My Event World - Moya Maxwell

Moya Maxwell, chair of Unique Venues of London, is also head of commercial programming at the Royal Opera House. She talked to Event about why the Bafta Film Awards was a career highlight, why she detests discounting and why she wants to throw her weight behind industry associations.

Chair of Unique Venues of London, Moya Maxwell
Chair of Unique Venues of London, Moya Maxwell

I got into the event industry because I wanted to work in the arts world, but did a business degree. So I opted for working in the events industry, as it is the showbiz of the corporate world and seemed like the perfect fit.

I have worked here since... I have been chair of Unique Venues of London since September 2012 and I have been head of commercial programming at the Royal Opera House since 2004.

I was attracted to this particular role because I had been responsible for Royal Opera House joining Unique Venues of London in 2004, and got involved in the member events. The consortium gives venues an opportunity to pool our expertise and resources, encouraging the use of our iconic buildings and organisations for events. It was a natural progression to serve on the board, which I have done since 2006, and I became chairman following on from the fantastic Lisa Hatswell becoming our permanent general manager in 2012.

Not many people know that I am also responsible for programming the main stage of the Royal Opera House during the summer period. The Rufus Wainwright residency, Bolshoi and Mariinsky ballet Cubania, were particular highlights for me. So watch this space for summer 2015.

The best event I’ve been involved with was the Bafta Film Awards without a doubt. It has to be a career highlight bringing that event to the Royal Opera House. With a tight five-day build outside on Bow Street, and with only one night to build on stage for the actual award ceremony, it always feels like a monumental achievement when everything is up and running. We didn't get much sleep that particular weekend, and we walked miles on the day – but needless to say it is always a huge thrill. 

If I could do it all over again I would relax more and enjoy the moment. Too often we spend events anticipating the next deadline and managing the minutiae. It’s a sad fact that we rarely take time to appreciate what we’ve created.

The one thing I can’t stand is discounting. A key lesson I learned early in my career is be proud of your pricing. In the unique and heritage events sector the message should always be about upselling and adding value, rather than discounting. There are so many venues in the group with additional experiences to enjoy as part of an event. From backstage tours and curatorial talks, to special wine tastings and seeing real-life penguins, there are endless opportunities to ensure an event is memorable.

Outside of work I spend time enjoying London’s arts and culture – I am a theatre and exhibition junkie. To relax, I spend time on my allotment. It is in south-east London, on a hill, with the most amazing panoramic view of London. It never fails to put me in the right frame of mind.

If money were no object I would buy a Georgian house and renovate.

If I could switch places with anyone else in the industry it would be Clare Brown of Bafta, who is responsible for delivering all of Bafta's award ceremonies. She is such a professional, so calm under pressure and has an amazing talent for recruiting just the nicest team around her. I love working with her.

If I ruled the event industry I would throw my weight behind associations such as the Institute of Event Management. Our sector has been crying out for something like this for a long time. I truly hope that the fledging organisation flourishes and that the industry as a whole gives it the support it needs to ensure its initiatives are adopted across the industry.

Want to be featured in a future My Event World?  Email news editor Samantha Edwards for further details.

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