What's new?

Lorraine Francisco examines start-ups, revamps, and established venues making their first forays into the corporate market.

1. BIG BROTHER HOUSE

Where: Elstree Film and TV Studios, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire

Capacity: 120 overall; seated dinner 50

The house where Jade, Bubble, Makosi and Nasty Nick found fame or notoriety is a perfect setting for team building events, as The Ultimate Event Company offers packages that include Big Brother mini-tasks and the use of the diary room. Privileges, such as what housemates have for lunch or how much champagne they can drink at the barbeque, depend on how well they complete tasks, and they can even be evicted. To add to its exclusivity, the house is only available for hire until the end of the month. Special features include paparazzi taking pictures of guests as they arrive or are evicted, photographic souvenirs of guests in the diary room chair, and a film crew to capture the event and air footage to screens within the house. The Ultimate Event Company managing director Sue Martineau says the Big Brother house has it all: "an amazing mix of indoor and outdoor space, completely modern technology, and of course the really fun features such as the diary room, plunge pool and loft room".

2. CHELSEA FC

Where: Stamford Bridge, London SW6

Capacity: reception style 1,000, dinner 650

The Great Hall within Chelsea Football Club was launched in August with a star-studded event called A Century of Chelsea, hosted by Sky Sports presenter Kirsty Gallagher and attended by the Chelsea football team.

Chelsea Football Club marketing manager Carolyn Anderson says: "The Great Hall, situated underneath the stadium's West Stand, can easily cater for up to 650 people for a large banquet or party. The space is roughly 1,600sqm with rigging set up to allow lighting, drapes and AV to be easily assembled.

We recently launched the space with one of our centenary season events and it looked magnificent; the space gives the event organiser a blank canvas to try anything they can imagine. Furthermore, because the space is at Chelsea FC, the location is desirable and adds kudos to the event."

3. COVENT GARDEN MARKET

Where: London WC2

Capacity: 1,500 overall; Central Avenue up to 600; South Hall (ground floor) up to 1000; South Hall (basement) 400

Covent Garden Market offers the use of its central avenue, north and south halls and surrounding east and west piazzas. Pubs and bars are available, street entertainers can be booked, and shops around the piazza can be left open for guests only. Agency The Ultimate Experience has a two year contract with Covent Garden Market to stage events, the first of which took place on 9 June when Eurostar launched its new leisure and business class carriages. The Ultimate Experience senior project manager Simon Woodward, who managed the Eurostar event, says: "Covent Garden Market has a truly individual atmosphere, which is created by a combination of its size, architecture, tenants, unusual and talented entertainers, and great bars and pubs. There's no need to make huge changes, and therefore no need for enormous production budgets. All you need to do is section it off, buy out the retailers, throw some light on to some of the beautiful brick and glass, put in a few bars, arrange for the street entertainers to stay around, and there you have it - a great party space. A great feature of the piazza is that should you wish, the shops can be opened during the event for your guests to take part in a little private retail therapy."

4. THE ELECTRIC BARGE

Where: Little Venice, London W2

Capacity: 60

This eco-friendly barge is run by local community charity Beauchamp Lodge Settlement for Paddington. It is used as a floating classroom for London schools, delivering a wide range of educational activities in partnership with companies such as the Science Museum. To help fund the charity the barge is available for hire on weekends, evenings and days not booked by schools. It features a silent, eco-friendly propulsion system, flexible interior layout, panoramic windows, two large open deck spaces, central heating, full wheelchair access and an AV presentation suite with 42-inch plasma screen and Apple computers. The Electric Barge offers two cruise routes: the first, heading east, takes guests on the Camden Cruise along Regent's Canal with views of Maida Hill tunnel, Regent's Park, London Zoo, Primrose Hill and Camden Lock and market. The return journey takes four and a half hours. The second option, the Sunset Cruise, is a three-hour round trip that heads west taking in views of Browning's Pool, Little Venice, and Meanwhile Gardens in North Kensington. Beauchamp Lodge Settlement director Hayley Rose says: "The Electric Barge is a fantastic place to host your party and impress guests. With massive outside decks and panoramic windows, you can enjoy the magic of the water while partying the night away. The Electric Barge's silent running motor means music and dancing are definitely on the agenda to give the boat a great atmosphere."

5. FLORIDITA

Where: 100 Wardour Street, London W1

Capacity: Raised level - reception style 80, seated 58; entire restaurant - reception style 411, seated with dancefloor 250, seated without dancefloor 300

Anyone considering a Cuban themed event should head to Floridita in Soho, which offers Cuban and Latin American cuisine, a selection of Cuban cigars and cocktails, and music provided by live Cuban musicians such as resident band Musica Floridita, and Cuban artistes Eliades Ochoa and Triangulo Oscuro. There is also a live cabaret, and later in the evening international DJs play Cuban, Latin and international beats. The venue has three areas available for hire: Bar Constante, the restaurant and a raised area within the restaurant. In the bar area waiters will make cocktails at your table and expert cigar rollers can hand roll custom-made cigars in front of you. Before an event, to provide a special feature for guests, Floridita can also arrange for branded cigars with logos or company names. An additional service provided by Floridita is its cocktail masterclass, in which a senior bartender instructs guests in how to recreate a Floridita cocktail and then gives them a chance to make one themselves.

6. THE JOHN MADEJSKI GARDEN AT THE VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM

Where: Cromwell Road, London SW7

Capacity: 700

Opened in July, the 2,800sqm Victoria and Albert (V&A) garden designed by Kim Wilkie is styled as a traditional courtyard. At night the garden can be illuminated with lighting designed by Patrick Woodroffe. The windows and facades of the building can also be illuminated. The businessman and philanthropist John Madejski gave the V&A £2m to create the garden. It features a stone-paved oval, with surrounding steps and water jets, which can be filled with water as a reflecting pool or drained for displays and receptions. The York stone terrace surrounding the garden will soon accommodate tables and chairs for cafes and bars. During the summer, glass planters will contain lemon trees, which in winter will be replaced with clipped hollies. The garden's designer, Kim Wilkie, says: "The V&A is one of the major treasures of London and I hope that the garden will act as a pivotal centre for the museum and a new contemporary space for the capital."

7. THIRD FLOOR AT THE LONDON TROCADERO

Where: Piccadilly Circus, London W1

Capacity: 200-2,500; level five reception - 800; level four nightclub area - 400; level three main dining and conference space - dining 750, conferences 550

The third floor at the Trocadero is now available as an event space until January 2006. The former space for Sega World offers event organisers three main areas, with the unique feature of a rocket escalator that takes guests up six floors to the venue's main entrance. Events will have full use of the private entrance and foyer on Shaftesbury Avenue. The nightclub area has a vast space-age mural on one wall, with a custom built DJ booth and sound system. Because there are no noise restrictions, it is possible to feature live bands and DJs at events. The venue was launched in conjunction with agencies The Ultimate Experience and Oxygen Events, venue finder Locate and the London Trocadero. The Ultimate Experience managing director Mike Kershaw says: "There's not that many large venues in the West End, and one of the most difficult places to find in London is a venue for a 500-seated dinner. It's an urban space, not too formal, and will appeal to a younger crowd. It has huge flexibility - you can do an event for 200 or 2,000 people. It's available in its current form for a limited time only, so is quite unique."

8. LUMLEY CASTLE

Where: Chester-le-Street, Co Durham

Capacity: Barons Hall - theatre style 130, seated 50; Garter room - theatre style 150, seated 60; Scarbrough room - theatre style 60, seated 30; Waterford room - theatre style 40, seated 18; Vanbrugh Bar - theatre style 16, seated 8; Sandbeck room - theatre style 20, seated 12; Bede room - seated 8; Cuthbert room - seated 8; Northumbria room - theatre style 50, seated 30; Gilt room - seated 16; Sceptre room - seated 12

Ideal for medieval themed events, Lumley Castle was a ninth century manor house converted in 1392 by Sir Ralph Lumley. It features spiral staircases, a snooker room and a library. Baron's Hall has also had a £250,000 transformation by contractor Stage One. The renovated room was launched this summer and its baroque features include heavy velvet, wooden panelling and ornate mirrors. Lumley Castle operations director John Dobbs says: "It's a magnificent 14th century fortress castle which is so much larger than life, and because of the magical, mysterious interiors it has an environment that is outstandingly memorable. It has 59 bedrooms, and we're opening another 14 next year.

Lumley Castle is very handily located, close to both the city of Durham and city of Newcastle, and half a mile from exit 63 of the A1."

9. TATE MODERN

Where: Millbank, London SW1

Capacity: dinner 150, reception 350

Tate Modern's top floor will be available for hire from April 2006. Its two areas for hire, the East Room and the Tate Modern Restaurant, are located on level 7 of the gallery. Both have stunning views of London, with the East Room's three glass walls facing the Thames. Catering is provided by Tate Entertaining, and bookings can be made from October.

Tate Modern corporate events manager Anna Taylor says: "It's got one of the most unique views in London with a mixture of modern and contemporary style."

10. TOWER BRIDGE

Where: London SE1

Capacity: The Walkways - reception style 250, dinner 120; The North Tower Lounge - reception style 50, seated 20; The Engine Rooms - reception style 120, dinner 70; The Bridge Master's Dining Room - reception style 20, dinner 12

With spectacular views of the city of London, Tower Bridge impresses guests in a unique historical setting. Tower Bridge recently staged a performance by rock band Texas on 6 September to celebrate Visit London and the Mayor's office's Everyone's London event (Event, September 2005).

A new area launched this year is the North Tower Lounge, which comes complete with leather sofas and is available for hire from 9.30am-5.30pm.

Elsewhere on the site, the Engine Rooms feature the original coal driven engines once used to power the bridge lifts. For smaller events, the Bridge Master's Dining Room offers an intimate atmosphere as the area once used to house the men in charge of the bridge. Tower Bridge event organiser Marian Hammond says: "Tower Bridge is the place to hold a party - the Walkways have such wonderful views and provide a fabulous backdrop to any evening. We are looking to hold our Christmas party up in the Walkways due to the fantastic response we had from our guests."


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