A Q&A with Ema Townsend about the addition of two unusual contemporary structures at the Heart of England Conference and Events Centre, and how they are appealing to event planners
What spaces do you offer for business events?
We are nestled in 160 acres of Warwickshire Countryside and are close to main transport links. We have a wide variety of both indoor and outdoor space including various meeting rooms and conference spaces.
Indoors, our flagship Birchley Suite offers space for up to 650 delegates with dedicated high capacity free Wi-Fi. We have the giant Lakeview Marquee, perfect for catering or in combination with the centre as exhibition space. We’re well known for being an extremely versatile venue with oodles of outdoor space including lake, park and woodland areas which are perfect for team building events, corporate fun days, product launches, obstacle races and festivals.
Our newest features are ‘The Domes’. We have a wealth of marquees and outdoor temporary structures and our domes complement these perfectly.
‘The Dome’ is the smaller of the two domes and is 9.5m in diameter and 5m tall, and used predominantly for quirky break out space, although it is also perfect for the smaller conference, product launch or event. We have had baby showers, meetings and parties in there and have a coffee house product launch booked this summer; the acoustics are phenomenal.
The ‘Big Dome’ is a whopping 24m inflatable with a ceiling height of 7m. It is an impressive space recently used for a Lamborghini launch with the cars on show inside and space to spare for catering and visitors. We have conferences booked already this summer with it taking 484 delegates theatre style. Both domes are versatile and flexible and can be used either as stand-alone or adjoining, making for a perfect temporary village. The ‘Big Dome’ is booked for a festival themed fun day and is going to be the central meeting point of the event, used for registration and catering, and will be filled with games and entertainment.
What made you include domes and an inflatable structure in the mix?
We try and move with the times and keep a keen eye on shifting trends. Over recent years we’ve seen an upturn in festival themed bookings whether it be an actual festival or a corporate event that wants to be more relaxed, flexible and fun.
The domes offer that level of flexibility while building on the wow factor offered by Heart of England. They are perfect for when the weather isn’t good too as they are large enough to offer protection from the elements and are a spectacular centrepiece for any event.
Which types of events are particularly suited to these structures?
The domes are great for conferences, meetings, product launches, and the smaller one in particular is great as a break out area. Beyond corporates, the smaller one can be used for private dining and parties while the larger one can be used for big parties and weddings. The possibilities are endless… our motto at Heart has always been ‘dream big as everything is possible!’
How does your decision to offer these spaces reflect the core ethos of your venue?
We keep on top of trend changes within the industry and in particular with what modern event buyers are looking for. More and more they seem to be attracted to flexible, quirky space which fits in with us perfectly. We push the boundaries and offer something different, something for everyone and every eventuality. The quirkier the better – we like to offer the unusual.
What research into the market did you do before selecting your structures?
We looked around the marketplace for suitable structures to decide on what we wanted. We always go through Open Air Business too to see what’s new and fresh. We bought from local suppliers that we’ve worked with for many years. For the smaller dome we bought through www.trudomes.com, and the larger one was sourced through www.contemporaryeventstructures.com
How did you find and vet your suppliers?
We’ve worked with both companies for some years and trust their expert judgement. They know our ethos and the way we work so understand completely what we want to offer.
How have event planners and business clients responded to these alternative spaces?
Really well; the smaller dome is beside our restaurant terrace at the moment and creates a talking point for everyone who visits. The acoustics are outstanding and if you stand dead centre it’s like you have a microphone attached, it really is quite bizarre. It’s fabulous and funky and corporates love its flexibility. The Big Dome is really impressive and has added the space and flexibility to enhance any product launch, exhibition, conference or event. Bookings are picking up pace and it is proving popular for exhibitions and product launches.
Are the domes available all year round?
The smaller dome structure is up for Spring, Summer and Autumn on a hardstanding base with the cover being put on as required. This is to avoid damage in high winds. The larger dome is only put up when booked and only for the duration of the event. With the space we have at our fingertips we don’t tend to put it in the same place twice so no damage is caused to the grassed areas.
In terms of maintenance and storage, how have you managed this?
The domes have a purpose built trailer and are wrapped in a protective covering and carefully put away in our warehouse.
Are you planning anything else unusual?
We are developing an idea which further enhances our festival themed event offering. ‘Pixie Pods’ are the new brainchild of owner and MD Stephen Hammon. He designs everything on site himself and the Pixie Pods will be the newest addition. They are old aircraft storage domes which he is converting to be sleeping quarters for two to four people and can be moved around the site to suit the event. He is converting the first one at the moment so we will keep you posted.
Our shepherd huts are also causing a stir with people chomping at the bit to buy them. They are predominantly used as corporate accommodation in addition to the rooms in Old Hall House – our 4* 16th Century B&B – the glamping pods and log cabin. They were again designed by our MD, and boast en-suite shower/WC facilities. Each one is designed differently but to a very high spec.