*Pop* Goes the Event
Working in public relations, I encounter a lot of event producers, or get involved promoting everything from conferences to company parties, and a term that comes up a lot is “pop-up events” to describe one-off productions. I love the term, which evokes fun and spontaneity, and I’ve seen some really interesting uses of pop-up events over the years.
Whether it is a big budget affair, or no funding at all, pop-up events can cater to any type and size of audience. Julia Shalet has found that pop-up events are a good way to keep people coming along to check out a venue she manages called Brixton Village, where she stages these happenings every Saturday. She’s created everything from temporary restaurants to cabaret to 1950s theme shops. She tells me that “Open sourcing pop-up events for Brixton Village themed Saturdays has been a great way to develop a space that works for the local community. It gives the opportunity for people and groups to bring in activities and try out ideas that help the market feel surprising, sociable, entertaining, dynamic and vibrant – just how the traditional marketplace used to be. It has helped to drive new audiences to support all the fabulous businesses that are running in the retail units. For us, it is the magic of DIY culture on a shoestring budget.”
Event producer Kate Risker describes pop-up events as being a spontaneous way for a brand to build excitement in a temporary location, allowing production to be creative and entertaining in a way that showcases the best qualities of the brand.
Perhaps among event producers I know who are using the pop-up event strategy, the top diva is Sara Blonstein, who heads Blonstein and Associates and has been creating spectacular events since the 1990s. Sara kicked off the trend in the UK by creating a temporary winter-themed restaurant called The Reindeer in 2006. The Reindeer was a grotto for grown-ups staged in the East End of London, and produced by the same people who created the Bistrotheque venue. From the start of December, until the day before Christmas Eve, the pop-up restaurant and theatre took over a massive space at the Old Truman Brewery. Among pipne trees and fake snow, diners enjoyed camp and kitsch cabaret from the likes of Pam Ann and Kiki & Herb, or they could book a log cabin to host their own private Alpine party.
This spring, Blonstein was again hired by Pernod Ricard to put together the ultimate pop-up experience, an annual event they do each year for the company’s worldwide marketing conference which sees all the heads of marketing fly to a private island, off the coast of France. Blonstein’s team created Cabaret Les Embiez and Hotel de Deux on the Ricard family private island called Les Embiez. Guests arrived in Marseille, and were taken to Brusc where they boarded a boat to reach the island. Once at the island, guests were transported to attend an enormous pop-up cabaret and dinner, Cabaret Les Embiez. Built from scratch, the structure provided a dining area for 750 people where each of the Pernod Ricard brands showcase their new brands as well as demonstrating the ultimate brand experience of how the drinks are to be served. The cabaret performances included MC Johnny Woo and the 20′s dancers The Bee’s Knees throughout, as well as a flying piano for Ricard, Malibu’s Maliboom Boom Boys for Malibu, a flying gymnast and aerial artist for Chivas.
Following the cabaret, guests were invited to one of the several pop-up bars on the island from Absolut, Chivas, Perrier-Jouet and Mumm and the Blonstein pop-up for Jameson and Havana club. Hotel de Deux was a purpose built structure which was originally outside.
“The feel was heritage traditional meets Hollywood faded glamour, meets Twin Peaks meets Ian Schrager’s best,” said Blonstein.
Blonstein demonstrates through her pop-up events how brands can play up
the most exciting features of their products and services in a memorable
one-off affair that gets media attention and gets people talking.
Examples of pop-up events that others have produced over the years include:
-A pop-up version of the famous Central Perk Cafe from the TV show Friends was temporarily built to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the programme on Broadwick Street in London.
-The Double Club opened on 21 November 2008 and closed on 12 July 2009 in an old Victorian warehouse next to Angel tube station. The pop-up venue was made up of a bar, restaurant and disco area each consisting of an equally sized Western and Congolese spaces in order to connect the two cultures in terms of music, lifestyle, art and design.
-From 10 August 2009 to 18 October 2009, a pop-up bar at Somerset House called Bombay Sapphire Dusk, held a series of masterclasses entitled Bombay Sapphire Gintelligentsia. The gin’s ambassador, Sam Carter, shared his knowledge of gin and taught aspects of the art of cocktail mixing at the event. The pop-up bar was designed by industrial designer Tom Dixon and funded by Design Research Studio. on the menu was delicious Bombay Sapphire Dusk cocktails, inspired by Dusk in the eight different countries from which Bombay Sapphire’s ten botanical ingredients are sourced.
In 2010, Blonstein has pop-up events in works that will see brands using unusual spaces and venues to engage people in performance, entertainment and glamourous affairs. While her events generally require large production budgets, she works creative magic at each happening to make funds really stretch in creating lavish environments.
Looking forward to seeing some interesting pop-up events this summer,
*Photo of The Reindeer pop-up theme restaurant