From Dickens to The Dorchester and on to such stuff as dreams are made of

March 25, 2012

Continuing my series of articles where I share recent jobs I’ve been working on, and how I approach different types of writing.  From the Boot & Flogger wine bar in Southwark (see previous post) I landed on Mayfair, which has a few expensive hotels on it.

I went to The Dorchester and the contrast with the Boot & Flogger could not have been more remarkable.  Directly opposite the wine bar was recently rediscovered Cross Bones Graveyard last resting place of prostitutes, paupers and other undesirables – just like the one at the troubled heart of Bleak House. The Dorchester faces lush Hyde Park.  The former was haunted by the ghosts of Fagin, Uriah Heep, and Inspector Bucket, the latter by those of Noel Coward, Andy Warhol and Elizabeth Taylor.  Where one is dark, clandestine and dusty the other is bright, ostentatious and very polished.

I’m with the brochure

I had been invited to attend a champagne reception, hosted by Clarenco, to launch three new properties in their Amazing Retreats collection.  I was shown to the oval shaped Crystal Suite, in the entrance to which was a huge pyramid of champagne flutes balanced precariously atop an impressive glass table.  I made a mental note to stay well clear of this if I found my legs getting wobbly – knocking it over would have been remarkably uncool.

The room began to fill up with assorted people associated with Clarenco and the travel trade – hotel representative, event organisers, architects, PR executives, destination management consultants, a couple of corporate financiers from Coutts…and me.  My reason for being there?  I had recently written the brochure that described the portfolio and which those attending the event would take away with them.

Exclusively yours and absolutely amazing

The properties featured in this publication are not hotels in the traditional sense – you book them on an exclusive basis for lavish wedding receptions, impressive corporate bashes and bloody good parties.

There’s a circular fort in the Solent built by Lord Palmerston to protect Portsmouth Harbour from the French fleet of Napoleon III.  Within its 15ft thick iron clad walls the mighty gun emplacements, ammunition store, and 401ft deep artesian well have been extensively refurbished to make way for 9 bedroom suites, three private dining rooms, three bars, wine cellar, open-air hot-tub, rooftop champagne bar, sauna, sun deck and games rooms.  

 Plas Rhianfa is a delightful Victorian villa, modelled on the sixteenth century French
renaissance chateau of Chenonceau, that stands amidst spectacular gardens on the island of Anglesey, with commanding views over the Menai Strait and towering peaks of Snowdonia.  Then there’s the fully restored Benedictine nunnery, the small but perfectly formed Bath Lodge Castle and iconic Ackergill Tower where dastardly Dugald Keith attempted to have his evil way with the beautiful Helen Gunn.

Why hire a hotel when you can go totally Hollywood?

I have a very definite approach to writing for the top end of the hospitality industry – it’s something I’ve developed myself, so I’ve no idea whether it’s “right”.  The thing to understand (as I see it) is that you are not selling mere bricks and mortar, or food and wine, or location and activities.  These tangibles are just for scene setting – what you are really selling is the experience.

To do this effectively you must create a romantic fiction that stirs the senses, fires the imagination and unlocks the door to dreams.  It’s closer to poetry than to prose, more
fantasy than fact.  The whole point of hiring one of these properties is to enjoy a total escape from reality.  When people are paying a lot of money for a fairy tale wedding, an impressive business event or a once in a lifetime celebration they want theatre, drama, and spectacle – so give it to them!

Did I pull it off for Amazing Retreats?  You can download the e-brochure here and decide for yourself.


Picture credit, Monopoly board,

  1. Caroline J March 26, 2012 Reply

    Jim - These properties look amazing. I think Davina and I should take off and have Afternoon Tea at Plas Rhianfa. Oh, and I see that you were mixing with some old cronies of mine - Rod Cornwall and Martin Reed - CEO of Thomas International. there was a couple of piccies of them.

    This looks like a quality job on the brochure.

    • Jim O'Connor April 11, 2012 Reply

      Hi Caroline,
      See you for tea! I did speak to some guys who said they were into psychometric testing, profiling I'm thinking of had very expensive looking open necked shirt and was outgoing...was that him?

      Keep in touch

  2. Victoria Ash March 29, 2012 Reply

    Great reading on the blog Jim! And love the amazing retreats brochure.

  3. Jim O'Connor April 11, 2012 Reply

    Hi Victoria,
    Glad you like the blog and the brochure...
    We must "do coffee" soon!

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