Concerts, exhibitions, botanical art: 5 things to do in Westminster this April

The City of Westminster will play host to some of the capital’s most exciting events this April, from restaurant openings to concerts and exhibitions. Here are five top picks to explore:

1) 12 ‘Bach to Bach’ hours of music to celebrate the composer

What: Bach Marathon – Monteverdi Choir

Where: Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, South Kensington, London, SW7 2AP

When: 1st April 2014

Revered conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner features 12 inspiring and elevating hours of back to back music celebrating the baroque composer Bach. Join an array of distinguished guests including Sir John’s Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists for a day paying homage to the man Mozart described as the “original father of harmony”.

2) 11-day graphic art fair showcasing innovative design

What: ‘Pick Me Up’ Contemporary Graphic Art Fair

Where: Somerset House, Strand, London London, WC2R 1LA

When: 24th April – 5th May 2014

This is the fourth year in the fair’s history. The 11 day fair will display innovative graphic artists, collectives and galleries from the UK and across the world offering an exuberant mix of artworks for sale to the public. A lively series of events and activities accompanies the fair including Portfolio Surgeries. The spectacular Somerset House once again hosts this excellent opportunity to discover the latest talents in the graphic art scene and purchase prints from as little as £10.

3) Two Michelin starred Simon Rogan expands his rapidly growing empire

What: Simon Rogan at Claridges

Where: Claridge’s Brook Street, Mayfair, London W1K 4HR

When: April/May 2014

Simon Rogan, one of the most creative and exciting chefs in the UK today, will soon be opening the doors to his new restaurant at Claridge’s (opens to public on 6 May). Rogan’s belief in using local British produce, all sourced from his own farm in Cumbria, creativity and inventive techniques will be a defining element for the new restaurant. Rogan currently holds two Michelin stars at his flagship restaurant L’Enclume, in Cartmel, Cumbria.

4) Specialist orchids and botanical art at the Royal Horticultural Halls

What: RHS London Orchid Show and Botanical Art Show

Where: Royal Horticultural Halls and Conference Centre, 80 Vincent Square, Westminster, London, SW1P 2PE

When: 11th – 12th April 2014

The world’s finest specialist orchid growers are putting their best work on display alongside beautiful botanical art. Discover remarkable displays of tropical and hardy orchids from all around the world, hear from a selection of esteemed orchid experts and shop from a wide variety of species and hybrids. The event also doubles as the largest botanical art show of the year, making it a not-to-be-missed event for the green fingered.

5) Discover the wonderful world of Renaissance woodcuts at the Royal Academy

What: Renaissance Impressions: Chiaroscuro woodcuts from the Collections of Georg Baselitz and the Albertina, Vienna

When: 15th March – 8th June 2014

Where: Royal Academy of Art, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BD

Running throughout April, the Royal Academy of Art is staging a special exhibition of Chiaroscuro woodcuts, based on the designs of the great Renaissance artists. A pioneering printing technique, this collection gives a fascinating insight into the craftsmanship and intricacies behind this method. Focusing on the leading proponents of the medium, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands, this exhibition concentrates on how the art form successfully captured shadow and light to create masterpieces.

Event spend on the up as UK emerges from recession

The Chancellor of the Exchequer confirmed in his recent budget that the UK is gradually emerging from the recession, forecasting a 2.7% increase in growth for 2014. Although still a long way from full economic recovery, this positive indication is as much an encouragement for the London events market as it is for UK business as a whole.

As more and more cash flow frees up, companies are once again looking at their budgets and to meetings and events as good marketing and networking tools for their businesses.

As economic pace has started to gather momentum, so too it seems has a renewed willingness to invest more money in events through enhancements and add-ons, offering delegates a more rounded experience than ‘the basic package’, which became a trend through the lowest points of the recession, as companies looked to make savings.

This begs the question: Has there been an increase on event spend as the UK emerges from the recession?

We asked some of The Westminster Collection’s member venues for their views, focusing on activity in January – March 2014 compared with the same period last year. We also asked where they think event organisers are directing the extra spend:

Robin Parker, general manager at Church House Conference Centre, feels that there has been an upturn in spend on events:

“We can report a 20% increase in catering spend compared with the same period last year. Although the spend in the public sector remains flat, reflecting a large number of budget freezes across government departments, the private sector is definitely spending more on adding value to their events through post-event receptions or by upgrading their lunch from basic sandwiches to a hot fork buffet.”

Guy Booth, venue manager at etc. venues Victoria, agreed, highlighting the benefits of adding a networking reception to meetings and conferences:

“We can confirm an upturn in added-value events at etc. venues Victoria in comparison to this time last year. As the recession lifts, more and more organisers are increasing their average spend to add a networking reception to finish their event. It is a clear sign that companies are appreciating the important business development opportunities that these extra touches offer whilst adding a fuller experience for delegates. Two out of three of all large meetings and conferences at etc. venues Victoria now incorporate a reception at the end of the day, encouraging relaxation in the courtyard garden.”

Tom Walsh, director of sales MICE at St Ermin’s Hotel, was more cautious in his response but felt that organisers were more receptive to upscaling their events:

“We are finding that budgets for events have become less restrictive than in years gone by. Certainly blank cheques are not being issued but neither an increase in F&B spend, nor package enhancements are being shunned as we had previously seen.”

Has your venue seen an increase or decrease in spend on events in the first quarter of 2014? If you have a view on this issue we would love to hear from you. If so, please email your response to henry@custardcommunications.com.

London attractions welcomed record-breaking 34m visitors in 2013

London’s visitor attractions have experienced a 12% increase in visitor numbers, according to statistics released by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) today. With the top 10 attractions being based in London, and the city on course to welcome more than 16 million overseas visitors in one year, 2013 has been a record-breaker for the capital.

The most popular visitor attraction in 2013 remained The British Museum, which saw a 20% increase in its visitor numbers to 6,701,036 – making it the museum’s most successful year on record. In second place, was the National Gallery, which saw a 14% increase to 6,031,574 and in third place was the Natural History Museum, with 5,356,884.

Julie Chappell, director of consumer marketing and digital channels at London & Partners, said, “London’s cultural offering is unparalleled. We have a fantastically diverse range of attractions that showcase not only the history and heritage of our city, but also the wide range of cultural attractions. As the home to some of the most significant museums and landmarks in the world, it’s not surprising that 76% of visitors to London come to enjoy its world-class museums and galleries.”

Bernard Donoghue, Director, ALVA (The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions), noted that “London’s attractions had a fantastic year last year: new must-see exhibitions, great weather, superb new facilities like Tiger Territory at London Zoo, all contributed to record tourism figures for London – tipped to be nearly 16 million visitors in one year. Overseas visitors especially love their time at London’s attractions and tell us that our museums, galleries and heritage are the number one reason to visit our city.”

The top 10 attractions, amassing more than 34 million visits, are:

1. British Museum – 6,701,036
2. National Gallery – 6,031,574
3. Natural  History Museum – 5,356,884
4. Tate Modern – 4,884,939
5. Science Museum – 3,316,00
6. V & A – 3,290,500
7. Tower of London – 2,894,698
8. Somerset House Trust – 2,398,066
9. St Paul’s Cathedral – 2,138,130
10. Westminster Abbey – 2,020,637