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Major award for alumni-led events company bringing colour and joy to streets of London

28/03/2024
“When we talk about ourselves as Architects of Happiness, we know that if we do our parts right – if we build the right installation or activation, build a dream – we're fairly certain happiness will happen all round"

Brightly-coloured collage of spaces furnished and set up to look like landscapes in IcelandAn immersive installation taking visitors through a mock-up ice tunnel and alongside a simulated lava flow has helped MDX alumni and their team at an experiential events agency secure a prominent industry award.

Kit & Caboodle was named Creative Agency of the Year at the Access All Areas Event Production Awards, in recognition of the company’s outstanding design, technology, advertising, and strategy expertise and commitment to innovation. CEO Tanya Clark attended the Arts Foundation (now the Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries) at MDX. Other MDX postgraduate team members include the Research and Development Director, Suzi Clark, and recent Digital Marketing graduate, Aishwarya Mane.

A group of young women at night-time stand in the middle of an outdoor art installation with large discs standing on their sides with colourful emoji facesProjects for which Kit & Caboodle was cited included a curling experience at King’s Cross Coal Drops Yard which attracted 18,000 participants; a glowing, vibrant-coloured house installation in Moorgate to address Seasonal Affective Disorder; and a two-day Big Picnic event in the Fleet Street area for the Coronation. A recreation of stunning Icelandic landscapes and cultural sites for Icelandair previously also scooped other prizes, including Best PR Stunt in the experiential category at the 2023 Travel Marketing Awards.

Other stand-out Kit & Caboodle projects have included a hugely popular Holi event at York Hall, Bethnal Green, for which the company wrapped the entire interior of the building in polythene, and a Mad Hatter's Gin & Tea Party for Fever London with a team of actors bringing alive a Mad Hatter's Hat Emporium, a Cheshire Cat-themed pub and Wonderland in the basement. The latter had its run extended from Christmas 2019 until it had to close at the start of the first Covid lockdown.

Packed interior with green and pink strings of lights, with people attending a tea party experienceThe challenges of keeping an events company afloat through and after the pandemic are partly why “this award means so much for us,” says Suzi. “It’s given us the strength and the faith to keep going, and put out the fantastic work that K&C does,” she says.

The team now works in part remotely, with a team based across the UK and even a designer based in Lithuania, making up for the loss of office camaraderie with ‘Caboodle Days’ where they all come together at their offices in Queens Park, London.

“When we talk about ourselves as Architects of Happiness, we know that if we do our parts right – if we build the right installation or activation, build a dream - we're fairly certain happiness will happen all round,” says Suzi. “It's not just a job for us: it's a passion”.

A young woman with long brown hair colours in a butterfly as part of a muralAishwarya Mane. Below: Kit & Caboodle Holi event for Dishroom at York Hall, Bethnal Green, and Kit & Caboodle's Suzi Clark with Aishwarya Mane

Marketing Management Master’s graduate Aishwarya Mane - who grew up in India and has always been highly creative, with experience as a graphic designer, video editor and scriptwriter – did an internship at Kit & Caboodle in January 2023 before coming on board full-time last November. Working at first just on the company’s Karavanaoke mobile karaoke concept, she has now led on an extensive revamp of Kit and Caboodle's brand identity, in the transition from 'Purveyors of Wow' to 'Architects of Happiness'.

"I was trying to change the whole look and feel, including brand language, to bring in the whole aspect of event management with a new perspective" she says. In practice this has meant closely analysing the collected data, and making audience content more accessible.

“This was my pet project,” she says. “I did everything from creating the logo of 'Architects of Happiness' to changing the aesthetics of the website and all the digital presence. A lot of clients and team members have commented that the company’s new look is amazing - it makes me happy that everything is coming together."

A family with a young child covered in brightly-coloured dust (for the Indian festival of Holi) pose for the cameras with happy expressionsAishwarya enjoys the flat hierarchy and friendliness of Kit & Caboodle, having previously worked for bigger companies. With Suzi’s mentoring and support from the company, she’s now involved in client conversations and handling client communications from a marketing and PR perspective.

Choosing MDX for a Master’s specifically to build her understanding of global marketing, she has been fascinated by the cultural and commercial differences between marketing in India and the UK, from adapting framing to different outlets, to style of case studies, to pricing. She also appreciated the differences in university culture at MDX compared to her previous experiences: assessment through assignments not exams, very approachable academics, the emphasis placed on practical knowledge (reinforced by enlightening industry visits such as a trip to Hull), and most students doing part-time jobs.

An older grey haired-woman and a young brown-haired woman in orange and green shirts sit side by side in armchairsAfter her MDX degree in Science & Technology and Society, Suzi Clark went on to join university staff first as an academic, then a member of the press team, then as the first Marketing Co-ordinator of the new National Centre for Work-Based Learning. Later, via a MDX Masters in Press and PR Management, she became Head of Development at inclusive theatre company Chickenshed and director of Crohn’s and Colitis UK for 7 years, before starting out again in the events industry at the shop floor. “It was so exciting!” she says “It brought together fun, creativity, logistics, budgeting, the law, and I'm still learning”.

Things that she loved about MDX included the modular approach, being able to put work experience to academic credit, and studying alongside mature students from all backgrounds.

The events agency has taken on a number of MDX students as well as Aishwarya as interns, valuing the diversity of experience they bring. “What we are after is helping as many young people as we can to have the opportunities I had, that will help them further their careers,” says Suzi.

Current Kit & Caboodle projects include support for DARWIN200 – a global conservation voyage retracing the steps of the Beagle on tall ship Oosterschelde – pop-up venues for relaxing and watching sport this summer, and plans for staging immersive events and brand activations beyond the UK.

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