Women in Events: Interview with Bethan James and Maggie Crowe

As part of our Women in Events campaign, Event spoke to Bethan James, operations director at caterer Payne and Gunter, a Levy Restaurants UK business, and Maggie Crowe, event director of The Brit Awards. They discussed their ten-year partnership together as part of the annual event, as well as offering an insight into their careers in events.

Bethan James and Maggie Crowe speak to Event about The Brits
Bethan James and Maggie Crowe speak to Event about The Brits

Payne and Gunter celebrated its tenth year catering for The Brits this year. What has been the secret behind this partnership?

James: Trust and an understanding of what is expected of us as a supplier. And most importantly to have fun and enjoy being part of an amazing event.

Crowe: Bethan and her team have an innate understanding of our industry and our clients. To me it’s their professionalism, no matter what we ask of them at the last minute.

This year also marks ten years since the two of you started working together. How well do you work as a team?

James: We enjoy a few glasses, or should I say bottles, of wine and let our hair down and we both have huge admiration for what each other achieves as working mums.

Crowe: Our relief is when the event has gone smoothly and we finally sit down together with the key team to debrief.  People looking in think it's just the show night, but it's six months in the planning and three all-consuming days before show night and doors open.

How do you work together to ensure the menu is fresh and different each year? 

James: We strive to use British, seasonal products with a twist and have a great culinary team who come up with quirky elements to make the menu fun but refined for an audience of 4,000. This includes this year’s dessert - a cappuccino mousse in a chocolate cup with a hazelnut chocolate doughnut. This was loosely based on The Mad Hatter’s tea party theme, from Alice in Wonderland, as a convivial nod to hat maker Philip Treacy, who designed this year's winners statuette.

Crowe: Our mutual mantra is British produce rules and to design something that’s fun and fitting. It sounds miniscule detail but for us everyone loves food and for them to talk about it, especially in a complimentary way, means we’ve achieved what we set out to do.

Will you both be working together in the future, for The Brits or any other projects?

James: We never take anything for granted but always go the extra mile to exceed our client expectations, so yes.

Crowe: Of course we will, I’ll stalk her wherever she goes.

What tips do you each have for young female event professionals looking to get into your line of work?

James: It’s all in the planning so allow plenty of time. Make sure you pay attention to detail as people do notice even the smallest of things. Never assume anything, always double check as it will come back and bite you. And be a swan gliding serenely on the water and paddling furiously underneath as things will go wrong and the right attitude can make all the difference.

Who has inspired each of you during your careers?

James: I was inspired by Alan Payne, who ran the prestigious Payne and Gunter caterers for 35 years. He put outdoor catering on the map heading up one of the first catering companies to cater in unique venues such as Historic Royal Palaces. I’m very proud that we still operate and maintain the ethos of a family-run business within today’s events market, proof that experience and knowledge does count.

Crowe: Lisa Anderson my predecessor. With her team, she built The Brits to be a powerful brand. With that foundation to work from, the show has just grown to be a TV and event spectacle. 

Want to get involved in the Women in Events campaignEmail news editor Samantha Edwards to feature in a future interview, How I Got Here online feature or news story.

For more in-depth and print-only features, showcases and interviews with world-leading brands, don't miss the next issue of Event magazine by subscribing here.

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