Laura Audley, Founder of luxury tent hire company Portobello Tents unpacks her daily routine of a summer’s day out in the fields.
Portobello Tents provides stylish, comfortable and ethically-sourced canvas camps for a wide range of events across the UK, offering a refreshing alternative to the classic corporate model. Combining the magic of the outdoors with bespoke luxury, Laura and her crew create your very own mobile hotel for a conference, office party or team-building weekend with a difference.
It won’t be long before the clocks change and the days get longer, which means I’ll be heading back to our warehouse to start the pre-summer organisation. A few of us will work through everything, checking stock and chatting about logistics for the jobs we have booked. Once summer is in full swing, my days are a continuous roll of writing packing lists for our warehouse manager, helping load lorries, driving all over the country to the next job, measuring the space allotted to us for our tents and helping our ‘marking out’ boys to get the field measured into neat rows. The full crew then arrive just before the lorries are ready to unload to put up tents and dress them!
A day on-site for me would usually start with Nikki shouting to go to breakfast. Nikki is my right-hand woman and arrived at our second ever job – she told me I needed her to stay –and that was that. She’s always first up and needs breakfast immediately! After a good breakfast we all meet ‘on the field’ at 8.30am.
Most of the crew have been around for at least a couple of years and so everyone knows how things work so it’s easy to get on with things while having a bit of fun too! During a ‘build’ the tents fly up along the marked out rope lines – it’s a satisfying sight. I generally spend a lot of time drawing circles with scribbled letters in to show the luxury option and bed layouts of each tent (we offer Bronze, Silver, Gold and VIP options and four bed layout choices). I have big cards which then go in the doorway of each tent after the matting is down, to show the crew what else is required.
Beds are next – this is a long and heavy job as all our beds are hardwood with memory foam mattresses. While Nikki’s bed making team do their amazing thing (this can be the hottest and hardest work) the rest dress the tents with chandeliers, clothes rails, tables and chairs, flowers, lights and more. Once everything is finished, the measuring ropes and anything used for transport are tidied and stored. We then check every tent against the plan while the guy ropes are tweaked so all is perfect!
During the summer it’s a question of keeping on moving and our fingers crossed for sunshine. The crew are fantastic and we all get on brilliantly. When we’re not on the job, we can often be found at a festival having a good old dance together!
We asked Laura some questions about her role…
So Laura, what’s the most rewarding part of the job?
Having set up Portobello Tents a little over three years ago, doing the meet and greet on reception is – the camaraderie between the crew is great and the best thing is when a group of guests return from previous years to stay with us, with their friends and guests in tow and introduce us like old friends. Everyone arrives wanting to enjoy the event and when you add to the whole experience by making them feel so welcome and showing them to a beautifully made- up tent it’s really quite special!
What has been your most challenging experience?
At the end of our first summer, we were in a stunning part of Wales with 70 tents – the biggest job we’d ever done at that stage. Access wasn’t brilliant and our tents were spread over four different areas. The ‘build’ was soggy but all went to plan and the guests arrived. The weather then changed and to say it was bad would be an understatement! The wind and rain did not let up and we spent hours walking around five metre circles re-pegging guy ropes to secure the tents from the wind coming off the estuary. They shut the boutique reception because the wind was so bad and one of our lorries took so long to load we had to stop at nightfall. Three of us stayed to finish, sleeping on the floor of a Portakabin we’d been lent the keys to – a real low moment. Luckily we had one more job that year which was in Germany on flat ground in sunshine!
To find out more, visit Portobellotents.com.