By Amanda Thurlow @AmandaThurlow
When organising events, the main requirements for me and many others are a central location, good transport links, flexibility and a good service. Hotels dominate the event venue market, as they are often able to offer all of these in one convenient location. However, as event professionals we are always looking for something extra to offer our attendees, something a little more out of the ordinary to enhance the event experience.
When invited to Weston Park with Lime Venue Portfolio, I was only aware of it as the home to a tent covered field during V Festival. However, the stately home nestled within the park is a far cry from festival camping. If you are looking for an exclusive hire venue to create a sense of luxury then Weston Park definitely has something to offer.
Arriving on a miserable, dark and drizzly night we were greeted by a butler with an umbrella who escorted us from the car, checked us in and took us to our room and what a room is was. The Disraeli suite, which I stayed in, was one of 28 onsite bedrooms. With a fireplace, dining table and en suite bathroom this bedroom immediately created the experience of life as Lady of the Manor and the old teddy bear holding a scroll containing the history of the room was a lovely extra touch.
Drinks in the library were followed by a four course dinner around the large dining table, surrounded by historic art work. The setting was very grand and over 40 guests fitted comfortably around the table, with the venue staff continually catering to their needs. After dinner entertainment came in the form of an antiques treasure hunt, coordinated by Off Limits Events. This was a great way to explore the rooms of the house (which guests were already keen to do) and learn about some of the treasures enclosed within. Not only was the history of the house uncovered but also some of its features such as the secret door in the library, which led to the Italian gardens, part of the Capability Brown landscape. The evening ended with night caps in the library.
The following morning we woke up to breakfast in the music room and were then taken on a tour of the house. Even more fascinating facts were uncovered, like the boardroom was where world leaders met for the G8 summit and that the secret door by the orangery leads through to the church next door. It was also interesting to learn how other companies had used the space – Rolex had used rooms as an exhibition area and another jewellery company intends to build a catwalk in the orangery. Different wedding parties used different areas of the house for different purposes. Finishing the tour in the orangery, we were all set for the Bake Off Challenge, again hosted by Off Limit Corporate Events. Making Tiffin, Rocky Road and decorating biscuits and cakes was a really fun challenge. The Orangery was ideal for this, with its outdoors indoors feel and easy to clean floor. Prizes for the best display of baked goods, best team leader and a wooden spoon prize were awarded at the end of the challenge.
After the Bake Off Challenge we walked outside and past the out buildings and holiday lets to finish the venue show case in the Granary Grill restaurant, which as the name suggests is situated in a restored granary, also home to a deli/café and an art gallery. With the park closed to the public over the winter season and most of the guests now departed, we took the opportunity to explore the park. The scenery was picturesque with waterfalls, bridges, trees and tunnels all creating interesting features. Exploring the park felt like a real adventure.
Ready to leave, I felt like I had really experienced the potential of the house as a venue. Not only had the team at Weston brought the house to life by immersing us all in an event experience but they had also highlighted the varied potential opportunities the venue could offer. Similar to test driving a car, we got to experience for ourselves how the venue performed. What better way to ensure your attendees get a good experience than to test out the venue for yourself first. Guests were continually asking questions, proving that the house was really capturing their imagination for potential future events. For those who were not looking to book anything right now then I’m sure the showcase would have turned them into advocates for the venue. I for one would recommend it for anyone looking for an exclusive hire venue either for a wedding or corporate event. The venue was in the middle of everywhere but felt a million miles away from anywhere and the ideas that came flowing during the venue showcase made it a great source of inspiration, that we as event professionals, can utilise in creating great experiences for our future attendees.