It's no secret that the events world is hectic over the festive season. Christmas parties, family gatherings and New Years celebrations ensure we're sleep deprived throughout December, and ultimately if last minute enquiries come in, we sometimes can't help.
So when a request came in on 25th November, for a pair of artists to fly to Kenya for the whole Christmas season, we really had a challenge on our hands. Not only did the girls need to be proficient dancers and fire performers with a specific body type, they also needed to set off with less than a week's notice.
Residential contracts usually require our Director to fly out to settle the performers in for a few days, however this simply wasn't an option at such short notice. But with two West African contracts already under our belt in 2017, we were determined to make this our third. And after some stressful job-covering and string-pulling, we managed to secure Yasmin and Lucy who had worked other gigs for us in Ghana and Nigeria so were well versed with the West African ways and customs, and could take the reigns in our Director's absence.
The girls consequently spent a sunny 5 weeks performing at a billionaire's club and various pool parties in Nairobi, which is an incredible city and party hub. And as we prepare for West African gig number 4 which kicks off in February, our message to our clients is:
Please....give us some notice...so that our boss doesn't have a mental breakdown. And Merry Christmas, while you're at it ;)
You've sourced the venue, the decor and the catering, so now's the time to book the part that will actually add to the guests' experience of the night - the Christmas party entertainment.
Event entertainment is sometimes looked upon as an 'added extra' that you can leave out if budget's tight. But when was the last time you came away from an event saying 'gosh, that draping was so beautiful, it really made my night'....never, right? Now think about how many Christmas parties you've been to where people have talked for months after about how good the band were, or how their mind was blown by the table magician. Sometimes even the simplest solution makes a huge impression.
How do you pick the right supplier for you?
If you don't have a trusted go-to, then chat to a few suppliers. Do they respond to you promptly? Are they pushy? Do they clearly lay out their pricing, with photos and videos of each act. Check out their social media pages - if they haven't posted any new content in a while then they may not be doing much business. You can have a look at their customer reviews too. Sometimes the cheaper suppliers may scrimp on costuming, or equipment quality, or let you down if a more enticing job comes up, so cheapest isn't always best.
How much should you spend?
It's natural to be guarded about your budget - you don't want to tell your supplier what your maximum spend is in case they push the price up to take advantage of you, right? Any good supplier will be entirely transparent about their pricing. And if what you want ends up being out of your budget, make sure you tell the supplier that, as they may be able to offer you a more budget-friendly alternative. If you're looking to book more than one act then they may also be able to send you two acts who can travel together, therefore shaving off some of the travel costs and ultimately some of the cost for you.
How do you pick the right acts?
Set the scene for your supplier. Are your guests arriving on foot, by coach or even by boat? Will they need to queue? You may benefit from meet and greet acts to welcome guests or to set the scene - stilt walkers, fire performers and human statues are brilliant for this. Will there be a drinks reception? Many guests won't have had a drink by this point so it can be great to book an act to 'break the ice' such as a fortune teller, clockwork ballerina or champagne service. Will your guests be dining? Amazing table entertainment options include magicians and hypnotists, silhouette cutters and caricaturists. And for between courses something wow factor such as a circus performer, illusionist show or tribute act. If there's going to be a dance floor think about booking a corporate party band or for a more budget friendly option, a DJ with a live musician alongside.
Remember your supplier does this for a living, so they should be able to guide you as to the do's and don't's. Sometimes it isn't about how MUCH you book, but about booking the RIGHT acts.
It's no secret that we have a bit of a love affair with West Africa. Our fire dancing troupe 'The Carbonettes' spent 4 months entertaining at a plush nightlife venue in Accra in Ghana over the winter season, and fell in love with the kind people and rich culture. So when we were invited to relaunch a club in Nigeria, how could we say no?
The client loved the extreme look of our tattoo'd and pierced performer Fran, and the freckled afro-haired beauty of our mixed race performer Yasmin. Both ladies have performed all over the world so they were perfectly placed for a whirlwind paycation to Lagos.
There was torrential rain throughout the entire job which meant unexpected tarpaulin over the stage, a soggy terrace, and much smaller flamed shows than we'd hoped to perform but the ladies made it work whilst still keeping Health & Safety in mind at all times. What an amazing venue Quilox is and credit to the organisers for treating our ladies like princesses. Just make sure the sun shines for us next time please, okay? We have plenty of rain here in the UK, thanks!