Think of London and some of the first venues you may think of are
London Zoo, Madame Tussaud's and the BA London Eye. They may also be
some of the first places that are being chosen as venues to host live
For a venue that is a tourist attraction the opportunity to have clients
booking up during an off-peak period is a lucrative one. London Zoo, for
example, uses part of its grounds to host Christmas parties and has
linked with event management company Fortesqueue's to organise them.
This year's theme is "Atlantis - the myth and the legend".
"We use the zoo's lawn area in the quiet period of December," says
Fortesqueues managing director Scott Balfour. "For our Christmas parties
we are having a two-tier marquee, which is quite unusual for that time
of year. Last year was busy as we had 13,500 people through the
The company chose to launch its Christmas party package in July, a time
of year that should have ensured sunshine. But the unpredictable British
climate decided to unleash rain on to the launch. A marquee was set up
to keep the guests dry as they enjoyed their Pimms and canapes.
"We were aware of the weather about 48 hours in advance but it was a bit
in the lap of the gods," adds Balfour.
"We did make allowances for having enough dry cover and making everyone
As well as having to contend with the weather, the launch also had to
take place when the venue was at its busiest.
"We had many vehicles and 35 people involved to put together the event.
Everything had to be coordinated and managed quite carefully," explains
Balfour. "We had to start early. The area we worked in was cordoned off
preventing anyone from walking in the working area.
But the number one priority for London Zoo is the paying visitors."
Fay Sharpe, sales and marketing director at venue finding agency IBR,
warns that tourist venues can be inflexible. "You have to bear in mind
that they need time to close and clean the venue before your event can
start," she says. "Museums, for example, have strict rules about
Robert Wright, managing partner at venue marketing agency Davies Tanner
thinks this reflects a difference in attractions where access is free
and those where it isn't.
"The staff that are employed at venues with paying customers tend to
come from a commercial sector background," he says. "Those venues that
have free entry are more likely to have people from an art and heritage
background. But it's a difficult balance as public visitors are an
A different dimension
"Event organisers are always looking for something different and
Tourist attractions tend to have a different aspect and dimension on the
event," Wright adds.
Sharpe adds: "But they can offer a fantastic backdrop for large dinners
such as the Natural History Museum. Other tourist attractions include
the BA London Eye, which offers a fantastic view of London. Dinners at
Madame Tussauds are also very successful."
"We appeal on the basis that we are totally unique and incredibly
popular," explains Madame Tussaud's corporate and special events manager
"The main point is that we are the only venue like this in the
Madame Tussaud's can be used for any event whether formal or informal
and all the events take place in an exclusive area."
Clients get the chance to have cocktails in the garden party area with
waxworks of film and TV stars. Then they can move into the grand hall
and dine with models of politicians and heads of state.
"Most people are well behaved around the exhibits," says Parker. "They
are interested in the waxworks and we don't move them out of the way as
they are an important part of the venue."
"The corporate market is always looking for something different," agrees
Fortesqueues' Balfour. "You want to take guests somewhere different - a
themed environment. With the underwater theme at London Zoo this year,
we're bringing the theatre to them.
If you can get the guests to say 'wow' then you've done it."
IBR's Sharpe adds: "It makes more impact if you do something extra. You
want to inspire people and create a different setting."
The London Studios is another venue that on a day-to-day basis is not a
setting that would immediately spring to mind as a place to host an
event. But when not recording programmes such as Have I Got News for You
and Blind Date, the venue is able to use its facilities for any client
wanting to host an event there.
"We can do anything with the venue," explains London Studios head of
business communications Cathy Schulz. "For example, the lighting we
offer can transform a flat and dull surrounding into a beautifully lit
Clients that have used the venue for events and product launches include
British Airways, Prima, which held its High Street Fashion Awards there
in May, and the Conservative Party, which used the facilities for a
general election rally in June.
"It all depends on the client's requirements," says Schulz. "For the
Prima awards we had space for a large catwalk while for other special
events audience seating can be brought in. The green rooms can also be
used. They are quite small and are used more for catering and as holding
rooms for the press, celebrities and VIP speakers."
A new alternative venue for the capital is set to officially open in
December. The London College of Fashion's (LCF) Rootstein Hopkins Space
will occupy 446 sq m of space at its John Princes Street building at
Oxford Circus. It will be able to offer catwalk, conference and
exhibition facilities and host a range of live events.
"We will start pro-actively marketing the venue in January but it is
primarily a LCF resource," explains LCF head of communication and
marketing Heather Lambert. "I think it will be in great demand because
it is based in the centre of London and the venue is very flexible."
To accommodate its various uses the space features retractable tiered
seating, a mobile catwalk and "state-of-the-art" lighting and sound
systems. Movable sound proof walls will allow for smaller rooms to be
set up within the venue.
With Christmas fast approaching established venues will all be using
corporate events to boost their revenue. With that in mind, attractions
in London will almost always be willing and able to adapt their
CASE STUDY: DALI UNIVERSE
One of the more recent additions to the London venue market is Dali
Universe at County Hall on the South Bank. The gallery, which exhibits
the work of surrealists Salvador Dali and Picasso, opened last
"People usually expect an art gallery to be white and clinical but Dali
Universe is dark and sexy - not something you would expect from an art
gallery," says Dali Universe event manager Michael Aldridge. "But
anything by Dali will always be something completely different."
In July, IBR used the venue to host a cocktail party for about 40
Guests were greeted by Dali lookalikes and treated to a Spanish tapas
menu. They also enjoyed a private viewing of the exhibits, which include
the sofa shaped like the lips of Mae West (left) and elephants with
"Everyone's heard of Dali," adds Aldridge. "Many people have an image of
a Dali sculpture that springs immediately in their mind."
The venue was set up with the idea that it could host live events as
well as being open for members of the public to pay and see the
Dali Universe has no natural daylight but has its own sound system and
"The artwork can be the central feature of the event and could help if
someone is launching an unusual product," says Aldridge. "From a
corporate event point of view we have had an excellent year. Bookings
have been very strong."
- Fortesqueues: 0870 9010 203
- The London Studios: 020 7261 3632
- London College of Fashion: 020 7514 7427
- Madame Tussauds: 020 7487 0224
- BA London Eye: 020 7654 0864
- Natural History Museum: 020 7942 5434
- Dali Universe: 020 7620 2765