Christopher Mills is a recognisable face on British television. However, his speciality is less in front of the cameras and more behind the scenes, creating multi-sensory immersive experiences for the private and corporate sectors, producing joy and life-changing experiences.
In this interview, Christopher explains his journey from being a budding classical musician, his charitable work, what influences him and how he became a maestro in the events industry.
Luxurious Magazine: You’ve spent more than two decades in high-end events curating and party planning, but didn’t you initially train as a classical musician? What led you to this path?
Christopher Mills: Yes, I did, I have had a varied and colourful career, but I’ve always been in performance in one way or another.
I don’t think the two are separate. As far as I can remember, I have always been a performer, and yes, my career did start in the performing arts. As a young child, I was always very much a musician and classical artist. I trained throughout my childhood, and when I went into education as a musician, I aimed for a career in it, studying as a classical musician.
I was going to become a professional musician. So, everything I worked towards was very much planning for that.
I had put all of my eggs in one basket. I am fortunate that I had the support of my parents, driving me around in the car etc. But, when you’re thrown into the big wide world, things don’t happen as you expect. I remember when I was graduating, I was performing in the West End in concerts and musicals.
I found it very unsociable, and I realised that this type of life wasn’t for me. Imagine having a huge instrument without a car and dragging it around the West End wasn’t; it’s not fun.
I was sort of in a detour mood. I thought about what else I could do. What popped into mind were weddings, events and parties. Twenty years ago, there had been a resurgence in corporate events, and parties and weddings were also becoming popular in unique venues like Somerset House or the Tower of London.
What drew me towards this is they always needed musicians, and I soon found myself performing at some incredible venues. While there, I couldn’t but notice these people were running around looking quite stressed; they were the ones tasked with planning the events.
I thought to myself, “I can do that”. I soon became friendly with a group of event managers and producers and thought, why not give it a go?
I soon realised I was quite good at it, and in hindsight, it wasn’t really a career detour. I had always been that person in my family putting on events, performances, and plays, insisting my family attend my performances.
So, I went from being the person under the spotlight to the stage manager in the shadows – and I didn’t find it a problem being out of the limelight! Before long, I was working with massive brands, such as Galliano, The Rolling Stones, Tim Walker, major Law firms, and global brands.
Floating to the top didn’t take long, and fortunately, I’ve been able to stay there. I am lucky to have always worked on an incredibly high level of luxury events and to have sustained that for more than 20 years.
LM: Why did you start your own company, The Events Mill? What did you feel you could offer that was missing from the industry?
Christopher: Everything I do is always done with foresight; the secret is finding that unique edge that others miss. I draw my influences from the full breadth of creativity, art and stories etc. I am not one to sit still, and I’m always on the lookout for new things to inspire me.
I often find myself working at in-house venues. I look at spaces like a blank canvas, and I think ok, what can I put on my canvas that is new each time? I don’t look at a room and think, well, we’ve done that before, and it worked, so let’s do it again.
When I work with these brands and clients, I see them as my tools. And I bring the tools and the canvas together to create something unique, and it’s something clients react well to.
Over time, I started to ask myself, “Why am I doing this for other people when I can do it for myself” which is what spurred me to start my company, the Events Mill. It was an immediate hit, as ten years ago, no one was doing what we were doing, which was specialised immersive multi-sensory events. We were both the innovators and mavericks at the same time.
We would go into stuffy, traditional venues, including historical Grade I properties, and some saw us as troublemakers for trying new and inventive things. And let me say that we were never causing any damage to the venue or altering its fabric; we were simply experimenting and challenging the norm. Our goal was to take people’s dreams and make them a reality.
What we do is so much more than a corporate event; it is closer to taking a movie set and bringing it to the live events arena. It lets people leave their persona at the door, step somewhere else for that night, and experience something mindblowing. We were doing that ten years ago, and others are only now adopting what we pioneered.
LM: Have you seen a shift in how luxury events and UHNW clients behave since the pandemic – are parties more intimate, more expensive, for example?
Christopher: People have not stopped spending money, and I don’t think they ever will. However, they are more aware of where their investment is going, but the trend in these times is clear, people want fantastic experiences.
Many of the families we work with ask for experiences that pack a punch and make a difference in their lives. A particular medical event starved people of experiences for more than two years. During that time, people felt restricted, so events and gatherings mean much more to them now.
People are still happy to spend money on luxuries as long as it can heighten one’s emotions. There is always going to be a place for luxury in the market. But luxury is a personal matter; what is luxury to you differs from me. The luxury we provide to a family or client is taking them on a multi-sensory experience.
COVID and climate change have caused people to look at life and friendship differently and appreciate the world around them in a different way. Getting together and being with others is something engrained in people. We make this happen as we are storytellers, and let’s be honest, everyone likes a story.
LM: Discretion is part and parcel of planning events for the A list, so please don’t mention names. What is one of the most far-out requests you’ve had?
Christopher: Discretion is the currency of the events world and is vital. Of course, we have plenty of outlandish requests.
We have many fashion clients, and some of their suggestions, particularly in historical venues, have been a little ‘out there’.
For example, I recall one time when we worked in an ancient wonder of the world. Incredibly, we were asked if it was possible to move a pillar in the Temple of Poseidon, which has existed since ancient times. It would have been ridiculous for us even to entertain the thought!
Although we never like saying ‘no’, there are things we’ve done that some would consider outlandish. We worked with a luxury hotel in London, and one of the guests asked for the penthouse to be transformed white – white marble, white floors, white walls, white sofas, everything needed to be white.
That’s what the client wanted, and with permission, we did it! However, the client never showed up! I could write a whole book on that alone, but I think I’ll leave it for the memoir.
LM: Big spending and luxury are often frowned upon, particularly with the current global economic issues. Do you find yourself ever having to defend what you do?
Christopher: Constantly! I work with luxury brands and produce parties, both often seen as frivolous and unnecessary, but I do a lot of philanthropic work too, which is a side of my work that I’m passionate about.
Parties are often seen as unnecessary spending, especially in a cost-of-living crisis, and I get it. What we do is often seen as ‘fluffy spending’, but it can also be a positive. We shouldn’t forget that as an industry, it generates enormous sums for the economy, particularly from the wedding industry.
The commercial side of my work life also allows me to help charities. We are currently working with one, and it involves working with art and artists. Without selling art at the event is a major benefit for the charity. Without the commercial side of the art world, it can’t be sold; therefore, money doesn’t go to charity.
There’s always a balance, a balancing act between culture and creativity and the need to spend on events such as the ones I do. Yes, the Western world is facing a cost-of-living crisis, but the balance and benefit that highly creative events bring are worth it when you think about it.
LM: If luxury isn’t just about the budget? How can luxury be attained without wealth or big budgets?
Christopher: The beauty of luxury is that it is so personal. I’ve always maintained that creativity doesn’t have to be expensive. I think creativity is intelligence; we can make something beautiful from a pile of rubbish. You only need a keen eye and a creative mind to make something beautiful.
I’ve always maintained the philosophy that behind every event is “beauty and intelligence”. We have produced some of the most incredible experiences through sheer cleverness.
You can throw unlimited money at an event, and it can still come out looking cheesy. On the flip side, you can also go to a flea market and find the most beautiful objects for very little money. So cheap, but so beautiful! For example, one thing we love when we’re tablescaping is blending in floral designs with Moss florals and faux florals.
Objet D’art, with faux florals and antiques, creates the most sublime luxury feeling. It is visually stunning and incredibly cost-effective. If you went to a florist to get a tub full of roses, peonies and ranunculus, it would cost you an arm and a leg. I guarantee that what we create is so much more fascinating and beautiful.
LM: Assuming we have a healthy budget – why do you think a party is a good or important way to spend money?
Christopher: Because it creates a memory and an emotional attachment to something that is at first temporary but results in a memory in motion, something unlike anything else. That is the power of live experience.
Things like weddings, christenings, birthdays and even funerals are so important in life because they help make us who we are; lives are life experiences and are what life is all about.
It’s about being there and being present, especially in today’s technologically and work-focused world. Take YouTube as an example; why do we look at so many videos? It’s not only because we like them; it’s also because we want to experience what the video represents, and that’s why parties are a good investment; they are a way to achieve it.
LM: Without giving too much away, what’s next for The Events Mills and yourself?
Christopher: This year marks our tenth anniversary, so we have a load of celebrations lined up, and it will be a turning point for us. Moving forward, we want to do more subversive designs, the next level up from immersive.
I don’t want you to think you’re in another world; I want you to be in another world. We’re also looking at the metaverse and how we can incorporate the newest technology into our work, and one way we are doing this is by working with incredible organisations that are pioneers in the industry.
Also, the philanthropic side of the agency is incredibly important to me and will be a significant component of our work this year. I am sure it will be bigger and better in design and impact, so watch this space!
To contact Christopher and learn more about his company, visit www.theeventsmill.com. You can also keep up to date with him via his Instagram account, @thechristophermills.
Read more exclusive interviews in our dedicated section here.