Celebrities given English classics

28th May 2015

The history of Oi’s client St. James’ Court, A Taj Hotel, London spans more than a hundred years as a luxury hotel, but its origins go right back to Elizabethan aristocracy. Since January 2014, Taj Group has invested significantly in the hotel upgrading it to the hotel group’s luxury standards.

A team at Oi was tasked with developing a strong, new positioning for the hotel to its UK and global target audiences. After many hours, and days, developing ideas and concepts only to sweep them into the bin, we came up with a classic – a big idea based around the positioning statement ‘An English classic, reinvented.’

Oi presented our client with the idea for a series of marketing initiatives based around the concept of English classics, reinvented – well-known books, drinks, food, events – to really establish the hotel brand in the hearts and minds of its target audiences.

The first initiative has taken a lot of work and some very tight deadlines to achieve, but we pulled it off…and it’s gone down an absolute treat. St. James’ Court launched its ‘English classics, reinvented’ literary series by commissioning a redesign of the cover of the 150th anniversary celebratory edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Working closely with Macmillan Publishing 2,000 limited edition hard copies of the book were produced using gold foil and luxury finishes.

Copies of the book were revealed at the preview reception of the Hay Festival 2015, one of the UK’s largest literature gatherings. The reception was recently held at Taj’s latest Kona restaurant and bar. A copy of the book was given to dignitaries, MPs, Lords and Ladies, guests, celebrities, senior executives and editors of the UK’s leading media houses and Hay Festival Directors and Speakers including Peter Florence and Germaine Greer.

The re-design of the classic cover, by Oi’s Senior Creative, Ethan McClean, draws inspiration from the start of Alice’s adventures down the rabbit hole. The cover illustration captures Alice’s journey from our world into Wonderland, where she falls into the abstract, resulting in an optical illusion, which hypnotically pulls us into a strange new land.

“Having launched and branded the iconic Victorian townhouse hotel St. James’ Court in Westminster as A Taj Hotel last year, we’re delighted to celebrate the spirit of English Classics by unveiling this 150th Anniversary Limited Edition of Lewis Carroll’s iconic classic and a personal favourite ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” said Siddhartha Butalia, Director of Marketing at the Taj Group in Europe. “This series commissions exciting, contemporary artists to reimagine covers for our best-loved classics. In tandem with the Tata Group’s participation at Hay, we’re proud to launch this literary series at the preview dinner of the Hay Festival at our London hotel, Taj 51 Buckingham Gate Suites and Residences.”

A team from Oi will be attending The Hay Festival this weekend to promote the ‘English classics, reinvented’ literary series with Taj Hotels. The festival will once again bring writers and readers together to share stories and ideas that inspire, examine and entertain. Now in its 28th year, the 2015 programme spans 11 days with over 700 events, blending expert thinkers, world-class writers, and award-winning entertainers from the stage and screen.

St James’ Court was the masterwork of an English gentleman, Major Charles Pawley, a Royal Engineer. Built at the turn of the 20th century, it was truly art without ostentation. To find its origins, we must go right back to the Elizabethan aristocracy and another period of hospitality, when the property was owned by the wealthy landowner Lord Dacre, treasurer to Queen Elizabeth the First. Distantly related to the Queen through Anne Boleyn, shortly before their deaths in 1594, his wife Lady Anne Dacre, daughter of Lord Buckhurst, with her husband, drew up a scheme to endow a number of almshouses for the poor to be built on the open fields near their Westminster home, which gave birth to a cluster of five schools in the 17th century thence to the Emmanuel Hospital in the 18th century and then to St. James’ Court in the 19th century.

The name St. James’ Court itself was singularly well-chosen, with its royal resonance linked to the Court of St. James’ and its association with the medieval St. James of Compostela, whose badge worn by pilgrims was the scallop or cockle-shell. This was the symbol chosen by the Dacre family for their coat of arms and can be seen displayed on the wrought-iron gates that guard the hotel.

Pawley spared no creative expense when it came to embellishing his hidden court. The entire brickwork up to the second floor is tiled over with a sea-green glaze, topped by the monumental frieze – actually carved out of the brickwork – in which characters from Shakespeare’s plays disport themselves, surrounding a cherub adorned Victorian fountain, a truly special centerpiece.

Today St. James’ Court remains a veritable English classic, typifying the concealed charm of one of Britain’s finest hotels. With a distinguished pedigree shaped over more than a century, this discreet Victorian masterpiece with its Shakespearean Courtyard is perfectly placed between Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament in a historic enclave marking the centre of power. Exceeding the expectations of today’s discerning traveller, St. James’ Court is a slice of the past served up on a contemporary platter – an English classic, reinvented.