LONDON VENUES: Capital choice - With so many venues in London why not try somewhere new? Whether you're hosting a product launch or a corporate party, Philip Chadwick surveys the cream of the capital's alternative sites

British Library

The UK's national library opened in 1998 at a cost of pounds 511m. As

well as its collection of 16 million books, 500,000 newspaper titles and

four million maps the venue near King's Cross also has a purpose-built

conference centre. Alongside this is the Terrace Restaurant, which can

host formal evening dinners for up to 150.

The restaurant is one of the brightest areas of the building with a

curved wall of glass that makes it one of the venue's most striking

rooms. During the summer the restaurant can be coupled with the terrace

for a pre-dinner drinks reception.

The conference centre has a 255-seat auditorium with audio-visual

facilities and a suite of four meeting rooms.

Tel: 020 7380 1916

British Museum

The attraction in Great Russell Street in central London has a host of

galleries giving clients plenty of options if they want to host a

corporate dinner. And the museum's inner courtyard, known as the Great

Court, had been hidden for 150 years until it was transformed with a

pounds 100m renovation, opening at the end of last year.

This mix of modern and traditional architecture as well as the

opportunity to hold events alongside exhibits has made it a popular

choice for some. 'It has majestic surroundings,' says Fisher Productions

sales and marketing manager Emma Jeynes. 'The glass and steel roof in

the Great Court is stunning.'

Tel: 020 7323 8779

32 Craven Street

This Georgian house is in the heart of London near Trafalgar Square. Its

tiled roof helps to give it a unique look and the venue is suitable for

smaller events for up to 80, such as lunches, dinners and elegant

parties. Six rooms are available, the largest two being the William

Craven Room and the Benjamin Franklin Room.

The 250-year-old venue has retained many of its original features

including timber wall panelling, the fireplace and staircase, which are

only found in Mayfair houses of the Georgian period.

Tel: 020 7930 1110

Hampton Court

'Most people associate the venue with Henry VIII,' says Hampton Court

function manager Andrea Laird. 'But it has 500 years of history with

many historical periods.' The venue is available for corporate and

charity events, but does not stage product launches. One of the rooms

available is Henry VIII's Great Hall, while during the summer, the

gardens can be used for receptions.

'We have had a whole variety of events including awards and concerts,'

adds Laird. 'We also offer tours in the evening. One of our biggest

events was for 3,500 guests with a marquee in the gardens.'

Prices for the hire begin with a facility fee, which starts at about

pounds 4,000 and can rise as high as pounds 9,000 although it depends on

the number of guests and what form the event will take.

'We want to dispel the myth that Hampton Court is miles from London,'

explains Laird. 'There are regular trains from Waterloo and you can also

arrive by boat on the Thames.'

Tel: 020 8781 9508

Kensington Palace

A corporate event here is not cheap - it will set you back pounds 8,000

plus VAT to hire the facilities. But companies of the calibre of Goldman

Sachs, ITV and BT have all splashed out on hiring the venue.

The west London attraction, once the home of Princess Diana, offers

private tours along with any dinner and reception. Clients wanting to

dine in the Victorian Garden Rooms have the option of using the Red

Saloon room where Queen Victoria held her first Privy Council meeting in


'People like something different which is why we offer the private view

of the venue and dinner,' says Kensington Palace business development

manager Charlotte Baker. However, anyone wanting to hire the venue will

have to be quick as it is nearly booked up for the year.

Tel: 020 7376 2452

Madame Tussaud's

London's most popular paid-for visitor attraction was named Venue of the

Year at the Corporate Hospitality & Event Association awards in


Madame Tussaud's can be hired for events with between 50 and 600


The Baker Street venue aims to provide 'evening events with a


Guests can start the event with cocktails in the Garden Party area

alongside waxworks of the stars of stage and screen, followed by dinner

in the Grand Hall. Here, people can dine alongside models of the Royal

family, heads of state and politicians from Tony Blair and Bill Clinton

to William Hague and Saddam Hussein.

Tel: 020 7487 0264

New Armouries, Tower of London

This is a relatively new addition to the venue scene having opened in

February with a glamorous corporate launch, hosted by Moving Venue


Its banqueting hall can accommodate up to 240 seated or 300 for cocktail

receptions. Seated dinners can be accompanied by a walk-through tour of

the Jewel House or a cocktail reception in the White Tower. The central

London venue was built in 1663 and originally contained arms and


'It is a case of a new venue being created at the oldest venue in

London,' says Moving Venue Caterers managing director Richard Beggs. 'We

hit on the idea of a partnership for the launch evening so our clients

could see the new venue as it would look when functions are held


Tel: 020 7488 5762

Old Sessions House

This venue in Clerkenwell Green, east London opened in 1782 as a

courthouse and soon earned a reputation for harsh sentencing. It

continued operating as a courthouse until 1920, but it wasn't until 1981

that the venue was restored and able to cater for events.

The Old Sessions House can cater for groups of up to 180 for a

theatre-style product launch. It has seven large function rooms and

claims it 'can be adapted to suit almost all requirements'.

A range of entertainment is on offer from cabaret singers and discos to

comedians and Scottish highland dancers.

The largest room is the Westminster room. Its 128sq m of space can cater

for 130 for a dinner or 170 theatre-style.

Tel: 020 7250 1212.

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