Great British Bell Tents offer bell tent hire in Sussex, Surrey and surrounding counties. We caught up with director Kieran to find out a little more about the business…
Q. How long have you been running GBBT?
A. This was meant to be the start of our fourth season but obviously due to the current situation this has been put on pause. However, we are still hopeful we can still set up some bell tents for a few weddings and festivals towards the latter part of the season.
Q. What’s your background and how did the idea for the business come about?
A. I decided to go to University slightly later on in life when I was 25. Whilst studying for my undergraduate and post graduate degrees I had a part-time job setting up tipis for weddings. During my seven seasons here I noticed how bell tents were becoming a more and more popular option for outdoor festival weddings. The crew and I would spend hours discussing how much fun it would be to own tent company. So I decided to put my post degree plans on hold and started saving towards set up Great British Bell Tents.
Q. As well as weddings what else do you do?
A. Having spent seven seasons setting up tipis for weddings, I really wanted to market us towards this industry as this is my area of expertise. As the business has developed over the years, we have naturally started to diversify into festivals which I absolutely love, as it usually means I get to see some incredible music for free!
Q. How would you describe the interior style of your bells?
A. Growing up in the beautiful countryside of West Sussex and having our head quarters situated in The South Downs National Park, we find our inspiration from the countryside or anything that is quintessentially British. For instance, we have a wingback Chesterfield in our honeymoon suite, our guest accommodations are dressed in a rustic home décor style. One of them has a pair of deer antlers I found on a dog walk!
Q. We know it’s a family run business. Who’s involved and what are their roles?
A. I was incredibly lucky when I first started, as I had a strong network of family around me to help get the business off the ground. My brother would take time away from his full-time job to help set them up. He was great at the manual stuff but lacked that eye for detail. That is where my mother would come in, just to give the tents those little finishing touches. Much to my father’s annoyance, he oversaw the washing and ironing of the linen. As the business has grown, I have taken on more professional staff, however my father likes to come out onsite to lend a hand, but this is mainly to get away from mother for the afternoon!
Q. We know you offer stretch tents now too. Can you tell us more about that?
A. We wanted to be able to offer our clients a more rounded experience. Not just offering people somewhere to stay post wedding but somewhere to hold their entire wedding! Our Stretch Tents come in three different sizes. Our smallest is ideal for a ceremony area or somewhere to serve your reception drinks/canapés. Our medium tent is perfect for modest wedding reception tents or garden parties. Our largest tents can host the entire evening, from your wedding breakfast tent, to chillout area and dancing tent.
Q. Which local venues do you work at?
A. Living in the countryside we are incredibly lucky to be surrounded by beautiful venues. Two Woods in Pulborough, where you can get married outside, Fiesta Field’s venues, especially Hidden Valley with its World War 2 bunker. And working at Sumners Pond in Barns Green is always great, it’s so picturesque with its beautiful lakes and rolling landscape. And it’s certainly handy only being a 10 minute drive from the yard!
Q. What do you like about doing bell tent villages for weddings?
A. I love a good wedding, celebrating with friends and family, some who you probably haven’t seen in years and are unlikely to see again until the next wedding. The idea of the party finishing at midnight makes me sad. I love the idea that we are making the greatest day of someone’s life even better by extending the celebrations. What better way to finish off your special day, than sitting around a campfire until the early hours of the morning?
Q. I bet you’ve seen some carnage in the tents after weddings. Any funny stories you can share?
A. Post festival take downs are always interesting. Each time you go into a tent, its like you have won a lot on Storage Hunters and now you are rummaging around to see what you can find. Luckily, it wasn’t me but one of the crew came running out of the tent from where she had found a pair of false teeth in the bed sheets! How they got there or even left behind is beyond me and I am happy enough not to know!
Q. How have you been affected by Coronavirus and what does it mean to the business?
A. Reading some of the horror stories online or speaking to fellow suppliers, I feel we have been very lucky so far. No one has cancelled and everyone has so far postponed their date for the following year. Which we are more than happy to do without any charge. Some of the festivals we had lined up have cancelled or postpone to the end of the year. If we get the opportunity to put some tents up towards the end of the year, I will be happy. If not, we will just have to organise a party for when this is all over! Watch this space!