Unique Venues: Magnificent seven

People who work in the events arena give Jeremy King their own, personal recommendations for the venues that cut it as being that little bit different

1. The Concept Centre is a favourite haunt of event management firm Pandemonium's managing director Simon Garrett. The Bedfordshire venue is owned by General Motors and has historically catered for the motor trade, but it has more recently repositioned itself as ideal for parties.

"The centrepiece is a high-speed bowl and you can often spot new Audis hammering round at 200kmph. In the middle of all this is The Concept Centre. You can organise a straightforward party or ride and drive experiences," says Garrett.

The purpose-built venue comprises three structures that can host events for up to 1,200 people and offers creative cuisine, a blank canvas environment and a production venue management team.

2. Deborah Fullerton, an account manager at venue-finder IBR, recommends London's historic Royal Courts of Justice. "It offers something very different and requires little redecoration because of its natural beauty. And the venue is in the Strand, making it easily accessible to everyone," she notes.

The 850 sq m Great Hall can be used as a backdrop to a dinner-dance, reception or theatre-style event, while the Costume Gallery is divided into two sections covering 158 sq m and 165 sq m.

3. Dish Catering has provided food and drink at events in countless venues up and down the UK including the launch of a collection of Marilyn Monroe memorabilia at art gallery White Space in County Hall. The venue on London's South Bank can hold up to 150 for a sit-down dinner and has proved popular for corporate parties and product launches. Dish Catering director Fiona Stewart-Brown says: "It was a fun venue to create and style a menu for."

4. MTV Networks Europe organises high-profile events across the Continent and last year staged all the hospitality for the MTV Europe Music Awards in Ocean Terminal shopping centre, Western Harbour in Edinburgh.

MTV Networks Europe pan-european marketing and event director Macky Drese says: "Ocean Terminal's proximity to the main show venue was perfect for our needs and the generous space allowed us to create a dramatic setting. We were also able to create separate spaces with different themes and music."

5. John Birger, head of UK operations at event management outfit MJM, believes it is important that venues are willing to be innovative. For this reason he advocates Kew Gardens in south-west London. "There are some great unusual venues but they do not always bring anything different to the party," he says. "Kew Gardens is forward-thinking and progressive and the available space means it can hold almost any type of live event."

The venue, which lies ten miles from central London, can accommodate up to 1,000 guests in corporate facilities including Nash Conservatory, Cambridge Cottage and Temperate House.

6. Venue finder EventWise names Delfina Studios in London as its current favourite unique venue. The south London facility is light, bright, modern and spacious and situated in a converted Victorian chocolate factory, which offers a spacious backdrop for a whole range of corporate events, according to EventWise director Penny Ellis.

She adds that the venue's "clean blank canvas" coupled with an outstanding quality of service is the key to satisfying the most demanding of clients.

"The location and versatility of this contemporary venue is an ideal setting to stage unique and memorable events. It enables us to tailor bespoke events and bring inspiration and creativity to the service we offer our clients," she says.

7. For Jacqui Partridge, managing director at Partridge Design, the top floor at Turnmills on Clerkenwell Road in east London is one of the most unusual spaces she has ever worked with. The venue operates as a nightclub and restaurant and Partridge says it lets clients work with a blank canvas.

Turnmills general manager Magda Newman says: "The top floor provides a funky feel. The space, which allows for 50 people seated and 120 standing, is very flexible. We have held a number of events there ranging from a Russian party to a law firm's sit-down meal."


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