Sarah Percy is Stirling Castle’s Events Manager, responsible for delivering events at one of Scotland’s most iconic historical properties. We’ve interviewed Sarah to learn more about her role and understand what’s on offer at this unique events venue.
I have an arts and heritage background with a degree in fine arts. Before joining the team at Stirling Castle I was working at heritage properties across the north of England. I first got into the events industry through voluntary and seasonal work. Once I even took on the role of one of Santa’s elves at Christmas time! As I established my career, I progressed from visitor operations to site manager roles.
I joined Historic Environment Scotland back in 2016 as Assistant Events Manager. I was promoted to Events Manager after a year. Now here I am, in a job that I love, organising events in one of Scotland’s most iconic historical properties.
There’s a lot of responsibility being an Events Manager, especially when it comes to protecting the castle’s 500-year heritage. We need to maintain and conserve this amazing historical site for future generations, while balancing the requirements of our guests. We are always fully committed to delivering five-star service for all events we hold in this 16th century Scottish castle.
Essentially my role involves seeing each event through from initial site visit, to ensuring everything runs smoothly for the client on the night and making sure our functions team puts on the best welcome possible. Getting to know clients is really important to me and showing them around the castle is one of my favourite parts of the job. It is easy to be inspired by the castle because it is so stunning, but I am there to ignite their imaginations and work with them to make their vision in our unique event spaces a reality.
There’s never a dull day at the castle, especially when it’s ‘event day’. It really is “all systems go” for me and my colleagues in the catering team! From the start of set-up to when the last guest leaves, it’s our responsibility to ensure everything goes smoothly. Guests being happy and enjoying themselves are the most important things for the events team here.
One of the most interesting functions I’ve worked on at Stirling Castle was a large-scale teambuilding event, which literally used every available space of the site, from the Queen Anne Gardens to the creepy Palace Vaults and the old Great Kitchens. There were medieval characters who gave away clues, supermodels firing cannons and a giant teddy-bear mascot. It was a big undertaking, but also really enjoyable and definitely unforgettable.
We offer a lot of flexibility for events at Stirling Castle. We can go from a classic gala setup to a full-on medieval banquet style dinner with goblets and candelabras. This is my favourite setup, as it is so in-keeping with the Great Hall, the largest of its kind in Scotland. So, whether you’re after a traditional white wedding or an Outlander-themed corporate event with clan warriors, we are here to make any event truly special!
The most rewarding part of my career is working on the really personal events like weddings, whether they are intimate ceremonies or big celebrations. Every wedding is bespoke and there is so much emotion throughout the process. It is always so rewarding knowing you have made fabulous memories that a couple will treasure forever.
Some people save up and plan their special events for years, so it’s really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them. Making those events come to life is incredibly rewarding. We’ve had clients wanting to use the castle for Romeo and Juliet style wedding ceremonies, Game of Thrones dinners, receptions with grand reveals and so many other exciting ideas. We love trying to make this a reality in our spectacular castle.
Once, a client had asked for a 360° projection onto the walls of the Great Hall. We worked with events creator 21CC to set this up, and throughout the night the projector showed a starry sky with a full moon, an ‘indoor’ firework display and falling diamonds. It was magical.
My main bit of advice would be to get as much experience you can. Hands-on experience stands for so much in the events industry. Often I speak to students from the local college who are doing the Event Management course and I give them the same advice. I tell them to ‘get out there’ and work on as many events as they can in a variety of venues. I always suggest they keep a note of good examples – you never know when you need to draw on them in future job applications!