*As seen in The Logbook
Interview with Brendan Fitzpatrick, Mayor of the Boutique Camping Village at a festival near you.
A business born out of a love of UK festivals, Red Sky Tent Company was founded by Lou Fitzpatrick in 2009 to provide comfortable and convenient boutique camping villages at festivals. The concept and business were then developed further by Brendan Fitzpatrick and this father and daughter duo added weddings, sporting events and special occasions to its repertoire of high quality luxury camping offerings.
“My daughter saw a real niche for offering unique accommodation that was reliable and comfortable,” he says, “Especially at festivals, but then we also moved into weddings and sporting events where either accommodation is non-existent or booked up in advance.”
By providing comfortable, glamping accommodation to guests such as these, Brendan reveals that his clients have seen a greater overall success of their events thanks to an increase in local overnight capacity. This is especially convenient for weddings where they provide on-site accommodation so guests can safely enjoy themselves and not worry about the logistics of getting home after the festivities have ended.
“For the same reasons music festivals that offer onsite accommodation find that guests stay later to support more music acts, spend more money and ultimately appreciate the experience more,” he adds.
The company was envisioned and created in a field in Pilton and came to life in 2009, at Glastonbury Festival, and has since grown steadily every year. What started as a small charity venture is now, after a decade, a simultaneous multi event capable organization. And yet they have not lost their personal and family friendly approach.
Working with event and festival organisers, brides and grooms, sporting ventures, as well as corporate and special events there are a wide range of clients that they’re regularly in touch with. But at their heart is a philosophy of treating everyone the same.
AT THEIR ROOTS
Red Sky is a proudly family owned festival organization who are very much a ‘friends and family” venture and the same goes for the six “Red Sky people” that work there.
“Irrespective of whether it’s a major festival costing millions or a local wedding,” Brendan says, “At the end of the day you’re dealing with people and expectations, you’re building relationships and gaining friends.”
To Brendan, when you consider a client as a friend rather than just a customer, it creates a different level of relationship. One that lasts longer and is based on trust and this has worked very well for them.
For example, they help connect the audiences of different events that attract the same kinds of people. IOM TT and Silverstone, Goodwood Festival of Speed (2020), Goodwood Revival, and the Bristol Balloon Fiesta have client bases that are similar, and they work closely with the organisers to promote the unique events.
Red Sky Tent Company help build relationships with previous and future guests and social media followers by providing current event photos that help paint a clear picture of who they are, as well as running multiple event-specific online competitions to increase awareness, build excitement and also to help share their unique story.
“There are many glamping companies out there, but few have the reputation and strong industry relationships that we do,” Brendan says, “And we have worked very hard to make it that way.”
Brendan and the Red Sky People make sure that they are up to date with current trends and industry developments so that their clients don’t have to be. This includes attending exhibitions and making use of family members who are working in different areas of the industry to ensure they stay informed and on top of their game.
“This is a constant and ongoing process and everyone on the team plays a part in keeping Red Sky up-to-date,” he says, “Each member of the team owns their own piece of this puzzle.”
Everyone involved in Red Sky has either been an avid festival goer, crew member or organizer, and some tick all of those boxes. Brendan says that UK festivals are ingrained in their hearts and simply put, they just listen to what their clients and guests have to say.
“We have successfully implemented changes based on guest and partner feedback and truly feel our ability to look, listen and act is what sets us apart from competitors,” he says, “An example of this would be our switch from a more manual booking approach to a fully customised online booking system, which has streamlined our processes and provided guests with a more efficient and online booking experience.”
THE FIRST PITCH
Brendan reveals that initially; Red Sky was not set up with the intention of being the prominent business it is today and that its growth has been entirely organic. At the start, it was created to raise funds for a charity that was close to their hearts, the Malawi Education Project (MEP), in Africa. The money raised was used to send books and school materials over to Malawi and also helped to build a library. The charity was created to provide these vital initial resources and to educate a group of locals to continue the work on the ground, and MEP is now self-sustaining.
However, straight from inception, interest grew and the increasing need for such a service became very evident and it has been an enjoyable ride ever since. He adds that as dedicated festival goers and glampers themselves they know what is required because they’ve had first-hand experience. They’ve schlepped through the British fields with their tents, worn the same clothes for entire weekends, slept on the ground and then wearily faced the office on the following Monday.
“We’ve been there, loved every minute of it but knew we could make the experience even better,” he says, “When you stay with Red Sky, you bring your fun-loving self and we provide the rest, a complete glamping solution including real beds.”
Furthermore, they never leave their tents behind. So, choosing Red Sky, is choosing to leave no trace. The green initiative and low environmental impact have always been important to them and whenever possible they choose environmentally friendly products and are always looking for ways to increase the green in their footprint. For example, in response to this year’s epic Glastonbury ban on disposable plastic, they created and provided all of their Boutique Camping Village guests with their very own Red Sky branded reusable water bottle.
According to Brendan, like any business overcoming their challenges has helped propel them forward and one of the main issues was business expansion. Purchasing high quality tents, real beds, suitable flooring and the other elements that turn a tent into a glamping site, all come at a price.
“Eventually, after the first few years of slow growth at a slow pace, we were able to secure some funding through personal contacts,” Brendan says, “Those first few years were all about compromise and organizing. We would receive requests at the end of each season from industry contacts to provide our camping villages for new summer events and had to choose which to do, based on tent and equipment numbers and availability. Then, as we added selected events each year from our growing waiting list, we slowly but steadily grew and were able to continue to add equipment, thus adding events.”
Looking back, Brendan says he realizes that their philosophy has always been about providing the best possible experience. Not only in terms of guest experience, but also the manner in which they work with clients.
“Our crew go above and beyond on-site and we are continuously commended on this,” he says, “Our behind the scenes team refuse to settle for just a satisfactory-standard and we are a tight group and truly enjoy what we do.”
He also admits that it’s easy to have a philosophy based on something you love doing and their own business allows them to combine their love of family, festivals and a more personal glamping experience.
“We are a have your cake and eat it too kind of company!” he says.
In 2019, Red Sky added five new events for this year and secured a further seven new ones for 2020 and are continuously handling new requests that come in from organic views to their website and through their highly engaged social media. To ensure that they are able to handle the demand over the upcoming year they have purchased another 100 tents allowing them to run multiple events simultaneously.
“Next year, we will be purchasing some marquees so that we can provide a large group space as well as provide a year-round business,” he adds, “As for the rest of this summer, we have two new events yet to take place. The Bristol Balloon Fiesta has had a tremendous response and is almost sold out and we have growing interest for the Goodwood Revival in September.”
WHERE CAN CUSTOMERS GET INTOUCH?
Red Sky are very busy on Facebook which is their most common place for information, glamping events and picture sharing, they are also contactable on their website and have a presence on Instagram, Twitter and Linked IN.
ORGANISING AN EVENT?
PRICES: £60-140 per night
TELEPHONE NUMBER: 07932 641808