Let’s have a party with Oasis Events

Dany Freemantle

Dany Freemantle - Credit: Archant

Award-winning events company Oasis Events can turn a private English estate into a Brazilian favela, an historic university dining hall into a Hollywood-style film set and Cheltenham Racecourse into a huge ski chalet

The room at the Royal Agricultural University that was decorated by Oasis Events

The room at the Royal Agricultural University that was decorated by Oasis Events - Credit: Archant

Dany Fremantle runs the family-run Oasis Events business with her husband Mark, creating and dressing some of the most incredible parties and events in the UK. We spoke to her about the business.

Q: The telephone rings at Oasis. What is it that most clients want?

A: They want the answer to be “yes” whatever the question, and so do we. Can you transform my grain store into a circus tent? Can we seat 250 for a wedding breakfast in our sheep barn? Can I squeeze a boutique tent onto the lawn above our mill pond? Can you get a team to Moscow within three weeks?

We love meeting clients face to face because it’s so much easier to understand what they really want, but it’s not always necessary. The first thing we do is try and give a rough estimate. Budget is the starting point for any milestone event and we do our best to give the lie of the land before taking up a client’s precious time. We deliver over 400 events a year. Since 2010 we have measured our hit rate and it’s roughly one booking for every 2.75 enquiries. Many of these are word of mouth recommendations and great photography of previous installations.

Q: You have their brief. What’s next?

A: We have a splendid range of boutique tents and stunning interiors for marquee linings in stock. With minor adaptations these can be personalised to preferred styles, themes or colours, so even if a client has seen it elsewhere they can have an interpretation that feels unique and bespoke to them. At the other end of the scale we regularly respond to a range of specific and whacky briefs, or send ideas to much loser briefs where the client is seeking more of a ‘feel’ (perhaps opulent or elegant) than a style.

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The best kind of creative evolution is a bit from us and a bit from the client, and working with the space, using it to the advantage of the event. A pair of feeding troughs in the centre of the barn don’t need to be an obstruction to a wedding space, they can become the floral centre piece or two rustic chill out islands!

Q: How much creative input do you give?

A: We give as much or as little as clients want or need. We work with some of the country’s leading event and wedding planners so they come with a clear idea in mind, and we are the safe pair of hands to turn their creative vision into practical reality. We combine our creative input with practical understanding of how events work, it’s no good being in a beautiful environment but tripping over fantastic props, or where table decorations preclude the placement of the food. Size weight and volume of hire can seriously affect transport budgets, so imaginations do occasionally have to be reigned when running fantastic ideas past the Oasis operations team.

One of our favourite recent events was the transformation of a giant, shed-like marquee structure at Cheltenham Racecourse into an Après Ski chalet environment. We warmed it up with printed wooden-effect wall linings, made the huge space feel smaller and more welcoming with touches like an oversized gingham pelmet to reduce the scale of the structure and mock wooden chalet windows attached to the glass windows. Furs and throws, ski racks complete with skis, and antlers mounted around the walls pulled the look together. We were commissioned by Rock the Cotswolds, the campaign to change perceptions of the Cotswolds. We had also dressed their campaign launch at Blackfriar’s Priory in June last year, and they have been a consistently fun team to work for. Their approach is: ‘let’s make it look fantastic, let’s be different and unexpected’ and so we do.

Q: What are you most proud of producing?

A: Six years ago we were asked to look at designing a fabric wallpaper that would re-create the interior of a Victorian drawing room in a railway station. We learned a lot about the different ways to print onto fabrics including using our contacts in the Middle East, new ones we made in Hong Kong, and ended up finding an elegant solution here in UK. It was by far the cleverest solution technically and the result was colour matched, pattern matched fabric based on an Isambard Kingdom Brunel fretwork design we still use today.

I had a rather ‘heart in boots’ moment during a night time lighting test 24 hours before a three-venue event went live. The client was an amazing, no holds barred thrill-seeker who wanted spectacle, drama and surprise. As we all stood together admiring the team’s work on lighting up an entire woodland, cliff tops, creating coloured exteriors to white marquees and a woodland night club, he asked whether we could light the lake.

The lake is about half a mile long and wide, and with my mobile phone permanently attached to my hand from then until the party started we sourced an addition lighting company, power and back up, fuel, overnight staff and a beautiful mist affect that was deserving of a moment in a Harry Potter film. The client was quite right: it made the party.

Having a free reign to propose ideas is great fun. For instance, seeing the faces of guests as they spot camels hired in to surprise them with a ride from the car park appear over the hill. Working alongside experienced suppliers is a joy.

We’re all on the same page and care about the same level of detail. At completely the opposite end of the spectrum, the tiniest booking for an event with a family story at its heart is incredibly rewarding. It has been known

that we come to collect a small tent for an intimate wedding, which has been shoe-horned into a North London garden within an inch of its life, and the client is standing there with hoover in one hand, polish in the other, because they want the tent and setting they have loved and enjoyed to be sent off in best condition. Cockle warming!

A most unusual event Our Oasis saffron setting, well-known for its Middle Eastern heritage, was used for a Disney themed wedding last year complete with bride and groom dressed in full Goofy and Snow White full body suits.

Oasis Events helped Cotswold Life launch our Engineering, Manufacturing and Innovation Awards. We gave them a real

challenge: turning the historic Royal Agricultural University into a manufacturing hub.

The drive behind the awards is to highlight the creativity and innovation of the manufacturing industry so there was a natural fit with Oasis Events’ practical and creative approach. Dany talks through the project: “There are always going to be restrictions associated with a venue such as length of time for set up or take down, ceiling height or precious listed features, which we cannot usefor the installation. This was the case at the Royal Agricultural University dining room so we turned to our fast-installation, free standing drape system for full height grandeur, leaving the beautiful rafters and panelled ceiling visible, and draping the room in the colours taken from the palette of the awards promo materials – gold, silver-grey and black. Beautiful antique filament bulbs were suspended randomly from carefully installed and barely visible wires overhead, criss-crossing the room for a random representation of brightly shining innovation, combined with grey drapes to soften the look. Simple, unique internally lit furniture filled the edges to lend the room a cosy feel, and we suggested filing our hurricane vases with silvery nuts and bolts to represent the tools of the manufacturing trade, with candles nestled in them. Filled with almost 200 guests, the room had a truly Hollywood feel, and we’re looking forward to dressing Cheltenham Town Hall in September for the Awards ceremony itself.”


This article is from the May 2015 issue of Business & Professional Life