We speak to Lady Cara Willoughby of North Yorkshire’s Birdsall House about the specific needs of a historic venue when it comes to finding event suppliers.
Stately homes epitomise luxury and grandeur, meaning expectations are often high for
the event delegates. With attendees only expecting the best, it is paramount that catering suppliers have to be adaptable to meet their needs.
“People come expecting a stunning location but are won over by our hospitality,” said Cara. “Like many other stately homes, Birdsall Estate has been a family home for nearly 500 years, and we want people to feel welcome. Therefore, customer service must be impeccable and friendly.
“I’m always keen to hear how suppliers train their staff and keep them motivated because ultimately, each one of us is part of the same team once an event starts.”
With sustainability a key goal across the entire events industry, heritage venues can also make the most of local suppliers to help reduce the event’s carbon footprint while promoting the local economy and boosting the event’s authenticity for delegates.
“We know clients and guests are increasingly concerned with carbon footprints, food miles, and provenance, and we are so lucky to have Yorkshire as one of England’s naturally rich food larders,” explained Cara. “We can ensure our events are more sustainable by working with as many local suppliers as possible. There is a rich diversity of suppliers who are based in the same region, and we’ve built a list of great local cocktail specialists, live bands, fireworks providers, and chauffer companies.
“I’d advise any supplier who is pitching to a new venue to highlight all the ways they take responsibility for their own carbon footprint.”
Protect and Admire
Built in 1540, Birdsall House is a home is full of history on display for guests to enjoy. But as Cara emphasises, taking a sensitive approach to their work should be an underlining factor for suppliers:
“We are truly lucky to be able to offer Birdsall House to the events industry and it is always wonderful to see the house being enjoyed by another generation. While we welcome events which allows our delegates to admire the house, the pressures of such events on fragile historic interiors can also be enormous for our partners.
“Suppliers who understand this point are vital for us to work with, and building trust is very important. We love the creativity some of our suppliers have shown in order to respect the interior of our home, and it is a pleasure to have the chance to work with so many wonderful and creative professionals from Yorkshire and beyond.”
Thinking Outside the Box
As the number and variety of events at Birdsall House increases, Cara also adds that utilising all spaces in a stately home is also a winning quality for potential suppliers: “Most stately homes boast impressive gardens and acres of ground, and we’ve seen stylists, caterers, event planners, and entertainers use our venue in truly breath-taking ways.
“From setting up dining beneath our twelfth century monastic ruins, to organising wild swimming in our lake, it’s always lovely to see the outside space incorporated into an event, and our suppliers have been integral to this.”
As in-person events return with a rising demand for suppliers to come forward and offer their services with heritage venues, Cara explains that attending face-to-face networking events is crucial for suppliers to re-build relationships with an open-minded, family-run event space: “Each year we hold a networking business brunch for all the suppliers who will be working on our events. It is a superb way of introducing Birdsall to those who haven’t been to the venue, and also a chance for suppliers to meet and catch up in a relaxed environment. Suppliers should always jump at the chance to network in their region.
“It isn’t often that we have the chance to talk when the pressure isn’t on for an event, and we have found our networking events a huge advantage to working with new suppliers and old friends within the industry. It can be tempting after two years of lockdown to think everything can be done remotely, but that face-to-face contact is so important.”