The year 2020, I am sure we all remember it…
It is still pretty fresh in the minds of many of us. First, Meghan and Harry chose to part ways with the royal family, then there was the impeachment of President Donald Trump, but I think what we all remember most was when the country, and world, went into lockdown as COVID-19 spread through communities and families with the uncertainty of our wellbeing and industries hanging in the balance.
Frightened to leave our homes, we stayed in doors for a majority of the day, only leaving to walk the dog or use our daily allowance of outdoor exercise as an excuse to get a takeaway coffee from one of the very few vendors serving up a brew.
It was during this time that it became apparent what the government saw as important and crucial and the arts industry was not a part of that. It was evident from their treatment of those with creative careers that it was not a viable sector worthy of funding or preservation, leaving some people feeling lost and others very angry.
This is when the seed of Imagineerium was sown.
The Beginnings of Imagineerium
We like to think that Imagineerium is a Phoenix rising from the ashes of the pandemic!
Lost, but still yearning to do what we loved, as a group of creative designers we came together to discuss a feasible solution to a sensation of being outcasts, with the industry we had given our whole working lives to no longer being seen as essential or even required, something deep down in us knew that it was not true.
When our industry pretty much came to a halt in April 2020, our co-founders decided to rally together and began setting up the business. Seeing as there was nothing really getting in the way, except for battling with mental health as their income diminished and work was no longer coming their way, Imagineerium came together in a matter of 3 months.
Originally, our co-founders Natasha and Channon had planned to just generate enough design work during the pandemic that they enjoyed and could earn a small income from, but things began to steamroll forward. The intention always was to build up the portfolio and client base, but this happened faster than expected.
Concept design for a cultural event by Imagineerium
Natasha states that, “we used COVID-19 lockdown as an opportunity rather than a disadvantage, this is not to say that I didn’t feel depressed at first when my life pretty much turned upside down and I felt like I had lost everything in the first lockdown. Creative talent within the event industry, or any industry, was not valued by the government as we were told to “retrain and get a new job.” We are so grateful that we stuck to our guns and continued to do what we do best because we know that people want and love it.’
Since coming out of the pandemic, we have seen the desire for experiential events rise to an all-time high and are very excited to see the industry move from strength to strength.
We have been involved in really fantastic projects from the beginning, so let’s take a look at some of the innovative briefs we have taken from concept to completion so far…
Like any business just starting out, it is always a time of great uncertainty, a combination of excitement and fear, hunger and tentativeness. Being a start-up you have to hope that people will take a chance on you, see your talent for what it is worth and trust you. Even though our co-founders and team of designers had been in the field for a long time and were very well known, having a different, and brand new, company name behind them made them seem a little more riskier for clients. Nonetheless, we had to start somewhere and let’s just say we didn’t start small with one of our first projects being an extremely innovative project, local to home.
The team behind Boomtown Fair wanted to create the world’s first ever Amazement Park and got in touch with Imagineerium to be co-creatives in the initial concept development, design stages, the R&D and build of this fantastical new world.
Mainly taking the reins on the R&D installation phase of the Psy Forest, our team then went on to design and build the Cafe / Bar space and really enjoyed being a part of the full process, weaving ideas into creations throughout the whole of the development.
Wake the Tiger is an immersive adventure for all ages with secret passageways and hidden forests that fuses underground art and ancient wisdom. The Cafe / Bar references the four guilds, earth, air, water and fire through modes of transport that align with them, including a giant overhanging airship, illuminating hot air balloons, an overhead train track that moves between castles in the sky, and a stage area resembling the inside of an old ship with barrels and a large moving compass,
By collaborating with a whole host of other local designers and artists, we were able to build our network and be a part of a team that has brought a truly unique and wildly imaginative space to Bristol.
Following on from Wake the Tiger, we teamed up with Bearded Kitten in combination with Netflix and Fever Up to deliver Money Heist: The Experience in London. As lead designers, we supported the conceptual narrative for an immersive experience that followed the third season of the award winning Netflix series. We designed 20 spaces, creating realistic 3D visualisations for each room that would transport audience members to the centre of the biggest robbery in the world, where they’d become hostages and in turn aid the infamous gang to commit one of the biggest felonies the world has ever seen. An action packed design that included escape rooms, exploding vault doors that would need to repair themselves, the perfect hiding spots and hidden entrances and exits, this project was full of theatrical artistry and was the perfect way to put Imagineerium on the map as some of the best immersive experience designers in the UK.
As well as immersive experience design, when we came up with the concept for the company we also wanted to ensure that we continued to offer brand activation design. What is brand activation you say? Essentially it is a way to highlight a brand, elevating a company and helping it to stand out from the crowd through unique and exciting designs. Why not take a look at another blog we have written where we delve into the intricacies of brand activations. (link to blog)
At Imbibe Live 2022, held at the Olympia Grand Hall in London, we teamed up with two exciting brands to create distinctive exhibition stands that showcased what both The Public Spirit and Phoenyx Spirits had to offer. From a brand pledged to ‘drinker’s who give a s***’ to one who takes consumers down memory lane, these two different brands have very different messages and have grown from different stories, which make their stands really stand out from the rest. Take a look at what went into this project here.
Our first summer of festivals was a complete whirlwind.
From Glastonbury to El Dorado, Boomtown, Kendal Calling and Forwards we were involved in designing and building some of the biggest stages, areas and landmarks of this summer season. Having worked on a number of these sites previously, we were excited to return and get stuck into some projects in the great outdoors.
Silverhayes made a comeback this year and we couldn’t say no to the chance to design for the WOW! stage and other sections of this area. The vision for the area needed to be enticing for daytime and nighttime raving, but also in keeping with the ethos of future-thinking, sustainability and the natural world. We focused on the combination of new technology and tangible architecture to and through some clever CNC work constructed a contemporary fanning slatted set design that framed the infamous DJs. Portraying the area in a way that it was a part of the ground, at one with nature, we designed the WOW sign in such a way that it looked to be growing up from the ground.
Totem, The Common, Glastonbury
Totem was Glastonbury’s newest venue in 2022, and it was our job to reuse, recycle and repurpose an old set to create an arena style space framed by totem towers that would generate an old school rave vibe amongst mystical landscapes. Designed with female goddesses in mind we created a radical environment to unite voices from all over the world, to share in ritual, ceremony and rave. For this project, co-founder Natasha, pitched and pioneered a 100% female build team, which developed throughout the area’s concept. As a result, in honour of the sisterhood and the ancient goddesses, TOTEM was built by women, run by women and protected by women - with an all female build crew, event management crew and security team. Take a look at what went into this project here.
Miami Vice, El Dorardo
A project that was a couple of years in the pipeline, but held off due to COVID-19,
we finally got the chance to take a spark of retro and neon to the woodland of the unique and intimate El Dorado Festival at Eastnor Castle. Inspired by the Art Deco vibe of downtown Miami Vice City, we created a fully immersive street made up of 6 venues and 1 main stage. From retro hangouts, including the Diner, Motel Dorado and the Boudoir, to a boutique hair salon, live music venues to dancing hotspots, the team took the concept, offered smart solutions and created this unique, experiential space. Lineups aside, El Dorado is an expression of beauty, togetherness and inclusivity, proving that the visual environment of a festival can really add to the overall magic of a musical escape.
El Dorado Festival 2022 designed by Imagineerium
The Beacon, Boomtown
Renowned for being the world's largest live immersive theatre show that ignites imagination and inspires the festival community, the progressive thinking ethos puts connection, creativity and celebration at the forefront of living theatre. This year our mission was to design and build the beacon, a huge central tower that acted as a social hub and reminded people of Boomtown’s respect campaign. The large structure could be seen from anywhere in the bowl and offered guidance to Boomtown explorers, while casting a protective eye over the festival goers.
Desert Island Disco, Kendal Calling
A dance space tucked behind the Miami-style terrace facade, the project for Kendal Calling’s newest hotspot for the disco divas and dance floor kings was granted to us. Miami’s Art Deco scene seemed to be on trend this festival season, and we drew upon the architectural wonders of this period to design a space that focused on eye-catching bright colours and pastels, as well as geometric curves and strip lighting that illuminated the night sky. The large mirror ball took centre stage on this concept, providing an enticing shimmer of disco light throughout the field to lure the jivers in.
Desert Island Disco, Kendal Calling designed by Imagineerium
Forwards Festival, Bristol
Forwards, by Team Love, brought some remarkable music artists and inspirational disruptors to the Downs in Bristol this year. The festival cultivated a space for activism, allowing people to question their take on the current affairs and political issues of today, and enjoy fantastic sounds from innovative acts. Our design took festival-goers on a journey through an art deco dreamscape with features inspired by geometric finishes and a crisp pastel colour scheme. Our main focus was to design and build inserts that were bold, durable and multi-purpose, that would excite attendees, break up a vast space and offer small nooks to unwind and reflect.
Things we’ve learnt
We had to very quickly learn how to manage employees, organise recruitment, be responsible for other people and not just ourselves, which has definitely been a challenge and a very quick learning curve. You learn something new every single day about how you should run a business and I am sure that will continue. Having recently completed the Help 2 Grow course at UWE, we are excited to take our leadership skills and business strategy to a new level.
Things we’ve enjoyed the most
We have really enjoyed designing imaginative and creative spaces, never seen before experiences, and full immersive environments that inspire and engage audiences. Collaborating with talented craftspeople has been a real joy and we have enjoyed working with a plethora of super talented people, witnessing colleagues of the past having acquired and developed new skills, as well as providing a platform for new creatives to gain experience and have their visions seen. Also, the highlight for festival season is being able to attend the festivals we design and build, getting to experience other fantastic pieces of art and seeing some of our favourite music artists from around the world.
SilverHayes build team at work onsite at Glastonbury 2022
The questions we are currently asking ourselves and the industry
We are finding ourselves asking a number of questions about the industry at the moment, including sustainability, gender and equality, diversity, as well as inclusivity and accessibility. Through our designs we aim to make experiences and stories accessible for and representational of as many people as possible, but we also want to see the industry itself being accessible and achievable as a career. We would like people to see that being creative or working within the creative sector can provide a viable, profitable career that is rewarding.
We have a particular interest in working with emerging brands who wish to join us on our plight to highlight sustainability, equality and diversity in all sectors, whilst we strive to make an impact, spark conversations, continuing to be bold and forward thinking in all aspects of our business.
We are constantly kept awake at night wondering what our next unique, never seen before, design concept is and how to integrate the plethora of new technologies into the experiences we create.
Co-founder Natasha working with VR systems
What we hope for from 2023
For 2023, we hope to flourish and scale and aim to work with brands and people that are aligned with our own goals as a company. As we move forward, it is a necessity that sustainability become a main feature of every brief we take on and aim to be B Corp certified within the next 3 years. Having grown to a team of 5 full time and 1 part time members of staff in the first 18 months, we plan to only get bigger. We are keen to build a large design studio in the future as we hope to continue to receive exciting briefs from immersive theatre productions, big brand activations, experiential events, as well as escape rooms. We are so grateful for the growth and success we've experienced so far and can’t wait to see what the future holds…