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Words: Carole Mortimer
Photography: Courtesy of Burghley House
Featured in the May 2013 issue

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According to the man who knows these things there are three key components to successful corporate entertaining: the view, the catering and the loos!

Leaving the second two aside for a moment, at least at The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials the first doesn’t present too many problems, as the corporate marquees would be pushed to find a finer ‘view’ than the one they have of the wonderful Burghley House.

“We are privileged to be working in the Park and Burghley has a good team to work with – there are certainly many more unpleasant jobs out there,” acknowledges Charles Webb, of AR Events, the man who is ultimately responsible for providing these key ingredients that make a day out special.

With over twenty-five years’ experience in organising corporate entertainment, as well as The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, AR Events’ diverse portfolio includes The British Grand Prix, The John Smith’s Grand National, BBC Proms in the Park and the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

“I have been involved in the business since the late ’80s, first through working at golf tournaments and then I got involved in sporting and music events,” said Webb, who this year will be working his tenth Burghley. Before any organising, however, his initial priority is selling hospitality.

He said: “Every event is different but the key to all of them is being able to sell the hospitality. I am a sales person and sales are the driver.”

Fortunately for Webb, despite ostensibly being a horse event, Burghley has a much wider appeal. “Because of the location, the park, the house and the shopping there is something for everyone at Burghley – it is not limited to eventing cognoscenti,” said Webb. “The Burghley experience is an extensive one and our job is to help a client get as much as they can out of a day at Burghley.”

Once the view is organised Webb then has to start putting together the infrastructure – the marquees, furniture and soft furnishings and of course the catering. There are, however, several other less glamorous but fundamental aspects to sort out, if a day is to run well and not be memorable for the wrong reasons.

Webb said: “I have to consider basics such as electrics, cleaning and waste disposal which have to be booked – and cleaning can be a big issue, especially when dealing with outdoor events.”

This is quite possibly an understatement. There are not many who would have wanted to be responsible for cleaning at Burghley four years ago.

“That year Burghley was unique in that it was the only event that went ahead in what was a wet autumn,” said Webb. “The shopping malls were quagmires and we had a huge amount of cleaning. Also that year we had to hire in heaters – yet another time it will be air conditioning.”

Last year, as well as the first delivery of chairs not being up to standard, it was the loos that presented a headache. Apparently, with it being Olympic year, ‘luxury loos’ were at a premium.

Dealing with the trials, tribulations and technical hitches at The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials is quite literally a walk in the park compared with other setbacks that Webb has experienced – the most memorable being the abandonment of the Grand National in 1997 due to a bomb scare when four floors of the hospitality suite he was looking after had to be evacuated.

“It was all laid up for afternoon tea and when we came back the following day it was like walking onto the Marie Celeste – quite spooky,” said Webb.

Clearing up the cakes and clotted cream was, however, straightforward compared to the aftermath of putting people and their belongings back together.

“On the Monday the place then turned into a glorified lost property office, when everyone came back to collect their hats and coats,” said Webb.

Ultimately, though, it is all in a day’s work for Webb: “Whatever sort of day we have had, we begin with a warm welcome and end with a smile – and ultimately deliver a day to remember.”

The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials take place 5th – 8th September 2013. For further information about the Trials and to book your tickets go to www.burghley-horse.co.uk

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