Showcase: The Visit London Awards

Celebrating all that goes into promoting the capital, this event is gaining in stature each year. Report by Lorraine Francisco.

The third annual Visit London Awards had a distinct environmental feel this year, right down to the bonsai trees presented to the winners.

The unconventional gongs even prompted celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay to exclaim: "Thanks for my fucking bonsai," as he accepted the Award for Outstanding Achievement.

Sustainability remained a constant theme throughout the evening. An accolade dedicated to the sector, the Future London Sustainable Tourism Award, was introduced, and went to Apex City of London Hotel for demonstrating commitment to sustainable practices in all areas of its business.

Live, which organised the ceremony for the second time, reinforced the importance of being eco-friendly. "Sustainability is a key element to all business in our age so we worked to minimise the environmental impact of the event," says project director Meredith Earl. "Much of the kit we used on the night was in-house, but where we had to bring elements in, we used local suppliers so that transport costs would be minimised."

Another essential theme was youth initiatives. The Roundhouse gives young people who have little or no access to arts education a chance to develop skills in music, design, performance, radio and film, and the venue's youth choir and dance group performed during the event.

Charity Childline also had a presence. Guests who donated to the charity were entered into a raffle, with prizes including Eurostar tickets and a trip to Cairo. The main prize was sponsored by Tutankhamun Hospitality, a joint venture involving the Hospitality in Partnership and Arts and Exhibitions International.

Visit London commercial director David Hornby says the Roundhouse was chosen as "we always try to find a venue that is relatively new and unusual".

The event was held in the main space and Circle Gallery, which covers 2,000 sqm. "The venue is routinely a dry-hire site," says Roundhouse head of events Susan Stuart. "This means clients are provided with the space, toilets, kitchen area, and a water and power source. These resources are then managed, operated and controlled by the client's event management and production teams. The agency has to provide the power distribution and all kitchen equipment, as well as all the technical production aspects of the show. We do not even provide the cleaners, so clients must do that as well."

FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH

The Visit London Awards has grown significantly from an event of 480 people at the Natural History Museum in 2004, to 830 people attending this year. Visit London chief executive James Bidwell says: "It is the one night when we can thank the people who work in tourism in London."

Eurostar was the event's main sponsor. "This is the second time we have sponsored the awards as part of a three-year deal," says director of communications Simon Montague. "Eurostar is delighted to be associated with the event as it highlights the very best in London tourism."

Venue The O2 chief executive David Campbell agrees. "I think the best thing about the awards is that it gets bigger and sells out faster," he says. "It's the Oscars of London tourism and has become more than an awards ceremony - it's a celebration of all that's good in the capital. Tourism is very important and is around 10% of London's business."

GMTV's Kate Garraway hosted the ceremony for a second time, while the entertainment, sponsored by The O2, was headlined by soul singer Jocelyn Brown. "The Visit London Awards audience encompasses a diverse range of people and we wanted an artiste who would be relevant to them all, and that had to be Jocelyn Brown," says Live's Earl. "We needed a diva to fill that space. Ministry of Sound, a Visit London partner, provided its DJ Jazzy M to take over from her."

Happy with the event, Visit London's Hornby concludes: "I hope people walk away from the awards and want to be involved again, having had a good night and a great experience."

FACT FILE
Visit London Awards 2006
Date: 23 November
Organiser: Visit London
Agency: Live
Venue: Roundhouse
Space: 2,000 sqm
Lighting: Essential Lighting
Audio-visuals: CT and Dimension Audio
Staging: Bicknell Scenery
Rigging: Flying Squad Rigging
Prompt: Portaprompt
Graphics: RHM Signs
Security and labour: Gallowglass


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