East Sussex National is a wedding venue, conference centre and hotel complex as well as being one of the premier Golf Resorts in the South East. It was my first time there when I drove through Lewes towards Uckfield for Alister’s 50th birthday party.
Not Only Weddings
Occasion Photos is becoming rather eclectic in its service offering. We probably need to consider changing the name of the company because not only do we cater for Weddings, Parties, Funerals (yes), Mehndi ceremonies and Christenings, but we are developing rather a niche videography service. I must say we are getting pretty good at it too. Quite often Victoria (my wife) will film whilst I photograph. I have also employed my teenage sons on a few occasions to man cameras. It’s quite the family business!
Alister had asked me to do a little of both at his 50th birthday party. I was to concentrate mainly on photography but would also film the cabaret act. I was warned that there may be some pink tutu wearing afoot, later in the evening. I braced myself for this, but I don’t believe anything could quite have prepared me for what I was about to witness!
East Sussex National
The day started routinely enough with drinks in the bar overlooking the beautiful grounds of the East Sussex National golf course. It was not the kind of event where I could use multiple fill in flash units to balance the light and I see it as a challenge to use natural light when the sun is so glaring. Shadows across the faces of guests rarely makes for a flattering photograph, and squinting into the sun is equally as off-putting. So capturing good, natural portraits can be an elusive pastime.
Alister had between 80 and 100 guests and it is clear he is a very popular chap. He is gregarious and warm and it was a pleasure to see him greeted so fondly by so many people. Rather than take all the guests downstairs and outside on to the lawns, we decided to organise a group photo of the balcony of the main East Sussex National function room. This proved to be a hilarious feat of organisation. I had planned that we would get all the guests to lean over and look out from the balcony, but as it turned out there were far too many people to do that and the balcony was becoming increasingly packed as more and more guests made their way to join us.
It was at this point that I broke my rib! Leaning ever further over the balcony to get everyone in I suddenly felt a crack. Happily it was not overly painful, and it wasn’t until some days later that I discovered it was actually broken! I soldiered on regardless and we ended up with me standing on a chair at one end of the balcony. Alister couldn’t understand why I was making such hard work of wanting to get everyone’s faces in shot and in focus. He’s right, I probably am a little too anal about these things!
Whilst Alister’s guests ate their meal in one of the function rooms at East Sussex National, I ate mine in the bar and made sure the video camera was ready for the evening. Fully charged batteries, check. Enough room on the SD card, check. Let it never be said I am not prepared. I always carry hundreds of gigabytes of memory cards and plenty of spare batteries and a battery charger.
The Pink Tutu
The evening duly arrived and, after Alister’s brother had given a speech which reinforced how much Alister is respected and loved by his friends, Alister spoke to thank everyone and introduce the entertainment. On the projection screen we watched video of music and film projects in which Alister has been involved, including “A Film Made in Thamesmead‘…..and then it was pink tutu time.
Alister introduced two dancers who performed a really nicely choreographed piece whilst Alister went off to change. It was a sight to behold when he returned, dressed in a bright pink, fairy-style tutu, as worn by ballet dancers the world over, and proceeded to dance in ballet-style moves before bursting in to song. It was supposed to be funny and it really was. He was clearly having a ball, as were the guests who lapped it all up in the best of humour.
My time was up when the cabaret had finished and the main dancing began. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and different day. I wish Alister and his friends all the very best and if I’m invited back for his 60th birthday party I will take double the amount of pictures to make sure I capture every moment! East Sussex National is a lovely venue and I have since photographed Imogen and Charle’s wedding there on another very hot day.