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  • Writer's pictureCraig Thatcher

The Edge Hotel School celebrates ten years and looks forward to the next

Jane Samuels and Professor Peter Jones had key roles on the original project team.

On 23 June 2022, the Edge Hotel School celebrated its 10th anniversary with a black-tie dinner at Wivenhoe House for more than 100 supporters, friends and students.

We enjoyed a wonderful meal, with sustainably sourced ingredients, with low food miles and speeches by Sir Garry Hawkes, CBE and Anthony Forster, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Essex. With live entertainment between courses from a pair of talented singers masquerading as undergraduates.

I was invited to the event because of my involvement right from the start, with the development of the brand identity and website for the Edge Hotel School and Wivenhoe House. I’m delighted to say that my involvement has continued throughout the years since.

The first hotel school of its kind in the UK, it opened in 2012, with a mission to create the future leaders of the hospitality industry. All of the 262 graduates since, have highly sought-after, vocational degrees and practical experience from working at Wivenhoe House, a 4 star country-house hotel in a delightful parkland setting within the University of Essex campus.

Top marks for student satisfaction

It is setting standards for a new type of educational model. With an overall student satisfaction score of 96.7% in 2020, down a fraction from a perfect 100% in 2019.

An original CAD rendered drawing by the Architects, Bond Bryan.

Launched at the Ritz

In the late summer of 2010, more than two years before opening, I was asked to lead the creative team to develop the brand identity for the Edge Hotel School and Wivenhoe House, then to create a website and brochure for the hotel and to launch the concept to the hospitality industry at The Ritz. All whilst the main house was renovated and a new, contemporary garden wing built after demolishing the 1970s extension.

The brand identity still feels fresh

A decade on, the brand identity, imagery and colour palette still feels fresh, which is a testament to the strength of original design concept and attention to detail.

You can see in the WH logo that we captured the unique fusion and decorative style of the existing house with the linear form of the new garden wing.

Why intriguingly different?

We proposed that the hotel should be positioned as ‘intriguingly different’ because it was going to be run by professionals and cohorts of undergraduate managers, guaranteeing a guest experience like no other. This inspired the initial photoshoot in the grounds of the hotel, as it was being renovated.

One hotel not two

I proposed that the hotel should be called Wivenhoe House when it re-opened, not Wivenhoe House Hotel as it was previously known, as it was going to be home to the Edge Hotel School at the same time and it would be confusing to have two hotels in one. This is despite that each have their own audiences; students for the Edge Hotel School and guests for Wivenhoe House.

WHY A Chandelier and portable Generator?

Once the design concept for the brand identity had been approved, I made a trip Wivenhoe House with a photographer, models and a small crew to take the shots we needed to represent the personality and market position for the new hotel's website and brochures.

When we turned up with our portable generator, chandelier and other props, the building contractors had fenced off the site, lowered big blue containers into position and the grounds were already overgrown. So we had to setup and take the shots in the best way we could (shown left hand side below) and then heavily re-touch the images back at the studio (shown right hand side below).

Hotels are all about people making history

For me, hotels are about people; whether they're guests or members of staff. So I wanted the interesting stories about those who now learn and work there to become part of the folklore of this wonderful building with over 260 years of rich history.

recognise me, looking younger?

This shot was taken as part of the initial suite of images to help to convey that teams of young managers from the Edge Hotel School work in harmony with experienced professionals in every part of the hotel.

Image of Craig Thatcher and Anika Sood.

A great solution FOR our UK labour shortage

As we leave Brexit and the pandemic behind, the UK hospitality industry and the wider economy need organisations like the Edge Hotel School even more because we need to show our home-grown talent that the hospitality industry makes for wonderful careers. Because we can no longer rely on willing and able European workers. So I do hope it continues to flourish under the wing of the University of Essex.

This educational model should be adopted ELSEWHERE

Vocational qualifications are highly prized by employers who want individuals to start making a contribution to their organisations quickly. So this form of education should be more widely adopted in the hospitality industry, as well as other sectors like agriculture, retail and facilities management.


If you need to re-0brand your company and are not sure where to start then contact Craig now.


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