Events in Action: Ubuntu Education Fund's charity gala

Michael Franti and Spearhead performed a spectacular finale
Michael Franti and Spearhead performed a spectacular finale

Wonderland Events organised South African educational charity Ubuntu's charity gala to celebrate its 15 years of work in the country. The events agency worked closely with Ubuntu's in-house events team to create a dinner filled with music and entertainment at the Roundhouse in Camden, London.

What was the event?

Approximately 350 guests arrived at Camden’s Roundhouse on Thursday 15 May to celebrate the work Ubuntu has carried out in South Africa over the past 15 years. The venue was transformed into a luxury safari tent in the heart of the Eastern Cape through lighting, décor and music. Guests dined on a three-course meal from caterers The Recipe as they were entertained by performers from South Africa and beyond.

How did the event unfold?

Guests arriving at Chalk Farm Underground station only had to follow the lively music from singers Simply Soweto Encha to find the Roundhouse. The group performed outside the venue, getting attendees in the mood for a truly immersive African evening. Attendees were then directed upstairs to the cocktail reception, which took place around the main auditorium, which was hidden away for the grand reveal.

Champagne and virgin elderflower mojitos were served at the bar while guests snacked on plant pots filled with hummus, edible soil and crudités on ramshackle wooden tables. At 8pm, the drapes were lifted and guests caught their first glimpse of the event space. The venue was bathed in red and orange light as a South African sunrise was displayed over LED screens at the back of the stage.

Once guests had taken their places, a salad of burrata cheese, mango and endive was served. Andrew Rolfe, chairman of Ubuntu’s board of directors, gave an impassioned speech thanking the charity’s supporters, before Asanda Jezile took to the stage. The 13-year-old Britain’s Got Talent finalist wowed diners with a musical tribute to Nelson Mandela and a cover of Diamonds by Rhianna.

Magdalena, a sand animator, enthralled the audience with her unique form of storytelling, while Simply Soweto Encha returned to perform as a musical accompaniment. Then came the main course - Karroo lamb cooked two-ways with smoky tomato jam, chargrilled baby courgettes, celeriac puree and buttered feves. Wine from the Stellenbosch region of the Western Cape was served throughout the evening.

A live auction of rare experiences and items took place before the final course. Guests bid on items such as a copy Bill Clinton’s inauguration speech, complete with personal inscription; a signed Mark Seliger portrait of Nelson Mandela; and tickets to the world premiere of the next James Bond film. After a dessert of Malva pudding, funk band Michael Franti and Spearhead accompanied by Sonna Rele got everyone up out of their chairs dancing.

On the spot: Luisa Caro, new business and events director, Wonderland Events

What was the brief from Ubuntu?

The brief was to create a 400-capacity gala dinner event at the Roundhouse, which reflected the key elements of the client's organisation. They wanted us to create an immersive experience for the guests and take them on a journey, but without being too ‘showy’.

How did you devise the creative plan for the event?

We always begin with a moodboard and then story board everything so the client knows exactly what we will produce. The brainstorming process involved the entire team, and we drew inspiration from previous events we have done as well as the journey Ubuntu’s children go through. We wanted to make the night as immersive as possible, so we developed a panoramic screen that changed the scenery throughout the evening, along with the lighting.

How did you work with the Ubuntu events team to produce the event?

There were lots of meetings and plans created at the beginning. However our responsibility was simply to deliver the event on the night, which took the pressure off Ubuntu and allowed them to enjoy the experience. They created the guestlist so our presence on the night freed them up to network with their guests and maximise the fundraising potential of the evening.

Looking back, how do you feel the event went?

I feel a sense of huge achievement - our team did a fantastic job. We really felt that we embarked on a journey with the charity as we got so involved with the content of the event. It was our first job with Ubuntu and I’m sure we’ll continue to work together.

On the spot: Joanna Murray, head of events, Ubuntu Education Fund

Why did you choose the Roundhouse as the venue?

Ultimately, because we had used it the year before and had loved our experience. I personally don’t think there is another unique venue in London that is as beautiful, as well located, works for our numbers whilst remaining intimate, has great sightlines and fits our brand, as the Roundhouse.

What was it about Wonderland that you liked, and wanted to work with?

I loved the fact that Wonderland takes pride in ensuring that every event it produces has a unique factor. I could see from its repertoire of previous events that the company creates innovative ways to achieve beautiful and stimulating experiences.  Upon meeting the team, it was clear that their creativity, passion, enthusiasm and expertise for creating an unforgettable experience was limitless.

Were there any surprises on the night?

The only surprise on the night was just how relaxed and stress-free the entire event was. Everything ran like clockwork.

How did you manage to combine the concept of a charity event that supports children in poverty with the glamour of a gala dinner?

We achieved this in a plethora of ways. Clever décor created a safari tent for the cocktail hour, which transported our guests to the plains of South Africa and then revealed a dining space reminiscent of the townships in which we work. Emotive and empowering branding in the main space featured a cross-section of our community, celebrating their favourite milestones made possible by Ubuntu. Finally, the entertainment was either South African or demonstrated the spirit of Ubuntu.

Behind the scenes

Organiser

Wonderland Events
www.wonderlandevents.co.uk
020 3056 6848

Venue

Roundhouse Camden
www.roundhouse.org.uk
020 7424 9991

Suppliers

Showsec
www.showsec.co.uk
0116 204 3333

Hire It
www.hireit-eventfurniture.com
020 3055 7570

The Recipe
www.the-recipe.co.uk
020 7033 4280

Britannia Row
www.britanniarow.com
020 8893 4997

Comment below to let us know what you think.

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