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Kids’ play – the art of children’s entertaining

Les Enfants' Katie Burnett talks rollerblading snowmen and posh party bags

Les Enfants founder Katie Burnett talks rollerblading snowmen and posh party bags with Alix O’Neill



“I’m not a miracle worker,” says Katie Burnett. She could have fooled me. How many luxury hotels do you know that will let a snowman on rollerblades loose among its crystal chandeliers and fine china? “It was a Frozen-themed event,” explains Burnett, creative and managing director of celebrated children’s party planners Les Enfants. “The client wanted to bring in an ice rink, but the hotel said no, so we opted for roller skating instead. Olaf, Anna and Elsa were all there.” Burnett and her team covered the ballroom with white carpet and fairy lights, and bedecked the lavish dessert table with fake snow. It was the consummate winter wonderland. “That was a long day,” recalls Burnett. “We got there at 5am and didn’t leave until 8pm. But it was one of my favourite parties to organise.”

And boy, has Burnett thrown some parties. She’s worked with a host of “very, very famous people” (including a couple of royals) although, unsurprisingly, she refuses to divulge her client list. “I’ve had to sign a lot of non-disclosure agreements.” Are celebrities more discerning (read: “demanding”) than the less illustrious? “Generally, they’re quite relaxed, but that’s not always the case with their staff, who we tend to deal with. Those are the people who are really under pressure to deliver.”

Wheels On The Bus Party

Starwars

But Burnett takes it all in her stride. After all, she’s been in the business of making little people happy for more than 12 years. “I used to work in events for The Economist, but wanted to do something that was more compatible with raising a family. The children’s party market seemed dominated by old men dressed in bad costumes and I was keen to introduce something fresh.”

The gamble paid off. Les Enfants has grown from a kitchen table enterprise of two to a team of seven operating out of a 3,000sq ft warehouse in Essex. So what’s Burnett’s secret? “We always look at emerging trends and different markets – what’s happening in children’s entertainment in the US, Australia, Brazil…And we’re very particular about our branding and suppliers. They have to be of a certain standard.”

Milk And Cookie Party

Alice In Wonderland

Knowing your audience is also key, she insists. “You’ve got to have satisfied children, but you’ve also got to please the parents. You could probably fill a room with nothing but balloons and kids would love it. The parents wouldn’t like the chaos, though.” Many parents do, however, enjoy an impossibly stylish event. “The biggest change in children’s parties has been the focus on styling. People don’t necessarily want to use off-the-shelf decorations. A lot of our clients will show us Pintrest boards and know exactly what they want.”

Clients like the interior designer with the “great eye”, who tasked Burnett with putting together a Grease-themed bash for her daughter’s birthday at London’s Mandarin Oriental. “We arranged for a fairground train, which required eight people to lift it upstairs. The waitresses were dressed as the Pink Ladies and all the men wore T Birds jackets. We used the Grease car as the photobooth and had a soda bar instead of a dessert table.”

Others are happy to let the team call the shots. For the Frozen party, Burnett surprised the client by buying her son Lego. It was the daughter’s birthday, but she wanted him to have something to open on the day. “I always try to over-deliver and add little touches they don’t know about.”

Pink Princess Party

Flamingo Birthday Party

Not all of Les Enfants’ events are elaborate affairs. There are no packages or minimum spend, and Burnett is “happy to help out as much or as little as the client would like. We can provide just the cake or the venue or we can organise the whole thing. We also run a hire company for props and furniture. It really is a bespoke approach.”

Burnett seems to have the industry sussed. Has it always been smooth sailing? “There have definitely been challenges along the way. If you’re not learning all the time, you’re not doing your job properly.” She recalls having to improvise during a grand first birthday party. “The client wanted a marquee with a clear roof to allow lots of light in, but it was so hot on the day. We took the roof off then she said she wanted it draped with fabric. I had three hours to come up with a solution. I happened to know a fabric wholesaler, who opens on a Sunday, so I phoned him up and begged him to send me rolls of white fabric. We got the roof covered just in time.”

If that’s not a miracle worker, I’m not sure what is…

Les Enfantsparty

Fairies Party


Planning a child’s birthday party? Follow Katie’s top tips

  • The entertainer is key. There’s nothing worse than losing that control of the kids at a party. These people get booked up quickly, so book around six months beforehand. The same applies to your venue, if you’re not having it at home. And save the dates are always a good idea. A lot of my clients opt for e-vites.
  • Two hours is plenty of time for both the children and the parents. When you’ve been working all week and you’ve three parties in the diary for the weekend, you don’t want them to go on forever. Also make sure to feed the parents and give them a drink – they’ll appreciate it!
  • I prefer it when party bags aren’t filled with a load of rubbish. We always give a nice book or game. You can get some really good deals on websites like The Book People.
  • Movies, books and games make popular themes. We’re often asked for Frozen and Paw Patrol parties and had about five requests for Cinderella over the summer. I think we’re going to start seeing a lot of Pokemon parties too and of course, you can’t go wrong with superheroes and princesses.

Take a look at Les Enfants on TOAST'S Little Black Book to get in touch today. 

 

Posted in Spotlight

by Alix O'Neill
on on 15 September 2016

  children's parties

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