave led me round to the back of the barn, where he had a 1978 VW campervan in a seriously distressed state. It was up on bricks, no doors, windows or engine and was covered in chicken poo. And chickens. There were eggs in the engine bay. I thought he was winding me up! My dad was horrified, but he helped me write up a very detailed contract with Dave and started my new dream rolling. I named my new van Birdie, for the chickens, though they did have to move out.’

Within a week the contract had pretty much gone out of the window, as Kitty herself got stuck into getting the van ready for restoration.

Birdie the campervan

Birdie the campervan - Credit: Archant

‘I couldn’t wait! I was there so much and working such long hours that in the end I moved into a caravan on site and just worked every hour to get it done! I pushed hard as I wanted it ready for the summer season. I started promoting my new business over social media and got my first booking, for a wedding in the July, so had an immovable deadline to work to.

‘Birdie and I were ready to go, as planned, for the summer.’

Clearly not one who believes in ‘one thing at a time,’ Kitty had already started on her next project.

‘I came across an old Mini Cooper for sale. Well, actually just half a one, the rear end to be precise! I had a vision of running a mini bar in a Mini and lots of other things too. I bought it while I was still working on Birdie, so she had to take a back seat, if you’ll forgive the pun, till I had completed the van.

‘I was booked for The Winter Gathering in Manchester, a huge indoor event in the old Fire Station on London Road, with an ice-rink, bars, food, shopping, live music…a quirky alternative to the Christmas markets. I got Betty ready in two days, having decided to turn her into my printer. She’s hooked up to Birdie and fitted with a professional quality photo printer – and the photos pop out from her number plate light.’

Kitty’s artistic talents are not wasted. She spends hours making props for Birdie, everything from masks and glasses to hats to costumes, plus backdrops from romantic to Mexico to the Roaring Twenties. ‘I have carefully stayed clear of the usual photo booth offering, with tacky pound shop props. It’s all done by me; it’s like a theatrical production! Customers get four photos taken 15 seconds apart, plus a video speeded up to show all the fun. My camera can load direct to social media as well as send stills for print, so people can immediately share what they’re up to.’

Kitty has expanded her market from weddings and parties to corporate events too, offering an exclusive service where all athe photos taken can immediately be posted up on the company’s social media platform with watermarks and pre-agreed hash tags.

‘It’s getting busy. I started with weddings, but now I’ve done everything from Creamfields in Warrington to fashion shoots in London. I have travelled all over the UK, doing festivals, fashion shoots, weddings… you name it, we can do it. This year I have so many bookings, from The White Horse at Chester Racecourse to festivals in Cornwall and so many weddings. The sky’s the limit in terms of theme and if I can drive there, we can be there.’