RIBA, QEII Centre and One Great George Street win at London Venue Awards 2017

Three Westminster Venue Collection member venues triumphed at the annual London Venue Awards, which bring together the best of London’s events industry and celebrate the diverse range of options available to event buyers in the capital.

We would like to congratulate QEII Centre, One Great George Street and RIBA, who won their respective categories at the awards, which were held at The Brewery on Friday 20 October:

  • QEII Centre – ‘Best Venue Customer Service – over 500 attendees’
  • One Great George Street – ‘Best Wedding Venue’
  • RIBA – ‘Most Versatile London Venue (1000 attendees or less)’

Congratulations also goes to Broadway House for receiving a bronze accreditation in the ‘Best Venue Customer Service – under 500 attendees’ category.

Westminster venue secures a place on miaList 2016

The QEII Centre’s Steven Mann has been awarded the ‘Back of House’ title in the esteemed Meetings Industry Association’s (mia) miaList 2016.

The 24-year-old AV project manager who has worked at the leading Westminster-based centre since March 2014, picked up the award, which celebrates those outstanding and passionate individuals in the sector, at a prestigious lunch on 16 September at the Park Plaza Victoria, London.

Jane Longhurst, chief executive of the mia, said: “The judges were impressed by Steven’s professionalism and felt he was a great ambassador for Westminster’s QEII – consistently delivering to high standards. They thought he was a highly motivated, ambitious team player who was very focussed and eager to learn to extend his knowledge and embrace change. He also identifies areas for improvement in the department and is not afraid to suggest change as he has a strong desire to progress and seek professional development opportunities, rather than waiting to be selected.”

Steven said: “I’m so proud to have secured a place on the much sought-after miaList 2016. I thought just being short-listed at 24 was an achievement, but to actually achieve a place is such an honour. It’s fantastic that the QEII Centre continues to invest and support its employees to achieve their goals.”

Congratulations too to the other Westminster Collection members Denis Hickey of Cavendish Venues, Stephanie Gadd of Victory Services Club and QEII’s Stuart Drummond for making the shortlist for the prestigious awards.

Central Hall Westminster launches carbon offset programme

Central Hall Westminster has announced an initiative to encourage clients holding events at central London’s largest conference centre to offset the carbon generated by the use of the venue. Having calculated the average daily energy and water use for an event, Central Hall has developed a calculator to provide an indication of the carbon footprint created by use of the venue’s facilities and will offer all clients the opportunity to offset this footprint via a range of tree-planting and carbon offset programmes.

The first event to offset its venue carbon footprint was the Methodist Conference, held between June 30th and July 7th this year, which saw around 2,000 delegates attend the nine-day event. Central Hall calculated that the venue carbon footprint of this event was some 15.81 tonnes, which will be offset by planting 40 trees.

Paul Southern, Managing Director at Central Hall Westminster, comments: “We have been developing a number of initiatives to enhance our sustainability as a venue and are delighted to have worked on hosting the first event this week that will be effectively carbon neutral in terms of its venue energy and water consumption. We have several initiatives under way already this year and are excited to offer our clients the opportunity to quickly and easily reduce the carbon footprint of their events held at Central Hall.”

This new scheme is the latest initiative in Central Hall’s environmental strategy developed over the last five years. In that time, Central Hall has implement a number of initiatives that have reduced its day to day carbon emissions. In recognition of its achievements, Central Hall was awarded a Gold Standard from the Green Tourism Authority in 2016 having introduced LED lighting throughout the venue, encouraged recycling by offering a 25 per cent discount for clients who use their own cups instead of paper cups, adopted a fair trade products only policy and has ensured red tractor sourcing of all food products.

And the winner is…

Awards season is now in full swing throughout the industry and our member venues have been getting in on the action.

Congratulations to member, RIBA Venues which was voted the Best UK Conference Venue for 300 to 900 delegates at the Conference Awards 2016, which recognise and reward excellence in the UK events industry.   The judges picked RIBA Venues, with its conference facilities and auditorium for up to 400 delegates, due to the impressive approach and strong commitment to customer service and flexible food concepts.

The QEII Centre was also recognised at the Conference Awards 2016, receiving a mark of excellence in the Best Conference Venue Customer Service Over 600 Delegates category.

Cavendish Conference Centre achieved finalist status in the Best Conference Venue Customer Service Up to 600 Delegates category and One Great George Street were also named as finalists in the Best Conference Venue Up to 300 Delegates category.

In other awards news, we’re proud to have members Denis Hickey of Cavendish Venues, Stuart Drummond and Steven Mann of the QEII Centre and Stephanie Gadd of Victory Services Club shortlisted for a prestigious miaList award.

Run by The Meetings Industry Association the miaList celebrates individuals from the meetings, hospitality and events industry who go above and beyond the call of duty. We wish them the best of luck for the lunch on Friday, 16 September when the winners will be announced.

Private members club website gets a new lease of life

The Victory Services Club website has been given a brand new look and the finished website is better than ever. Updated to include some of the latest features in web design, the new site gives online visitors an enjoyable experience that matches that offered at the club itself.

The new site’s navigation makes it easier than ever before for online visitors to find what they’re looking for, and to find out more about the fantastic venue and exceptional in-house catering on offer at the 100 year old Club.

The revamped events section of the new site has been designed to encourage individuals and corporate event bookers to engage with our first class in-house events team. Event bookers looking for somewhere to host a corporate event, from award ceremonies to private dining, are now just one click away from finding the perfect venue.

With more and more internet users using their smartphones and tablets to browse the web, having a website that’s mobile optimised is essential for the modern marketplace. The new Victory Services Club website is responsive so whether visitors view it from a mobile, tablet, laptop or PC the site will automatically adjust itself to suit the device it’s being viewed on.

The Club’s investment in the new website reflects its commitment to offering visitors the very best in customer service and will help take the venue, so richly steeped in history and heritage, into the next chapter of its story.

For more information about the Victory Services Club and to check out the new website visit www.vsc.co.uk

QEII Centre unveils spectacular new look at launch event

The QEII Centre opened its doors to clients, event agencies, buyers and media at its official, invitation-only launch party on Thursday 13th November.

With walls flooded in icy blue lighting, candle-lit lanterns buried in mounds of fluffy white snow and an ice sculpture etched with an iconic Big Ben scene, guests to the QEII Centre were welcomed into a winter wonderland inspired foyer for champagne, served from a twinkling pop-up bar. It was a wow-factor moment for those who hadn’t yet experienced the new-look entrance, now bright and spacious, with raised ceilings, sleek airport style check-in desks, multiple ultra-wide 29-inch screens, a concierge desk, a video wall made up of nine ultra-slim bezel 55-inch screens and the new Sanctuary executive lounge.

True to the wintery theme, two friendly huskies stole much of the limelight, until QEII Centre chief executive Mark Taylor took to the podium to introduce the official launch of a rebranding project 18 months in the making.

The centre then turned up the heat as guests shimmied upstairs into the tropical themed Pickwick Suite to the sizzling sounds of Cuban band Kandela mi Son and the energetic moves of ultra-glam, feather-clad Samba dancers from Brazilian Fantasy.

Cocktails, canapés, delicious bowl food and a dessert station by Leith’s fuelled guests for some action on the sparkly gold dancefloor. Hot dishes served included ‘tequila and lime confit salmon, black bean, coriander rice’ and ‘pumpkin tortellini and roast artichoke velouté’, while desserts included ‘mojito macarons’ and ‘pineapple cake with vanilla buttercream’.

Speaking of The QEII Centre’s re-launch event and the process of evolving this iconic brand, Taylor said:

“It’s a proud moment as we officially launch the spectacular new look we’ve achieved through the first two phases of our £12 million capital investment programme at the QEII Centre. We’ve been ‘quietly evolving’ over the past 18 months and beneath our new look we have been building and strengthening our business to bring to you a centre of excellence. This re-launch event is just one of many milestones in the delivery of our new vision.

“Following a strategic audit we developed our comprehensive building master plan; one that expressly complements the original finishes and strengths of the building’s architecture and provides practical and innovative solutions to improve our visitors’ total experience.

“We’re sexier, trendier and more confident than we’ve ever been before thanks to the installation of cutting-edge technology and luxury fixtures and fittings. The welcome has been reenergised too, with a new concierge team, a bright and spacious new foyer and a more discrete day-to-day security presence. We wanted to break down the barriers to the welcome.

“In branding terms, we have not only rebranded in a contemporary design to reflect our vision going forward, but we have also altered our name to simply ‘QEII Centre’ to reflect the diversity of our event portfolio and capabilities. We’re always a centre for conferences, but also for exhibitions, fashion shows, product launches, banquets, awards presentations and more. A focal point for knowledge and for fine service.

“The QEII was built as a beacon of British excellence, craftsmanship and technology and we are determined to return the centre to its former standing as London’s finest multi-purpose events facility.”

The bold new brand identity is reflective of the change that has taken place within The QEII Centre. Colin Green, creative director at Wildfire, the integrated creative agency responsible for the centre’s new branding, said:

“We wanted to establish the venue as a go-to destination, where clients are continually delighted and expectations are always exceeded; a place to be bold, to challenge perceptions, in the boundless pursuit of perfection. Moving forward the QEII Centre will firmly establish itself as London’s finest specialist events venue, becoming renowned for delivering professional, award-winning events that put the needs of the client at the heart of their philosophy.

“Wildfire are particularly proud of watching this iconic venue begin to realise its true potential. There is further change on the horizon, so watch this space.”

Suppliers to the re-launch event included in-house caterer Leith’s, event management company Wonderland Events, creative communications consultancy Custard Communications, Instagram photobooth creator Social Playground and talented band Kandela mi Son.

Follow news of the venue’s new look on twitter @QEIICentre using hashtag #QEIILookAtMe and on Instagram @qeiicentre

Explore the hireable events spaces available at the centre by visiting www.qeiicentre.london.


Off to Work Training Academy launches ‘How to…’ video demos for events staff

Events and hospitality staff can now access six brand new, bitesize training videos, produced by hospitality staff supplier and training provider Off to Work (OTW).

Available free of charge via OTW’s online video channel OTV, the light-hearted demonstrations have been created in response to demand for interactive learning experiences, with Off to Work trainers walking viewers through simple, step-by-step instructions for making lip-smacking cocktails like the rum Daiquiri and the Gin Collins. They also talk about the history of the spirits, where they come from and what they’re best used for.

See barista Thomas “Ricco” Reid brew and pour a perfect ‘flat white’ as he explains how this popular Australian coffee style differs from the latte. Learn how to box a table too, with smart tablecloth folding tips from Terry Jones, before perfecting elegant up-do, the hair bun – an event grooming staple made easy by Annie Jones and hair model Susanna Born.

Off to Work Training Academy uses these short videos as refreshers for basic but essential events and hospitality skills and they’re free for anyone to download and watch from the OTW website. Other videos in the series include tips on how to open and pour wine and champagne, how to tie a Double Windsor knot and how to clear five plates from a table.

How to make a flat whitePresented by Thomas “Ricco” Reid
How to make a Bloody MaryPresented by Jazz Evans
How to make a DaiquiriPresented by Terry Jones
How to make a Gin CollinsPresented by Josh Smith
How to box a tablePresented by Terry Jones
How to make a hair bunPresented by Annie Jones, with hair model Susanna Born

Speaking of the launch of the new hospitality skills videos, Matthew Hubbard, OTW’s service development director, says:

“These new video instalments in the Off to Work training library are produced to support the extensive classroom and practical hospitality training we provide our team and clients. While an open resource for all in the hospitality industry, they help to deliver the exacting standards we believe in and enable amazing experiences for our clients and their guests.”

View or download OTV’s complete series of ‘How to…’ videos free of charge.

Events staff supplier commits £100k to skills training

Events staff supplier and training provider Off to Work has pledged to invest £100,000 into the training of its casual staff team this year, as announced at the company’s recent Event School.

Inspiring service staff, hospitality and events professionals to be more creative in the way they style, design and market all aspects of their events offering was central to the theme of this year’s Event School, an initiative created and run by Off to Work to deliver a programme of practical skills training to its staff teams, clients and to students and the wider events and hospitality industry.

Event School saw workshops in event photography, wine buying for events and designer cocktail mixing combine with lessons in persuasive copywriting, proposal crafting and effective use of technology and social media, all hosted at Off to Work’s dedicated London training academy, the London Irish Centre, in Camden on 9th and 10th April 2013.

“We understand the huge steps many of our clients have been making in the development of their service product and it is our commitment to provide them with a staffing resource that mirrors their service standards,” said Robert Persson, director of operations for Off to Work.

“We have always been 100% committed to the training and mentoring of our team and this year we’re pleased to pledge a £100,000 investment into training initiatives especially for our casual staff team. While people may work for us on a casual basis, their commitment is far from casual and so we are eager to give these ambitious staff, at all levels, the opportunity to develop their experience and career with Off to Work.”

Workshop speakers included Simon Owen, director of Red Photographic, Miriam Staley, former finalist on The Apprentice and now managing director of speaker sourcing agency MakeWaves, Carlos Blanco of Blanco & Gomez Wine Merchants, David Wise from Wise Productions and events consultant Emma Boardman of The Lovely Party Company. Off to Work was also delighted to have the involvement and support of ISES, with operations manager Toni Griggs leading the workshop on event marketing technology.

Former Off to Work employee Keri Moss, winner of Masterchef: The Professionals and now head chef at The Corner Restaurant at Selfridges, also joined Nick Mead, director of Eden Caterers, Vicky O’Hare, managing director of Party Ingredients and Gerald Aberdeen, executive head chef for Table Talk, in a lively panel discussion about the challenges of designing menus with locally sourced produce when the UK’s seasons are so temperamental. They also discussed the opportunity the events industry has to speed up how quickly it takes lessons and influences from the food and dining trends paved by the fashionable restaurant set.

Sharing positive feedback on her experience at Event School 2013, Jada Johnson, events manager for Eden Caterers, said: “We all found it to be informative and worth our time. I really enjoyed my two classes. The copywriting class was really good, with some good techniques I will be putting into practice in our blog and in my proposals. I’m sure you were all really pleased with the increased turn out on last year. The list of attendees also meant that I met some interesting people.”

The workshop programme was followed on the evening of 10th April by the Off to Work London Staff Awards, a special celebration of the star performers within the Off to Work staff team. Prize categories ranged from Staff Member of the Year – won by Himali Ginige Palihawadana – and Best Event Porter (Peter Korkhill), to Best Supervisor (Vittore Zanardi) and Most Improved (Alessandro Riccarelli).

Book now for Off to Work’s Event School 2013 – 9th & 10th April

Award-winning event staff supplier, recruitment consultancy and professional training academy Off to Work is delighted to launch its Event School for 2013, with a special focus on style and design.

With names like Masterchef winner Keri Moss and former The Apprentice contestant Miriam Staley within the speaker line-up, bookings are expected to be snapped up quickly for the two-day workshop series, which will run on Tuesday 9th and Wednesday 10th April at the London Irish Centre, Off to Work’s dedicated Training Academy in Camden, London.

Building on the success of last year’s school, Event School 2013: Style & Design will bring together renowned professionals from successful creative businesses to deliver a practical, workshop-led programme focusing on specific areas of the event planning and delivery cycle.

From a designer ‘mocktail’ mixing masterclass with Sejuiced and a lesson in wine buying for events with Blanco & Gomez, to workshops in food styling and event storytelling through photography with Red Photographic, room theming and lighting with Wise Production, plus content marketing and event communication tips from Custard Communications, Event School 2013 is aimed at event planners, event coordinators and managers, event agencies, caterers, F&B staff, chefs, marketing staff and business development teams.

Highlights of the programme include a networking lunch and concurrent panel debate on ‘Menu design for events’, featuring Keri Moss, winner of MasterChef: The Professionals 2012, Nick Mead, director at Eden Caterers, Vicky O’Hare, managing director of Party Ingredients and Gerald Aberdeen, executive head chef for Table Talk. These expert menu developers and chefs will share tips and tricks for planning a show-stopping selection of dishes that are not diluted by challenging dietary restrictions.

The workshop style of the programme means that delegates can pick and choose which ‘modules’ best fit their job role and requirements and attend these sessions as one-off learning experiences.

Attendees working in events and hospitality will leave inspired and equipped with tangible skills to aid their career development and to maximise the impact and profitability of future events.

“We’re pleased to welcome our clients, our team and all events professionals to attend any or all of the Event School’s workshops. We’ve designed workshops to be intimate, with a cap on 20 people, to ensure you can enjoy a focused and interactive learning environment,” said Philip Atkins, managing director, Off to Work. The exceptions to this are the educational, networking lunches.

A vibrant and sociable company, Off to Work has been providing the finest, skilled staff to the events and hospitality industries throughout the UK and overseas since 2001. Throughout this time, the company has stayed true to its guiding principle ‘to help provide some of the best experiences and memories people have ever had’ – something they achieve by remaining committed to hiring only the people most passionate about hospitality.

Event School 2013: Style & Design will take place on 9th & 10th April 2013 at London Irish Centre, Camden Square, London, NW1 9XB. For the full workshop programme, to find out more information or to book, please email Lucy Katan, call 020 3155 1975, or visit the dedicated website page.

Workshops are priced at £40+VAT each and package rates are available if you’d like to attend multiple sessions.

Booking event space online? You could be missing out on inside knowledge from venue staff

By Clare Hodgkinson, marketing executive, Church House Conference Centre

For event organisers time is precious. Today, through advances in technology, event organisers are being given the option to take a virtual tour of a venue, book event space, catering and AV, and make payment at the click of a button. But is this the way forward for all venues?

Are those venues that don’t have online booking facilities regarded as old fashioned and missing out on business? Will all event booking be done online in future?

There are many advantages to online booking, but it may not necessarily be the most practical option for everyone. For venues with similar sized event spaces, online booking could be a feasible option, but for unique venues with diverse event spaces, like those at Church House Conference Centre in Westminster, these are more effectively booked by the in-house events team. That’s because it’s the in-house events team which has the best insight into the most suitable event spaces for the client sourcing a space for a particular event. It’s also because they know the tricks for maximising space.

Having that human element in your booking process means you are talking to an events professional, whether that is via telephone or by coming to a venue to meet their team and have a showround. This one-to-one interaction can have a significant influence on whether a booking is made.

The friendliness and professionalism of a venue’s team is often a crucial factor, and this of course cannot be judged online. Furthermore, it is still widely acknowledged that people buy from people.

In addition to these factors, it has to be questioned whether it is a good thing for clients to be able to see availability. Due to the logic of supply and demand, if a client sees there are very few bookings around the time of their event, they may be inclined to push down the pricing significantly. Furthermore, if a venue is suffering from lack of business, it is unlikely this is something they would want to advertise.

So what’s the solution? Is it about finding a compromise? Having some event spaces and services available for booking online whilst keeping others offline? Or should venues that choose to keep booking offline simply pride themselves in the personal and friendly service they offer? People are, after all, at the very heart of the events industry.