I thought it would be fun to begin at the beginning – to explore and share my personal story with you in the hope of giving an insight into why I’ve forged a career in planning and organising parties.
I spent my early years growing up in a family run hotel that had originally been bought by my grandparents. From a very young age, I used to watch my mother work very hard, and I was fascinated by the detail that she put into planning events for the guests. She would start early in the morning, disappearing into the gardens with her secateurs to cut and pick the freshest flowers and greenery. She’d then transform her cuttings and pickings into stunning table arrangements for the dining room. She always used fine linens, including my grandmother’s stunningly beautiful antique tablecloths and extremely pretty linen embroidered napkins. Next would come the crystal glassware and silver candlesticks, and it always seemed so very grown up to me. I distinctly remember her telling me that a table looked undressed without crystal, silver and proper cutlery.
In those days, guests would arrive for dinner resplendent in formal clothes, the ladies in party dresses, and more often than not, the men wearing black tie. All of this created such an air of theatre to the evenings. I would sit with my sister and twin brother at the bottom of the stairs peering through the doors and listening to all the interesting adult conversations. We’d watch the drink flow, as everyone smoked those wonderful coloured Sobranie cigarettes, offered from a silver cigarette box, and, you’ve guessed it, a silver barrel of a lighter! The men always smoked cigars after dinner and I would go to bed with the smell lingering in the air. Guests would dance into the early hours of the morning to a live band in the room we all called ‘The Ballroom’ . It feels like another world when I think back now, the sort you’d read about in a novel.
I think these early memories of creating something special – not just for ‘big’ occasions like weddings and parties, but for the weekends and nights in-between, sowed the seeds for my future self (now my present self). When I was seventeen I decided that school was no longer for me, and I embarked on one of the best years of my life: four terms at the famous cookery school Winkfield Place, set on the edge of Windsor Forest. It’s there that I learnt the old fashioned Cordon Bleu Cookery and Constance Spry flower arranging – not forgetting the many happy evenings spent in the company of young army cadets at the nearby Sandhurst Military Academy! After my introduction to the world of entertaining, I spent many years cooking for directors in the City (does that actually still happen?), as well as a few summers as a villa girl in Greece and a winter as a chalet girl in Switzerland. Of course, as the cliché goes, I met my husband on the slopes!
Fast forward many years spent in client service for a big advertising agency, amongst other career jobs, all the while bringing up three children. But eventually, I just couldn’t resist the urge to return to the world of entertaining clients – as was in both my blood and my history! And for the past ten years, I have done just that.
Katie Tottenham Events is the latest chapter in my career, with me at the helm flying solo for the first time. However, as with all the best things in life, it can’t happen without a team and I am so lucky to work with, and have access to, the best suppliers in the business. That, combined with my experience (both personal and professional), a deep passion for what I do, for making people happy and creating moments to last a lifetime like those of my childhood, I hope, will be a recipe for success as I go forth with my new business.
Perhaps now more than ever we need the hopeful glimmer of joyful gatherings and parties on the horizon. And when we come out the other side of this horrible virus that is gripping the world, I feel sure that we will all want to celebrate, to come together, to dance and laugh and embrace and create new memories with those who we haven’t seen for so long. There will be a time to party again – and I can’t wait for that day.