A team leader at event glamping supplier ZooBells, Sophie Jones takes us behind the scenes building festival glamping villages, which can amount to 500 bell tents
Summer 2021 is my third season with Zoo Events Group. I started in 2018 as build crew and have since worked my way up the ranks to team leader. Within my role, I work closely with our project managers and build managers onsite to ensure the operation runs smoothly as well as supporting the office based team at our yard in Stockton, Warminster.
My average day in the field starts at around 7.30am when I head to the kitchen tent for breakfast. We have some great chefs with ZooBells, who not only cater for various dietary requirements but also keep the team well fed and healthy!
After breakfast we gather the crew for a morning briefing to run through the tasks for the day, role allocations, important kit deliveries and any safety requirements. Crew camp is usually a short walk from where we’re building the boutique camping area unless we are camping in the same field. As team leader I always remind the crew to bring their sun cream and raincoats as you never know what the Great British weather has in store. I always encourage everyone to take plenty of snacks and tunes to keep us going.
Once at the build site, we split into groups and get to work. We could be working on a job that has 50 tents or 500 tents, so every event is different. On the larger jobs there will be more than one team leader and we split the crew between us to work in designated areas.
Part of my role is to ‘lay out the lines’. We measure the field very precisely to ensure there are equal gaps between the tents, that the fire lanes are correct and that we maximise use of space. Most clients like nice, neat rows of tents, but others prefer small clusters or even to spell out words, so they look awesome in a drone photo!
Our first couple of days will usually be spent putting the tents up. We train our crew to put the structures up in a precise way – we don’t want any leaks or sagginess! As a team leader I work closely with the crew, ensuring the tents are all going up correctly, the guy ropes are tight and the groundsheet is stretched out properly. I’m always there to provide a helping hand.
After the tents are up, we’re hard at work getting all the interiors in. ZooBells offers different levels of luxury which vary between jobs depending on the clients’ preferences. Some like a range of packages to suit different budgets, so we might have up to five different styles of interior at one event and it’s vital they’re allocated correctly.
Every tent will have a minimum of a carpet, entrance mat and central table with lantern. Once these are in, the build manager and team leader will plot a diagram of the site, labelling each tent with its interior package. There’s a lot of walking back and forth to get everything in place and it’s important to keep team spirits up and motivate everyone to keep going. We encourage the crew to have fun at work!
Getting the interior furnishings into the tents can take a few days. It’s vital I continually check the right kit is in each tent, making sure everything is arranged perfectly and that the beds are made beautifully and ready for our guests to sleep in style.
At around 1pm we head back to camp for a delicious lunch made by our crew chef. Featuring anything from sandwiches to soup, frittatas to risotto, there’s always plenty to eat. After eating, the crew then spend the rest of their break chilling out and recharging before heading back to work.
We tend to work until 6pm then head back to camp. As a team leader, I check around the site to make sure all the tents are zipped up, there’s nothing left outside, and that all the kit in the storage area is covered by tarpaulin if necessary. Then it’s time for a catch-up with the other managers and team leaders. We discuss how the build is going, whether we’re on target and the plan for the following day. Communication is so important – we all need to know what is happening and what the priorities are. The last task of the day is to fill out everyone’s timesheets for that day and sign off the chef food hygiene paperwork.
Then at last it’s time for dinner and some quality time with the crew. You’ll often find me sat round the campfire listening to music, playing cards or having a game of frisbee. I also love getting the crew together for little trips out in the evening to a nearby beach or local pub. We cover events all over the UK so we get to see some great places along the way!
During the Festival…
At many of the events we offer reception services and I ensure all crew are trained and ready to give our customers the best service possible, with a smooth and easy check in. I also allocate shifts to the crew, deal with any queries, maintain the check in database and delegate concierge and maintenance tasks. I absolutely love leading reception; it’s a great opportunity to get to know customers and oversee our boutique site!
Once all the hard work is done, it’s time for the best part of the job… the festival! We generally get free entry to the event and it’s great to experience so many in one summer! It’s hard to pick a favourite, but one that really stands out for me is Boomtown. It’s one of the most diverse festivals on the scene with such a wide variety of music and immersive experiences. You feel like you’ve entered a dream like town in a different world and the atmosphere is incredible!