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July 14, 2016
Partnership

Up, up and away: Royal Croquet Club have jet set ambition

Facing an uncertain future in Adelaide won’t stop the Little Miss Group from taking the South Australian brand to the world.

  • Words: Joshua Fanning
  • Pictures: Ben McPherson

It’s the end of an era for Stuart Duckworth and his business partners.

The Little Miss Group has ceased trading after three-and-a-half years at the corner of Grenfell Street and Frome Road. And now Stuart and his Royal Croquet Club co-founders are preparing for official notice that Royal Croquet Club is no longer welcome in Victoria Square, making 2016 the group’s last Fringe in Tarndanyangga.

But that’s okay.

“We’re incredibly excited at the same time,” says Stuart, acknowledging the opportunity that presents itself with the ending of any chapter.

And it seems The Little Miss Group is busier than ever. During our interview Stuart receives no less than six messages and two phone calls. This is normal, and it’s normal for Stuart’s business partners Tom Skipper and Sam Weckert, who are missing from our conversation overlooking Rundle Street.

Instrumental in piecing together their new project, an event in China called The Royal Adelaide Club, Tom is taking some well-earned holidays. We joke that he’s probably taken two months off because it’s the only way he’d be able to spend time with his family.

“Oh absolutely,” Stuart says. “I haven’t been nearly as involved with China as Tom and I’m certainly doing more work than ever before, I’m more stressed than ever before and, to be honest, we’re risking more.”

The stakes might be high, but The Royal Adelaide Club project could have huge pay off – and not just for Stuart and his colleagues. For the event, The Little Miss team have partnered with Australian Trade Alliance to author a huge activation-turned-delegation which will descend on the Qingdao International Beer Festival.

“Royal Adelaide Club has now become a platform for everything that we hold dear in South Australia.” – Stuart Duckworth

Stuart_Portrait

“It started off as a beer festival platform to showcase South Australian beer and also showcase the arts,” says Stuart. “But it’s now become a platform for everything that we hold dear in South Australia. Food and beverage is a big thing but also our lifestyle, trade, tourism, education, stuff like fashion too – Australian Fashion Labels will be part of it.”

Beyond Qindao, Stuart is also working with collaborators on a similar, albeit smaller, activation for the Edinburgh Fringe.

Other projects on the books include the possible relocation and re-interpretation of a Fringe Festival activation to follow in the Royal Croquet Club’s footsteps, the ongoing evolution of the Fat Controller live music venue and forays into food with Stuart’s brother Hugh Duckworth at the helm.

Forced to constantly adapt and review their business practices, Stuart is exhausted by but also appreciative of the tough time they’ve had trying to make a go of it in Adelaide.

“We’ve felt like we’ve been hitting our heads against a brick wall operating here,” he says. “We’ve been stopped so many times and had to start over.

“But each time we’ve been able to come back stronger and more relevant, not so much because of a re-branding, re-naming or renovation but because we were forced to refine our offer and remove what didn’t work before because we simply couldn’t afford to make any mistakes moving forward.”

It’s this determination that has led Stuart and his business partners to explore global opportunities. But while they gain a foothold internationally, we hope they’ll still be able to call Adelaide home – because the loss of operators like these would be a heavy blow indeed.

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