Director of events at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London hotel Chris Thompson has been at the hotel for seven years. He talks to Katherine Price about being filmed for A Very British Hotel and bringing a live horse into the hotel for a book launch.
Do I hear rumours about a horse featuring on A VeryBritish Hotel?
It was a cocktail party to launch Jilly Cooper's book, called Mount!, and we got special permission to have a white stallion on the terrace. There was a photo call planned, and the horse was chomping away at the park [the hotel is next to Hyde Park]. We gave Jilly a bucket of carrots and she went and fed the horse. So did Paul O'Grady, actually. It was a great success.
What was it like being filmed?
First of all they wire you up, so you have to be very careful what you say. The cameras follow you around all day, they need to film for hours to get those short snippets, so by the end you treat the crew as colleagues.
How do you feel now it's coming out?
It's quite exciting, everybody's talking about it. I'm getting loads of texts and WhatsApp messages asking am I in it, what's it about, which episode am I in? Everybody's waiting with trepidation. I can't wait.
What does your day-to-day involve?
The thing I love about my side of hospitality is every day is different. Every guest's requirements are different, and that's what makes it so interesting. I normally come in quite early because, for instance, a client working on a conference will be doing rehearsals. I'll take breaks throughout the day, but I'll always be on-hand to make sure things are running smoothly.
Weekends you have to allow for social events, so weddings and birthday parties. We do 50 weddings a year, so it's quite a big part of our business. But we have quite a big team of five people, so we share it. Weddings are time-consuming but they're fun to do, and you get to know the family and the bride and groom very well. And there are different types of weddings, different cultures, so that's quite interesting.
We've done some famous weddings: New Year's Eve two years ago we did Alice Eve's, Trevor Eve's daughter, that was beautiful, and that was on the front cover of Hello!
What has been your favourite event?
Gary and Dawn Barlow's 10th wedding anniversary, that was fabulous, because the event was called 'Glitz and Chips'. And we actually served fish and chips as the main course, and it went down a complete treat. Ronan Keating sang, they turned the whole ballroom black and silver; it was fun dealing with Gary and planning it all with him.
Have people recognised you since the trailer for the show was released?
Yes, it's been quite fun, a bit different. I think once it's aired there will be more comments and questions about what I do. I'll have this new tag: 'the horse man'.
What is your favourite part of your job?
I love meeting people, and different people, that's what makes it interesting. You need to be a people person and have passion for what you do - otherwise, forget it.
And the most difficult?
The most difficult part of my job is when there's no budget and they expect the world. That's difficult. How far do you go and how far can you go? Amazingly far. And that does happen.
Do you think you'll see an uplift in business as a result of the show?
Let's hope so, especially on the weddings. We'd love more, but I don't know if there are enough weekends to have more.
What are you hoping that people take out away from it?
I hope the public that watch it will say 'I want to go there' or 'I want to see this amazing place' or 'I want to have an event there'.
Read more interviews with staff at the hotel:
A Very British Hotel is a three-part series on Channel 4 starting 9pm on Thursday 2 March.