Behind NME Lines

No-shows, not enough food and power failures are just three of the more common pitfalls sent to test organisers of award ceremonies. Jeremy King spends a day finding out just what it takes to put together the revered NME Awards.

10.00am Against a sonic backdrop of beating drums and humming guitars I enter Hammersmith Palais, where the soundchecks have started ahead of tonight's Shockwaves-sponsored NME Awards. I realise this will be a challenge as I attempt to shadow the organisers amid the noise and chaos.

10.30am After acclimatising to the sound of emerging rock act Kaiser Chiefs rehearsing, I am introduced to the ceremony's main organiser, Foxy Events managing director Pauline Carroll. Carroll has organised the last three annual NME Awards, with the help of dedicated teams from both the Palais and catering companies such as Richmond Catering.

11.00am As the soundchecks continue, the catering staff lay the tables, while television company Remedy and production agency Reality put together the relevant links, a process that began in the early hours of the previous day. Carroll, who has been preparing the event since October, says the 49th Awards show will be the biggest yet. "We only started having live performances again four years ago," she says, "and this year we have nine acts. Worrying about no-shows is stressful, but so far the signs are good. The Kaiser Chiefs got off the plane from Toronto and came straight here this morning. We usually find a way around problems, such as the year when Ryan Adams was meant to perform with Noel Gallagher, but broke his wrist the night before. We had to ship in a string quartet for Noel to do a solo acoustic set."

11.45am With guests due to start arriving at 4.00pm, Richmond Caterers business development manager Val Payne heads to the kitchen to ensure everything is under way. The day before, Payne discovered that the power used for soundchecks meant there was not enough left to operate the kitchen equipment. "We had to have a generator craned in so we can provide a three-course meal for 530 guests and a buffet for 255 press and competition winners. We couldn't risk not having our own separate power supply," she says.

12.30pm While the crew's lunch is served, Palais manager Matt Talbot, events booker Sarah Barnes and events and promotions manager Atif Malik meet with Payne and Carroll to ensure everything is going according to plan. "I thought yesterday would be the most stressful, but today definitely is," says Carroll. "At the moment, touch wood, everything is going okay."

12.45pm After a quick overview of the tables and the stage area, and answering her ever-ringing mobile phone, Carroll chats for a couple of minutes with fellow organiser Louise Stevens of Ballistic Events. "I've now had to turn my mobile off," says Carroll. "XFM DJ Christian O'Connell revealed the line-up of artists and people have been phoning me constantly asking for tickets. Why they leave it so late I don't know."

1.45pm Under the guidance of Reality production manager Paul Corrick and his team, the Remedy crew, along with NME associate editor Dan Silver, go through a rehearsal with celebrity presenters Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. As they run through the script and the awards, careful not to give away the winners, Carroll casts a watchful eye over proceedings and talks with NME editor Conor McNicholas and Pegg.

2.30pm New Order take to the stage to prepare for their performance, while Barnes and Carroll take a group of potential clients on a tour of the venue. "We have two companies coming down to see just how the Palais can be adapted for any type of creative event," says Barnes. At the same time, Talbot is showing health and safety inspectors around the venue, making sure it adheres to every policy and all the exits are clear.

3.00pm After an important meeting in Soho with a promoter, the venue's head of music and promotions Dave Gaydon, who has been instrumental in getting the right bands involved with the ceremony, heads straight into a meeting with Malik to ensure everything is in place for the start of the show.

4.00pm The first guests start to arrive and things really begin to take off. Suddenly it's all systems go as Payne's catering team, with the help of some staff from Esprit, are fully briefed on their duties for the evening. Afterwards, they start to put out the buffet food and the venue's bar staff prepare the complimentary arrival drinks.

4.30pm The red carpet starts to heave with the likes of Noel and Liam Gallagher, Sir Paul McCartney and actress Juliette Lewis, and Carroll has one final moment of panic as she checks that the winners' names correspond with the right awards. A quick rummage through the sealed boxes puts her mind at rest.

6.00pm With everyone from New Order to The Libertines taking their places for dinner, the event begins in earnest. Apart from two tongue-in-cheek complaints from one rock star about the air conditioning and lack of beer, despite there being a table-full, on the night the event really rocks.


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