It was Lewis Carroll, writing for Alice in Wonderland, who coined the phrase to which, I imagine, the cheerful enterprise Curious Tent Hire owes its name. I had a lovely chat with Bryony Villiers-Stuart, who runs the growing company headquartered at Burnlaw with husband Oran, the other day.
She sent along this blurb, to which I’ll append some cheerful answers to a few questions I posed of her, at the end:
“Looking for a beautiful structure for your wedding or party?
Welcome to Curious Tent Hire. Northumberland’s leading supplier of inspirational canvas marquees. Based in Whitfield near Allendale, we hire one-of-a-kind canvas tents throughout the North East, Newcastle, Carlisle, Durham, Middlesbrough, Yorkshire and Scotland. We’re a family company with over 12 years’ experience in tent hire that started with our own wedding. We pride ourselves on our excellent customer service, the exceptional quality of our structures and our competitive prices. We offer a personalised service and a unique range of canvas marquees in different styles and sizes to suit your vision. Do get in touch via our website https://curioustenthire.co.uk or by email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more, ask for advice and get a competitive quote. We’d love to hear from you.
I began by asking Bryony how the company grew from its beginnings with the single tent that Oran designed and built for their wedding. Now boasting some 9 tents in various shapes and sizes, from the Woodman’s Awnings through larger bell tents to the big Berber tent that can accommodate 200 sit-down diners. The tents get packed up tight and are shipped off to their hirer’s destination on the Iveco flat-bed truck. Colours are mostly green, with a couple of white ones too.
Bryony relates that Oran and Sam Jameson, of Cloudhouses fame (a thriving business based in Haydon Bridge) grew up together, and were always chatting about tents. Now the pair share ideas and concepts, and resourcing, as the stitching of Curious Tent Hire’s new designs is done by Cloudhouses workers. Cloudhouses concentrate on the glamping side of festivals, while Curious Tent Hire is more of a marquee/venue tent concern. Seems like ideal synergy for a collaborative effort!
As part of Curious Tent Hire’s social commitment, Bryony says that they put up the curious tent outside of Allendale Village Hall for the Allen Valleys Folk Festival. By AVFF time, their bookings are dwindling (the tent hire season runs from spring to October) so that’s convenient, and a much appreciated resource for the local festival.
And what a range of events their tents get out to! From the Shambala Festival in Northamptonshire to the Beet-Herder Festival in Lancashire, and also closer to home like the Lakes Alive Festival, or the Northern Festival in Sunderland, the tents are often out. At the farther-flung festivals, the tent builders usually stay over with the tents, but at nearer ones they come home, but are always on call for any queries. Then they make the journey back to the event to pack the tent up and transport it home again.
Bryony tells me that the company has always been conscious of its carbon footprint and its environmental impact. So the tent poles and struts are cut down by Oran from local sustainable forests, while all canvas is sourced from manufacturers in the UK. The flooring, which looks like coco mat, is a robust, long-lasting synthetic that can be repaired conveniently, and so can be used over and over again. Considering that transport is a big component of the business, they’re looking at the possibility of bio-diesel as well.
I wondered if the company had plans for further expansion, and Bryony replied, with a cheerful laugh, that it would be a gentle kind of growth, possibly a few more tents, possibly sourcing furniture like tables and chairs. During the winter months, much like fisher-folk spend their time repairing nets, the couple work to keep their tents in top condition, Oran designing more curious constructions and Bryony keeping the website and social media sides of the business fresh. And the bookings for the year ahead typically start flooding in from October, so just juggling the calendar must be a big process. The business has grown by word-of-mouth, from consistent repeat bookings, and by social media trendings.
It’s surprising how big tents from little ideas grow, but with sustainability built in to the enterprise, it’s a delight to see the company in robust good health.