‘Behind The Scenes’ at The Open with Caboose & Co’s Tom Critchley.
Tom Critchley is managing director of Caboose & Co, supplying luxurious temporary event accommodation in converted shipping containers. Under the tough exterior, Cabooses provide cosy, en-suite bedrooms with all the glamping amenities guests require for a comfortable stay. www.cabooseandco.com
Usually my day, when I’m at home, starts at 5.30am when I’m woken up by children. Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day and helps kickstart me into action and feel prepared for whatever I need to tackle – the ideal fuel is eggs, sausages, vegetables of some sort, a smoothie and a mug of de-caff coffee to wash everything down.
As managing director of Caboose & Co, my job role is extremely varied from client calls and meetings, site visits, new business generation, product development, pitching for future investment, not to mention being hands-on for Caboose installations at the many outdoor events and festivals we supply throughout the year.
My daily roles and responsibilities shift depending on the nature of how our Cabooses are being utilised by each event. One of our annual highlights for the business is working with The R&A to run The Open Camping Village, where I am employed solely for my campsite management expertise. This initiative makes it affordable for young people and families to attend the world-famous golfing tournament, which this year runs from the 14–21 July at the Royal Portrush Golf Club, County Antrim.
Once we have set up everything and opened the gates to the public we don’t close for eight nights, so my role is then to ensure that the entire site is monitored and operating as expected – checking generators, water suppliers, waste points, security operations, catering crews and ensuring the campsite reception processes are working like clockwork.
The number of campers increases day by day so it’s vital that by the time the gates open the whole team is working well as a unit, enabling us to cope with more campers than the day before. Over the event’s duration we are responsible for the safety, wellbeing and happiness of about 2,000 people!
When on site, I usually wake around 6.30am and start walking the area with an eagle-eyed awareness of the camp set-up to ensure that everything is working as it should and that everything is in its right place before we see a rush of morning campers get up and make their way to the facilities.
One of the first tasks on my checklist is to have a de-brief with the night security team to ensure that there are no incidents that I need to be aware of. I then make sure that the campsite toilets are clean and well stocked with new toilet rolls, checking hot water levels for the showers and ensuring the catering set up is prepped and ready for hungry campers wanting their breakfast! It’s a case of prioritising checking all the touchpoints around the campsite that people will be heading to first as part of their morning routine.
There is a lovely air of peace over the site when you’re an early riser, everything is still and at that time of year I’m usually spoilt with a lovely sunny morning. Throughout the eight-day event, I get to know some of the campers and recognise familiar faces that return each year, so it’s always amusing to have a laugh with people as they sleepily get out of their tents and saunter to the showers, and it’s my responsible to make sure they have everything they need.
Mornings and evenings are very busy but the middle of the day, when campers are at the course watching all the action, gives us a little down time. I usually manage a break at lunch but for most of my working day I’m preparing the facilities for the next day or getting ready for the campsite de-rig.
My working day is made significantly harder if we have been unfortunate enough to suffer bad weather. The team is always praying for sunshine because if it rains then we are constantly checking for leaks and making sure that the ground is holding up well. Mud and waterlogged tents are not welcomed at the campsite by us or our happy campers!
The job is a rewarding experience. Each evening I walk around the grounds and ensure that campers are enjoying both the event and their overnight accommodation. It’s lovely to know that people want to keep coming back as a result of the hospitality experience we give them.
After a hard day’s work, the evening is one of the best times as our campers are having a ball, making new friends with like-minded individuals and discussing the day’s sporting entertainment, usually having watched their heroes on the golf course. It’s a privilege to keep being asked to return to manage the campsite thanks to my previous career managing tournaments for the European Tour; I love it. It’s such a good initiative for The Open and golf in general to foster the next generation of fans by providing affordable accommodation in a smart campsite that reflects the very high standards the R&A have for the whole event.
I always enjoy when people enter the site for the first time and marvel at what is offered to them, the level of service we provide and ultimately the atmosphere and comaraderie that is fostered on site amongst campers.
Golf’s oldest and most international major championship, The Open is organised by the R&A at Royal Portrush Golf Club, County Antrim. The Camping Village is hosted by Ulster University’s Coleraine Campus and offers pre-erected tents from Tent2Hire and a campers’ Clubhouse. Camping is free to youth ticket holders (16-24 year olds) and for under 16s with an accompanying adult. www.theopen.com