Where it all began...
Back in August 2010, I had an epiphany whilst I was attending a marvellous vintage event which, I had no idea at the time, was to be the pivotal point of my career and, in turn, my life.
I had been an advertising sales agent for many years, but in my spare time, was a singer in a hobby rock band where we enjoyed relative success on the local pub scene - I adored leading a double life and relished the opportunity to perform whenever I could...
I loved my eight years in this office based job, but, I began to get itchy feet and couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was I wanted to do. Could I turn my vintage obsession – mainly collecting clothes and accessories – into a business? Could I really take the plunge and perhaps open a shop? After all, I was a natural born salesperson and surely that would help? As I was sipping tea from a china cup and enjoying soaking up the atmosphere of this aforementioned marvellous vintage event, I looked around me and I realised that I HAD to explore my options and see if I could build a new career, after all, I was on the cusp of turning forty and they do say that life changing moments happen around this age. I decided to embrace it fully.
I spent a few months brainstorming my ideas and as the calendar turned a page and became 2011, I decided to get fit, lose weight and have a complete life laundry. I announced that I would be exploring my career options, and my boss Rachel was incredibly supportive for which I’ll be forever grateful – I had a brief and beautiful stint working in a Cath Kidston shop in my hometown of Chichester, which made me realise how much I wanted to get out from behind my desk.
I turned forty in the March of 2011 and of course celebrated by throwing a
fabulous vintage themed party - I spent most of my evening getting changed and redoing my hair!
As September loomed, I began to plan my outfit for Goodwood Revival and much to my surprise, I managed to fit into a tiny beautiful pink original vintage dress that id’ bought many years earlier. I had lost three stone since January through hard training and adjustments to my diet and I felt a million dollars! I will never forget Goodwood Revival 2011 because it was the year that everything fell into place. I was chosen out of thousands as the best dressed lady and I’ve never felt so totally overwhelmed! I was beaming for weeks and the bottle of Veuve Cliquot remained unopened until October 2019. I’ll tell you why shortly.
Within a few days of winning the title, my friend who worked at a local nursing home asked if I’d be happy to pop by to show her elderly residents what I’d worn to pick up the coveted title of ‘Best Dressed’ and of course I was more than happy to do so. However she added that if I could sing and dance for an hour then she could actually pay me as an entertainer - I was puzzled at first because I had no idea this was even a thing, and so I pulled together a set of backing tracks of songs I loved to sing in private and certainly not with my rock band, and set about rehearsing. I thoroughly enjoyed performing for the residents at Hooklands in Bracklesham Bay that day, and it soon dawned on me, that not only could I dress up in my favourite vintage outfits, but I could be paid to sing my favourite nostalgic songs to people who also loved them! As a job!
Within three months, the word had spread and my diary was filled with similar bookings and
my little business Dawn’s Vintage Do was born!
I became a full time vintage entertainer and I loved it! It was like a dream come true and all the elements of my career and hobby had come together by complete accident but sat together so harmoniously.
Since 2011, I have grown as a performer and have coached many others in performance and stage presence through the art of burlesque (another skill I accidentally picked up along the way!), but what seems to have also happened is that through my passion for entertaining and providing immersive experiences, I became very adept at producing events and shows. Back in August 2010 as I gazed around at the previously mentioned marvellous vintage event, I allowed myself to dream about one day having the opportunity to be involved with a glorious gathering such as that. However, I had no idea that six years later, I wouldn’t be helping, but instead, I would have my name emblazoned across the whole event and Dawn’s Vintage Weekender would be born.
In 2016, I trialled my first three-day immersive residential vintage weekender! My first ‘Dawn’s Vintage Weekender’ focused on the 50s & 60s at a kitsch holiday village on the South coast of England in Bracklesham Bay - the same village where the whole thing started! After a successful Crowdfunding campaign to help with some expenses, the event went ahead and was absolutely exhausting, exhilarating and expensive but it was a very worthwhile learning experience and really tested my abilities in both business and stamina.
"My entertainment style and event vision is always centred on the customer experience and how to create immersive, nostalgic interaction so that it really feels as if you have been transported back to a previous era"
It’s the little added touches that make my events so special and why I go to extreme lengths to get the details right.
Following my debut residential Vintage Weekender in 2016, things were all set to be repeated the following year at the same venue, however it wasn’t to be on account of the fact that Southdowns Holiday Village was sold for redevelopment - a huge blow and such a loss of one of the last remaining original holiday village sites on the South coast. However, I picked myself up, dusted off the pinafore and set about planning for Weekender 2018 (was too late for 2017 but I did hold a Vintage All Dayer instead!) I found the perfect venue on Hayling Island called Mill Rythe (Away Resorts) that had all the charm and character I needed. Weekender 2018 was literally a roaring success (we added the 20s as a feature era) My heart swelled with pride but still costs exceeded any profit but I was on a trajectory for success and my dogged determination remained intact.
No sooner had 2018 guests left the premises, and I was already planning Weekender 2019, but this time, with more knowledge about the venue workings and possibilities. I felt that adding a feature era to my 50s & 60s theme worked really well and so after a brainstorming session with my Yellowcoats, it was decided that it was time to do the 80s! Words cannot express how proud I was of Weekender 2019 – the bottle of Veuve Cliquot was opened! - and guests fell over themselves to rebook for 2020 even before they left on the Monday.
By February 2020, we only had 9 tickets left and for the first time, my epic event would be sold out many months ahead. I was beyond emotional about this and was thoroughly enjoying planning the event without the worry and stress of selling enough tickets to cover costs
And then Covid 19 happened
I anxiously waited for news of the hospitality industry reopening, almost holding my breath for three months from lockdown. And then I got the call. Mill Rythe would be closing for the rest of 2020 and my event had to be cancelled. I have faced many setbacks since my Weekender dreams began but this one is completely out of my control and I cannot even book another venue or reschedule for 2021 because there is no certainty that Away Resorts will reopen Mill Rythe.
As a full time entertainer and event organiser, I have had ALL of my bookings
and events cancelled for the rest of 2020
I have spent my lockdwn time doing online performances for Sage House (Dementia Support) and Aldingbourne Trust as well as a special show for Sat Wilfrid’s Hospice. I have also organised and hosted online LIVE cabaret shows in order to raise money for the performers. For now, I am entirely helpless and my future is in the hands of the Government and ultimately, Covid 19
It is with that, that I have launched another Crowdfunder to secure the future of my business and go some way to recover the costs of my Weekender dream.
Will it be back? I darn well hope so! Please support my Crowdfunder 2020