The Producers… Duck and Pheasant Mobile Free House, Brightlingsea

PUBLISHED: 09:40 12 May 2015 | UPDATED: 09:40 12 May 2015



Colm O'Laoi 2014

MATT and Kate Keeling’s food-inspired vision came after watching George Clarke’s Small Spaces TV series. ‘We both love the show and after watching a repeat one night I said, “That’s it, we’re going to buy a horse box and turn it into a mobile free house.”’ Both Matt and Kate are professional artists. Matt’s a fashion illustrator creating clothing graphics for brands including M&S, Debenhams and Tesco while his wife Kate is a textiles stylist creating embroidery and embellishment designs for companies including Monsoon and Accessorise.

‘We’re both freelance and found that getting the train into London and fighting for every job was starting to lose its appeal,’ explains Kate.

Matt bought his horse box on Ebay and immediately set to work welding it, treating the rust and stripping out its interior. ‘I mulled it over for a few days, thinking about what might be involved in the transformation, and then I just got on with it. I had lots of reclaimed wood at the back of our house which I used for the shelving and bar. I sanded it all right back and took out the horse padding, repaired the bits which needed repairing and then I cut a hole in the side.’

Matt and Kate have renovated several houses in the past, so remarkably there was only three months between buying the horse box and attending their first event.

‘I had to learn to weld,’ adds Matt. ‘My dad has a welder but I’d never tried it before. It did take me all day and all evening working on it and I can also do signwriting so I did the signage too as it just works with the look and rustic feel of real ales.’

The couple had pictures taken, created a website and then next came sourcing their beers.

‘I’ve always had quite an interest in real ales and it fitted with the look I’d created, so I knew real ale was the right way to go,’ adds Matt. He spent days researching the real ales available from local brewers in East Anglia. ‘We try to source locally for each event, so we have quite a few contacts at local breweries. We’ve also been visiting them personally rather than emailing them to build up a proper relationship and find out the most about their beers.’

Their mobile free house carries a wide range of bottled beers, but there’s also the option to have cask or polypin ales. ‘We’ve found originally with our cask ales that 72 pints is a lot of ale for people to get through and even with the polypins, which are smaller, you’re still talking 36 pints, so we’ve gone down the bottle route as its really high quality and we can put on a huge range. It gives the event the beer festival feel.’ With brides looking to have the edge at their receptions, bookings are brisk having already doubled from this time last year. The Duck and Pheasant is also popular for outside events and private parties and there is a smaller indoor mobile bar option with three separate packages on offer — a full bar service with a cash or tab bar, a dry bar option where you can source your own beers or a custom bar hire with a mix of wines and beers to suit your needs.

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