Getting to know: Caterina Alves

Caterina has been at RIBA at 66 Portland Place for almost five years, joining as Venues Manager and just two years later taking over as Head of Venues.

We spoke with Caterina this month to find out how her role has changed over the past year and what it means to finally be planning a return to live events.

How has your role had to adapt over the past 12 months?
The biggest change has been working remotely – our job is centred around 66 Portland Place and working together as a team, so it has been an adjustment not being in the building every day or seeing my team in-person. As such, I’ve had to learn how to manage the team remotely, implementing regular virtual meetings, as well as team activities to keep morale high.

Not only have we had to adapt to new ways of working, but also new ways of selling our venue to clients with virtual tours, video content and zoom calls replacing physical show-rounds. We’ve had to demonstrate a new level of flexibility over the last year, particularly when it came to postponing and rescheduling client events, as well as adapting our own marketing strategies in response to changing government guidelines.

What have you found most rewarding about working during the pandemic?
For me, it is tricky to find many rewarding things about working remotely during lockdown as I’m all about being around people and collaborating in-person, so it’s been quite lonely and isolating. I think I have even missed the commute!

Obviously, technology has been a saviour whilst working remotely, so I am thankful I’ve been able to liaise with the team so effectively despite not seeing them in-person, as well as keeping in regular contact with clients.

As we’ve not been able to organise or host any events during the pandemic, we have had some extra time to do things such as improve and clean our database, collaborate with our catering partner CH&CO on new menus, and spend time coming up with exciting and innovative new campaigns for when we reopen.

What have you found most challenging about working during the pandemic?
The biggest challenge for me has been not being around my team, our fantastic clients and suppliers, and not being able to host events at 66 Portland Place. I love the hustle and bustle of my job and working with FOH, CH&CO, and constantly having people in and out of the building. It has also been challenging not being able to confidently put a plan in place and see it through – for anyone who works in the events industry, planning is our top priority, and going in and out of lockdown and the frequent changes to what is allowed and when has made it impossible to plan too far ahead.

What type of event are you most looking forward to hosting again?
I can’t wait to start hosting award ceremonies again – I really do love watching people get recognition for the hard work that they do. As RIBA at 66 Portland Place is a prestigious venue with a remarkable history in the heart of central London, we have held some very esteemed awards ceremonies with attendees who are at the top of their game, and it’s exciting to see their achievements being acknowledged and celebrated.

When are you reopening for events?
We will be reopening in June and we cannot wait! We have lots of new ‘build your own’ packages ready for our clients, including a special summer reunion!

We’ve seen a considerable uplift in enquiries since the roadmap out of lockdown was announced and in March we confirmed nine bookings for events due to take place later this year and in 2022, which is an incredibly positive sign.

What’s your favourite thing about Westminster as a destination?
Its heart and soul! I love the history, the buildings, and the atmosphere!

To find out about hosting your next event at 66 Portland Place, get in touch at [email protected].

Reaching Westminster events beyond the tube

This National Walking Day (7 April), we recognise some of the many stunning walks around Westminster as well as other forms of transport to safely deliver you to venues in the area without needing to get on the tube.

As we return to live events after a prolonged period of the majority working entirely from home, many of us are itching to get back out into the city and to live events. For some, there may still be natural hesitations about the use of public transport around London, and in particular, the tube. The convenient location of Westminster ensures that there are many alternative transportation methods, including walking, cycling and traveling by boat to a lot of nearby venues.

Walking routes
Dean’s Yard – On the doorstep of Church House Westminster and flanking Westminster Abbey, Dean’s Yard is a lovely place to walk. The serene-looking green space makes up most of the remaining precincts of the former monastery of Westminster, not occupied by the Abbey buildings. In the mid-5th century, Dean’s Yard sat on an eyot of the Thames and the Anglo-Saxons referred to it as Thorney Island.

St. James’s Park – The park comprises 23 hectares and is near to The Mall, St. James’s Palace, and Birdcage Walk. The park is home to 15 different species of birds and many other animals. It offers plenty of instagram-worthy moments especially when standing on the Blue Bridge, above the lake, a scene which has been featured in many movies and offers beautiful views of Buckingham Palace, the Horse Guards Parade and Whitehall Court. On the south side of Duck Island find the Tiffany fountain from where you can see the London Eye and Big Ben in the distance.

Victoria Tower Gardens – This riverfront public park boasts great views of the South Bank, as well as sculptures of Pankhurst, Burghers of Calais and a monument marking the abolition of slavery in England in 1832.

Regent’s Park – On the outskirts of Westminster and close to Regent’s Conferences & Events, explore the expanse of space around Regent’s Park, before reaching the venue itself which offers a further four acres of green space and picturesque gardens.


The Uber Boat by Thames Clipper stops at 23 piers along the River Thames including Westminster and Embankment, offering a scenic route just a stone’s throw away to venues such at IET London: Savoy Place and 10-11 Carlton House Terrace. Being out in the open air, the boats provide both a picturesque experience with views over much of London’s riverbanks and distant skyscrapers, and a safe alternative to indoor travel. The boats are taking every precaution to ensure the safety of passengers, and have been awarded Good To Go status by VisitEngland, COVID19 Confident accreditation from the AA, and the SafeTravels stamp from The World Travel and Tourism Council.


With many venues, such as Lincoln’s Inn providing on-site bike racks, cycling is a great solution to reach your Westminster events. Santander Cycles (Boris Bikes) are dotted around the borough for public use, with stations in very close proximity to a lot of venues, including 110 Rochester Row and 116 Pall Mall. These can also be located on a number of other nearby streets including Regency Street and Westminster Abbey. Despite an overall reduction in journeys across London in 2020, the bikes were hired more than 10million times – a record in the scheme’s 10-year history.

The London Library to host virtual Lit Fest this May

As the central London venue celebrates its 180th anniversary, The London Library will host the first of its annual Lit Fest event virtually on 1-3 May 2021.

The London Library is planning to reopen again to members in April, in line with the government’s roadmap outlining the easing of coronavirus restrictions which stipulates that libraries will be included in the next step on 12 April 2021.

While preparing for live events to properly resume, the Library is meanwhile hosting a virtual Lit Fest in May, some of which will be hosted from inside the building and live streamed to remote attendees. Going forward, the festival will be an annual event. The event will include a series of sessions across three days, including talks from Sir Tom Stoppard, Salman Rushdie, Sarah Waters and many more interesting names from the literary world.

Details of the event can be found here:

Church House Westminster launches new virtual studio

The Abbey Room on the ground floor at Church House Westminster has been redesigned as a virtual studio for hire in London, now referred to by many as the venue’s very own Abbey Studio.

The Covid-secure broadcast event studio is fully equipped and ready to go. Adjacent to the virtual studio are a number of private rooms that can be used as private green rooms, exclusive office space, and catering spaces. As far as virtual solutions go, the studio is ideally suited for immersive live streams, live broadcasts, virtual and hybrid events, photoshoots, filming and TV production.

The stage covers an area of 4m wide x 3m deep. The studio offers a wide range of event furniture for both formal and informal seating arrangements.

The High Chroma green backdrop measures 4m x 2m x 3m high.

High-tech audio includes 2 x speaker D&B sound system, 1 x Midas Digital sound desk, 2 x lectern microphones, and 4 x headset microphones or lapel mics.

Innovative video capabilities are provided by 2 x 55” LED screens for presenter preview, 2 x laptop PC at Control for slides with WebEx account or the client’s preferred platform, 1 x Apple Mac Playback Pro, and 1 x radio slide clicker.

Using a full tri truss system, professional lighting in the studio includes – 4 x lamp front-lighting to stage, 8 x LED pars, and a lighting desk.

hybrid meeting system features a broadcast camera, a Vmix system with a virtual stage, and a dedicated internet line. On-site technical support is provided by award-winning in-house event technologists. The team of four includes an audio engineer, a Vmix engineer, a webcasting engineer, and a camera operator.

Virtual studio hire is incredibly flexible with half-day rates and other packages to include rehearsals pre-event.

Other services include: 

  • A day rate for keynote speaker recording or any other on-demand content creation activities
  • Webcasting and live streaming
  • Filming and editing of the virtual event
  • Branded backdrops
  • Pre-and post-production
  • Additional equipment such as autocue, microphones
  • Remote presenting kit

For more information, get in touch via the contact form or call 020 7390 1590 to discuss your event.

Trainers share their venue wish list for inspired learning

The QEII Centre has conducted research to reveal what trainers really want when sourcing a venue to host inspired learning.

Turning up to find a training room is the wrong size, badly lit and set up incorrectly are the three biggest frustrations shared by training providers booking venues for their courses.

Bad acoustics, a limited choice of refreshments and failing IT were also high up on the list of pet hates among trainers, research by leading London events venue The QEII Centre has found.

With an increasing number of training courses set to take place at meetings and event venues when lockdown restrictions lift, venues need to know how best to cater for providers and their delegates in order to capitalise on this growing area.

According to the results of the survey of more than 500 professionals responsible for delivering training, the way to create the perfect environment for learning is to give delegates access to fresh air and provide an inspiring view.

Offering a modern well-decorated room with the ability to adjust the temperature were also favourable features.

And to stimulate effective learning, layout is key, the research found. There has not been a shift towards more radical approaches as just 3% believe asking delegates to stand for a session is the most effective format. Instead, the equally most popular room set ups to engage delegates were the more traditional table groups with chairs facing forward, or enough room to sit as well as facilitate group working, which was closely followed by a horseshoe of tables with chairs.

While clocks on the wall serving as a constant reminder of the time were a low priority, trainers said a schedule for pre-determined breaks with catering served in a separate room is the best way to keep delegates fuelled. This was preferable to flexible breaks where refreshments are ready in the room for when energy levels dip.

The quality of catering should also be a high consideration of venues hosting training courses. When trainers were asked to describe their worst experience when delivering a training session, many said the food left a lot to be desired.  ‘Poor quality’, ‘not enough to boost energy levels’ and ‘lack of choice for veggies’ were some of the answers.

Power cuts, IT glitches, and noises outside the meeting room were also referenced by many trainers as contributing to their worst experiences of holding courses at external venues.

Diane Waldron, sales and marketing director at the QEII said: “The pandemic has created many changes within employment and as a result, many people are now looking to re-train, or brush up on skills to return to, or start in a new workplace.

“Our research shows that 40% of training professionals use external venues for more than half of all courses they run and an even higher percentage – 91% – claim that holding their training event off-site is either essential or helpful, so clearly there is likely to be a growing demand for venues with facilities to host training courses as lockdown measures begin to ease.

“This insight into the needs of professional trainers and their thoughts on environmental factors that are more conducive to learning than others will therefore be valuable to those looking to book or run face-to-face training and development courses.

“The QEII Centre has a wealth of experience in holding training sessions, conferences and other events where learning is central to the cause and our team will listen closely to training providers to be able to advise on the best space, room-set up and facilities relating to each client’s needs.”

Vue West End set to host show-stopping live and hybrid award ceremonies

Vue West End is very much ready to welcome back guests for show-stopping events from 17 May 2021.

During the last few months, the venue has been making sure that the nine-screen cinema equipped with recliner seating, Dolby Atmos sound and a private bar is clean, safe and compliant.

Having invested in developing comprehensive technology for cross-site streaming over the past five years across 90 different sites, Vue is well ahead of the game when it comes to delivering high standard hybrid events.

Over the last few weeks, Vue West End has seen a large uptake in enquiries to host a number of award ceremonies: Superheroes Outstanding Accomplishments on the Big Screen. At Vue, the team understands the importance of value and recognition for the hard work that people have done during this testing time. The central London venue can cater for all award ceremony needs from red carpets and drinks receptions to show-stopping state of the art audio visual packages.

Contact the events team on [email protected] to discuss how you can benefit from the Big Screen Business Experience.

Lincoln’s Inn gets ready to offer new bespoke event catering

Throughout the period of venue closure, the chefs at Lincoln’s Inn have kept themselves busy by honing in on their skills to offer new bespoke event catering.

Throughout lockdown, they have also been cooking food for homeless shelters, baking cakes for local hospitals, or selling sourdough bread to raise money for charity. Now that summer events and weddings at Lincoln’s Inn are on the horizon again, the team of chefs have excelled themselves at creating bespoke menus. Whether it’s fine dining vegetarian dishes for an intimate wedding, a mouth-watering BBQ menu for summer receptions, or a delicious evening food menu to keep those wedding guests dancing, the venue can’t wait to have its team back together again to offer exceptional catering and innovative events onsite.

For further details on the Inn’s dedicated catering team, please visit

Regent’s Conferences & Events offers new informal Aperitivo wedding reception concept

In response to couples searching for something a bit different, and keeping up with the latest wedding trends, Regent’s is offering a new type of informal “Aperitivo” wedding reception this year.

Inspired by the Catalunyan “Aperitiu a peu dret”, the concept will offer a more relaxed, less formal style of wedding celebration. With no formal seating, impromptu speeches and a variety of food offerings from tapas to bowl food, along with the traditional “Aperitivo” antipasti starter course offered at Italian weddings, the venue has combined both styles to take advantage of the fantastic outside space at Regent’s.

Allowing for an extended “graze”, the food is served over a four-hour period, and in no particular order, and provides a great variety of flavours and dishes that keep guests talking and mingling without the formality that can sometimes seem very daunting to newly-weds.

Weddings Co-ordinator, Valentina Andreoli, said “The Aperitivo” menu has proven to be very appealing to our clients who are looking to imprint their individual style onto their special day. It lends itself well to the relaxed atmosphere of the lawns and provides a different way of celebrating for our happy couples.”

Find out more about the wedding opportunities at Regent’s here.

A Charleston Christmas: 116 Pall Mall launches new 2021 Christmas party packages

Those in the events industry will know it’s not unusual to start planning Christmas the moment the last one has finished, and after a slow and uncertain start to the year for many in the industry, 116 Pall Mall is thrilled to have finalised and launched its 2021 Christmas party packages.

From South Carolina to Central London, 116 is transforming into the dancehall of your dreams… It may be 2021 outside, but within the walls of 116 Pall Mall, we’re throwing it back to the 1920’s – bringing fancy footwork & frolics to your Christmas party!

With opulent 1920s theming, a delectable dining experience and show-stopping interactive entertainment, step back in time to the glitz and glamour of the roaring ‘20s for Christmas 2021. 

Richard Townsend, Head of Hospitality said: “After the incredibly difficult and challenging 12 months we’ve just faced – not to mention Christmas 2020 being cancelled – having something extra special booked in to celebrate the hard work of your team is exactly the morale boost that’s needed right now.

“We’ve already seen a real uplift in interest and bookings which is a positive sign that those who organise Christmas parties are confident enough to start making bookings.

“This year we have created three sensational packages, but as always, we are able to work with clients to put together bespoke celebrations for those with smaller or much larger numbers. For big companies, you can hire the whole building for a takeover which is something we did for a client in 2019 and it was the highlight of the season!

“We can’t wait to see some normality return to the industry and we’re feeling positive that by Christmas, parties will be able to go ahead as normal. If there are still any restrictions in place, clients can feel confident that we will always remain flexible to any new government announcements to ensure they can easily postpone or cancel their event if necessary.”

Take a look at 116 Pall Mall’s new packages here.