Friday, 1 October 2010

Life's a beach at Rosa's

London Restaurant Festival gets underway on Monday 4th October. During its two-week stint, there's some 250 restaurants throughout the UK capital offering Festival Menus for as little as £10. To book a festival menu, just visit the LRF website. This week I went along to one of the participating restaurants in Soho to continue my series of Street Level blogs and report on a Thai evening at Rosa's.

Street Level: Life's a beach at Rosa's
The best nights out are often those that produce the unexpected. Catching up with an old friend over Thai food in the heart of Soho was always going to result in stories of surprising and often salacious gossip. What I really didn’t expect however, was to discover some of the best Thai cuisine in London from a restaurant I must have walked past a thousand times and never acknowledged was there.

What’s even more surprising is that Rosa’s doesn’t exactly blend into the Dean Street brickwork. Its bright red frontage is hard to miss when you’re actually looking for it. Even on this cold and rainy evening, in-the-know diners sat outside under the awning, no doubt drinking green teas whilst watching the Old Compton Street characters and chaos unfold.

On opening the bright red door, you half expect a bell overhead to ring akin to an old curiosity shop but instead, you enter a modern Thai family eatery, designed to resemble a Phuket beach hut. Wooden benches upstairs are made for sharing and the wooden wall paneling has interspersed coat hooks or rather, hooks to hang your towel on if this really was a beach hut on a Thai island.

After ushering my guest onto the bench and taking my seat on the wooden stool opposite, we order a bottle of red before I head downstairs to dry myself off after getting caught in the torrential downpour outside. The basement is a darker, more mood-driven bar dining area and the toilets are communal, adding to the rustic ambience Rosa’s sets out to create.

Back upstairs, and I discover we’d been moved to a more intimate wooden booth towards the back of the restaurant. These booths should be requested when booking in order to keep confidences private and to allow greater room to spread out the Thai delicacies as they arrive.

For starters, we shared a mouthwatering deep fried soft shell crab topped with thai herbs, shallots and spicy fresh chilli sauce and a Som Tam papaya salad with prawns. It may have been the beach hut surroundings, but we both opted for more seafood with coconut rice as our main course.

I went for grilled squid, pan fried tiger prawns and scallops stir fried with mixed spices and yellow chilli. My guest ordered a thai chilli seafood mousse, baked in half a butternut squash which, when served, looked more like a tropical cocktail than a main course but tasted divine.

Thailand is known as the ‘Land of Smiles’ and our waiting staff didn’t disappoint, maintaining friendly fast service without interrupting the flow of our conversation.

When we left, the rain outside no longer mattered. We could have been in a tropical monsoon as we’d just dined on Thai seafood which I was more than happy to believe had been line-caught fresh from the pier at the front of our Phuket beach hut.

Rosa’s is running a Festival Menu as part of this year’s London Restaurant Festival.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Street Level: A series of restaurant reviews

A slight decline in the regularity of blog posts on here can be somewhat explained by the fact that I've been busy blogging for the London Restaurant Festival, which takes place across the UK capital next month.

Part of my role is to post restaurant reviews, which for someone who has never professed to being a food critic, seemed at first a little daunting. Fortunately however, the job doesn't call for an in-depth critique (I'll leave that up to the Evening Standard's Fay Maschler, the festival's creator). I simply have to experience each restaurant and produce a creative write-up from a 'Street Level' perspective, thereby showcasing the restaurant's offer to the public.

I thought I'd share with you three such write-ups, not only as an overdue way to update my blog but also to highly recommend three top London restaurants. I hope you enjoy reading my recommendations and for updates on next month's festival, join the Facebook page or visit the website.

Street level: An invitation to Sam’s place
It’s not often that I venture from zone two for an evening’s dining out experience. But when Sam Harrison, the man who partnered with Rick Stein to open Sam’s Brasserie in Chiswick, invited my guest and I to dinner at the duo’s second eatery in Balham, we headed for the gateway to the south.

Harrison’s has been around since October 2007. On occasion I have spent a lazy Sunday afternoon nursing a bottle of red with Balham friends in its relaxed bar. But I’ve never graduated to the 90-cover restaurant, taken my seat underneath the circular brown lampshades and perused the simple menu of classic brasserie-style dishes with a modern twist – until now.

I should point out here that Sam Harrison didn’t actually join us for dinner. If he had have done, we probably would have tried harder to stifle our giggles when my guest asked our waitress what type of bread we were being offered and received the polite friendly reply ‘brown’. She did redeem herself however by explaining to my australian friend what kind of fish sea bream is and the fact that a poussin is a young chicken, without feeling the need to add the rather gruesome fact that it has to be younger than 28 days at slaughter to be classed as such.

For starters, we opted for the sharing platter but added a side order of chilli and garlic grilled squid because you can always tell the quality of a restaurant’s food by the texture of its squid (it obviously helps to eat a lot of squid at various different restaurants to aid the comparison).

The sharing platter was furnished with morsels of buffalo mozzarella, cheese croquettes, pâté and other butcher’s delights, served with flat bread (we resisted the urge to ask again what type of bread this was although the answer would have been both accurate and just as funny).

I’m pleased to report that the squid was tasty and succulent and went extremely well with a mid-priced Argentinian Malbec. It’s also pleasing to report that tap water was regularly topped up throughout our meal and the service was always friendly, attentive but non-intrusive.

For our main course, I couldn’t resist choosing from the Harrison’s Classics section of the menu. I opted for the aged Scottish rib-eye steak which came beautifully presented on a butcher’s board with fries in a pot and bearnaise sauce in a small pan on the side. To me, this choice was in keeping with the relaxed picking and dipping nature of our meal and the steak was cooked to perfection.

My guest experienced her first taste of english sea bream and enjoyed it. I’m sure though she was eying up the amazing looking cheeseburgers delivered to our adjacent table with envy. She consoled herself by giving in far too quickly when our waitress suggested ordering the hot chocolate fondant for dessert. The 15 minute baking time this pudding takes is well worth it but unfortunately it just wasn’t enough time for either of us to have found enough extra room to fully enjoy it. Full to bursting we were both forced to admit defeat and decided to walk the long way back to the tube, determined to return again another day and finish that goddess among desserts.

Street Level: An evening with Andrew Edmunds
I spend far too much money on eating out. It’s one of the inconvenient pleasures of living in a city with 50 Michelin-starred restaurants and hundreds of secret hideaway eateries just waiting to be discovered and then savoured.

Despite a constant urge to try out new places however, I always find myself returning to one of my favourite Soho establishments, Andrew Edmunds on Lexington Street.

Admittedly, Andrew Edmunds receives most of my custom during the winter months. It’s somewhere familiar to escape the drizzle and swap the falling temperatures for the warm dark glow of intimate candle-lit tables, plain white tablecloths, great British food and an extensive red wine list. I wasn’t entirely convinced therefore that I’d made the right choice when, on one of the warmest days of the summer so far, I reached for the phone and booked a table for two downstairs at this charming gourmet bolt-hole.

Maybe I opted for a table downstairs so we could pretend that the balmy summer’s evening unfolding on the street outside was actually a dark winter’s night as we swapped stories over a naked flame and drank a 2006 mid-priced bottle of Argentinian red.

Actually, the real reason I requested downstairs is because that’s where my preferred table is located (the only restaurant where I actually know which table I prefer). Tonight, table 22, side on to all the other diners so that you’re not distracted by their food choices or over-heard snippets of conversation, was available and ours for three straight hours.

My starter choice was the same starter I always go for at this home away from home diner – Dressed Crab (superb). After our very amiable Kiwi waitress Katy had joked about the hand-written menu and then translated the hieroglyphics, my guest went for Lincolnshire asparagus vinaigrette with thin slices of Pecorino cheese.

For main, I went for the Calasparra risotto with squid, mussels, prawns, clams, chorizo and langoustine whilst my guest plumped for the poached wild sea trout, accompanied by Jersey Royals and a watercress mayonnaise. I had definitely plumped for the more flavoursome dish as my seafood arrived infused with chili and was extremely satisfying with just the right amount of heat. The trout looked a tad boring but I was assured that it tasted very nice.

I rarely go for dessert but was quite happy to sip my expresso whilst my guest pondered long and hard over whether to have the peach and almond tart. With no decision reached and a cursory look round to see that most of our fellow diners had departed as it was approaching 11pm, I requested the bill and inspected the damage.

Our meal for two, with wine, coffee and 12.5% service charge came to a very reasonable £79. It was only after the tab was settled that Katy returned to our table with a slice of peach and almond tart and two forks. “There’s only two slices left and I know you were tempted so you have this one and I’m going to save the final slice as a treat for when I finish my shift,” our waitress said with a smile.

It’s service like that which will keep me returning to Andrew Edmunds all year round and sets London’s restaurants apart, in my view, from those anywhere else in the world.

Street Level: Circus has come to town
It’s easy to walk straight past Circus on Endell Street, Covent Garden, if you’re not paying attention. There’s no big top entrance, or street entertainers juggling or hula hooping outside. In fact, there’s nothing to betray the entertainment that awaits within, only a polite doorman who ensures you have the correct destination and bids you a pleasant evening as you enter a short corridor with a cloakroom at the far end, guarding the main doors to the restaurant and cocktail bar.

Since opening in January 2010, I’ve walked through those main doors on two other occasions. My guest for this particular evening had never seen what lies beyond the cloakroom. Her interest was immediately peaked by the Californian-sounding model attendant who took our coats and led us through to the main dining area with its catwalk showpiece table that doubles up as a performance stage.

Aware that the circus-style performances wouldn’t begin until after 8pm, I encouraged a visit to the bar before we settled down to eat. Circus’ bar cocktail list is designed by Henry Besant and the Worldwide Cocktail Club – the team responsible for the bars at Bungalow 8 and Notting Hill’s The Lonsdale. It’s a short but encyclopedic menu of cocktails from which my companion chose a Kumquat & Almond Caipirinha. Unable to decide, I asked the barman to surprise me with a bourbon-based creation. I already knew my drink would taste amazing however it was created so the requested surprise must have been its bright pink coloration when poured into a martini glass.

For dinner, I had the special of marinated steak in a tiger prawn and chorizo dressing whilst she opted for the cajun sea bass (I would have opted for the highly recommended 24 hour slow roasted beef short ribs if the special hadn’t changed my mind). For starters we shared baby squid and chicken and prawn satay skewers. The Circus menu is Pan-American (just like almost all the staff) and, just as on both my previous visits, the baby squid and steaks are divine perfection.

The first indication that a performer is about to take to the stage is the open kitchen’s shutters going down along with the lights. If you’ve timed your food order correctly this will coincide with the end of each course. If not, then it’s a straight choice between melt-in-the-mouth steak in the dark or an aerialist, performing on a hoop above the catwalk table.

On each of my previous visits the performances have been different so you never know what to expect. On my first mid-week visit, we stayed all night and witnessed the acts grow ever-more burlesque as the evening draws on. This time however was a Friday night and the DJ was playing more to the bar crowd than the diners who wished to talk. So after a hula-hoop girl, a fire-dancer and the aerialist, we settled the bill, saved our vocal chords and made our escape.

Thankfully, with Circus now catering for weekday and weekend brunch menus and quieter mid-week sittings, there are better times to plan a visit to ensure you get the full performance and dining experience in Covent Garden’s unique cabaret restaurant. The popularity of this particular Circus has ensured that it’s not about to leave town any time soon.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Summer Eventia sets new standard in Glasgow

Over the past eight months, I've been working with Eventia to pull together the speaker programme for their annual conference, aimed at professionals working in the events, destination management, conference and incentive travel sectors.

The Eventia Summer Conference took place at the Glasgow SECC from 4-6 July and, I'm chuffed to say, has been widely hailed as the best of its five-year history. The programme was split into two days, with the economy acting as a major theme for day one and brand communication forming the key trend for day two.

Speakers included Dr Dominic Swords who gave an insightful and relaxed keynote on the current and future economic landscape; Andrew Barke from Google who presented the power of YouTube as a marketing tool for brands and, Claire Smith from the Vancouver Convention Centre who gave a fascinating account of what happened behind the scenes during the Winter Olympics and the lessons businesses should apply to London in 2012 and Glasgow in 2014 during the Olympic and Commonwealth Games.

Every single one of the speakers over the two-days of Summer Eventia performed to the highest standards and I'm exceptionally grateful to all of them for dedicating so much time and energy.

If you missed the 2010 Summer Eventia, next year's conference will be held in Cardiff and is sure to raise its game again in order to beat the standard set by all those involved this year. For highlights of the Glasgow event, check out the video by DRP Group embedded below. Highlights from the 2010 Summer Eventia can also be found on YouTube here or on the Eventia website here.

Monday, 26 April 2010

What I did on St George's Day

Apparently, it was more by luck than judgement that the inaugural British Inspiration Awards fell on St George’s Day. No matter, as this new set of awards were such a success that an annual event is surely now on the cards and deserves its place in the diary alongside England's Patron Saint.

The brains behind the idea for a set of awards celebrating the best of the UK’s creative, artistic and scientific talent is the UK managing director of Nintendo, David Yarnton and Simon Harvey, managing director of Barrington Harvey Public Relations.

I confess, I’ve been to many an awards ceremony in my time and seen far too many fail to live up to expectations due to poor production, an unprepared host or dire catering. Before walking through the wrought iron gates of the Brewery, I maybe feared the worst, that this event wouldn’t have the pulling power in its first year to attract the people it was looking to celebrate and it could just be a very nice lunch, with lots of ‘sorry they couldn’t be here’ acceptance speeches at one of London’s leading events venues.

I’m glad to say how wrong I was (apart from the bit about a nice lunch. An imaginative menu of blackened salmon, welsh lamb followed by ring cake and huge portions - apparently a trademark of the Brewery’s event catering).

The British Inspiration Awards not only attracted 350 paying guests but it also saw Philip Schofiled, Ant & Dec, Michael Eavis, Elisabeth Murdoch and host Richard Madeley tread the red carpet. Entertainment came from the pipes and drums of the Welsh Guards, hip hop dance troop the Smash Bro’z, the Graffiti Kings and Sheffield indie rockers Reverand and The Makers.

The set and stage was a far higher quality than one would imagine for a debut event, mainly because someone had had the vision to recycle it over two consecutive events (possibly the real reason for the date decider). And if anyone is looking for a professional host, edgier that his onscreen persona and surprisingly funny, then I’d happily recommend Richard Madeley.

As for the winners, well, Philip Schofield collected a design award on behalf of Sir Terence Conran, Matthew Bourne collected his award in person for his contribution to the arts and Ant & Dec presented a special recognition award to Glastonbury festival creator Michael Eavis.

Other winners included Elisabeth Murdoch (Television), Nick Park (Film), Sir George Martin (Music), Alexander McQueen (Fashion), Sir James Dyson (Innovation & Industry), Baroness Susan Greenfield (Science & Technology) and Ian Livingstone (Interactive Entertainment).

Congratulations to everyone involved for an excellent idea in support of some worthwhile charities. I know where I’d like to be celebrating England’s dragon-slayer next year.

Photos by Rick Bronks.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Integrating Social Media into Conferencing & Events

Last week, I gave an after-lunch talk to marketing and events professionals, hosted by the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre. The feedback was positive so I thought I'd post some of the key insights and tips on a couple of events industry blog sites. The posts have since been tweeted and re-tweeted so many times, I must have struck a positive chord with event planners. So, I've decided to post my talk highlights one more time, here... I hope you find it useful.

My talk went something like this…

I firmly believe that online marketing and communication channels such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and FlickR are enabling event planners, venues and suppliers to develop longer-term interaction with event attendees.

These online tools are allowing us to grow the conference or event beyond the physical and to keep people talking about their experiences and our event content long after the last delegate has left the building.

Social Media is nothing short of a communications revolution. It’s a means to amplify our messaging, build community, gather feedback in real time, ask questions of our audiences, research our markets and gain business referrals from our new online friends and followers.

One-way marketing messages, whereby a newsletter or piece of email marketing is sent out from an email address that says DO NOT REPLY are becoming obsolete. The communications revolution is all about Conversations, User Generated Content and Interacting with the online community.

We can no longer control what is said online by people attending our events so we need to understand how to engage with the conversations that are already happening, build loyalty amongst followers and provide good Social Media Value.

So I’m just going to give you a few tips on how to start thinking about integrating Social Media into your marketing or event strategies.

If you’re not using Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, the best way to understand their benefits is simply to start using them socially. Once you get to grips with the simple mechanics of growing online conversation, such as Hashtags, Fan Pages, Tiny URLs, TwitPics etc, you can then start to see how it can be applied to your every-day business or event planning needs.

When integrating Social Media into Event strategies, consider how it can be used to engage with delegates or attendees at an earlier stage. A lot of exhibitions now use Twitter as a free marketing tool to communicate the latest confirmed speaker, or encourage registration sign-ups. But what about creating user groups on LinkedIn or Facebook and crowd sourcing what topics delegates wish to hear about or allowing them to vote on panelists, or even something as simple as the theme of the gala dinner. By engaging your audience at an earlier stage, you will secure their buy-in and reduce the number of no-shows or drop-outs.

Every event has a website but, by creating multiple event pages across different online streams you’ll be casting your net wider and enhancing your search engine optimization at the same time. This is especially true if you then link your blog, Facebook Fan Page, YouTube Channel and LinkedIn discussion group back to your website.

In the run up to the event, launch Twitter competitions awarding free registration or tickets. A simple way to do this is just to ask people on Twitter to Re-Tweet a chosen message. A winner can be then drawn from the pile of Re-tweets that appear in your @Replies Folder. This is a good way to track the reach of your marketing messages across Twitter and to see who is willing to engage with the event. Maybe you can reward the most loyal advocates in some other way at a later date.

During the event, launch a HashTag on Twitter and encourage people to use it so that attendees and remote watchers can follow what’s happening. Putting a HashTag before a word simply creates a link to a new page. This page then shows the full conversation stream of everyone who has used that chosen HashTag – enabling a simple way to follow a particular conversation subject.

If you then stage an unofficial Tweet up (networking event for people engaged with Twitter), it’s a good way to spread the word of your chosen HashTag and get likely content creators motivated and excited.

Broadcasting the conversations that people are hash-tagging, by running a live stream on a big screen on the main stage at your event, is perhaps a risk too far. Human nature dictates that somebody at some point will publish something offensive. But, why not use smaller screens in seminar rooms to help facilitate real-time Q&A sessions whilst the speaker is presenting?

You’ll find that some audience members will be able to answer the questions before the speaker does. If this is deemed too distracting for the speaker then technology offered by companies such as Crystal Interactive allow audience members to text in questions during the presentation, which are stored and can then be shown on screen and answered during an allotted Q&A slot.

Your aim with Social Media should be, to spread as widely as possible, content generated, either for the event by those directly involved, or by participants, advocates and remote watchers.

There’s so many web-based applications available to allow you to stream video, share speaker presentations, merge all Hash-tagged Tweets into PDF documents, create graphs and charts to measure the Return on the Objective of HashTags, launch user generated photo galleries, broadcast audio and so much more.

If you’re not doing any of these things, just think how much more engaging your events could be – if only you’d invested the time in discovering what free Social Media can do for you.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

London Restaurant Festival unveils its plans for 2010

Plans for the 2010 London Restaurant Festival were unveiled to celebrity chefs, restauranteurs and food critics at The Club at The Ivy this evening (13 April). As this two-week festival is my new Events for London project, I was also in attendance, drinking Mumm champagne in amongst the throngs of foodies and quickly realising that, apart from Ramsay, I wouldn't know a celebrity chef even if he started a food fight.

What I can tell you however, is that The Club at The Ivy is incredibly swanky. Oh and I can also give you the low-down on this, the second outing of an event, created in 2009 by restaurant critic Fay Maschler and her business partner Simon Davis (along with Visit London and Single Market Events).

So, this year’s festival, which runs across the capital from 4-18 October, will be held in partnership with American Express. Festival menus will be rolled out across an anticipated 800 different restaurants across the capital, enabling visitors to dine out for as little as £10.

As well as the Festival Menus initiative, supported by official booking partner, five major events were revealed at the launch, planned to run across the fortnight.

Covent Garden’s Piazza will be transformed into The London Restaurant Festival Supplier’s Market and will see a range of famous restaurants showcase their produce, cooking techniques and flair via live demonstrations (you'll also be able to buy stuff).

Returning for a second year and extended into Shoreditch and Soho, The London Restaurant Festival Gourmet Odyssey will see diners travel across the capital to sample a different course from one of three chosen venues. The Merlin Entertainments London Eye will turn one of its pods into a ten-seater ‘pop-up’ restaurant, hosted each night by a celebrated chef. The London Restaurant Festival Big Food Quiz will offer foodie-fanatics a chance to test their knowledge during a three-course meal at a top London eatery. And The London Restaurant Festival Awards will form the grand finale and take place on the 18 October. The awards are exclusively open to participating restaurants and will be largely focused towards highlighting the best Festival Menus of 2010.

According to the organisers, more than 350 restaurants have already pre-registered to take part in the event. To achieve the target of 800, restaurants and chefs are invited to pre-register at

And there you have it. I will no doubt be blogging more updates as and when I know them but if you'd like to follow my London Restaurant Festival Twitter feed, find me at

PS - London Restaurant Festival tickets go on sale at the end of June.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Comedians stand-up for Great Ormond Street Hospital

On 30 March, the biggest comedy line-up in history is coming to the O2 to raise money for a truly amazing cause, the work of London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Channel 4’s Comedy Gala has seen an all-star cast of comedians volunteer their services for free. Monies raised will help to pay for two new anaesthetic rooms allowing parents to stay with their child right up until they enter the operating theatres.

If you’ve not been able to get a ticket to this one-off gig, it will be televised on Channel 4 over the Easter weekend. In the meantime here’s an exclusive interview with Michael McIntyre to whet the comedy whistle.

What do you do to stay fit?
Just standing up I’m out of breath, which is really unfortunate as when I’m on stage I have one of those mic things on my head where it is right in front of my mouth so you can hear how out of breath I am. It’s no secret.
I have actually got myself a personal trainer now, his name is Matt. I don’t know why I pay him. I do all the work and all he does is count. 1, 2, 3, 4… that’s all he does!
It seems all you need to be able to do to be a personal trainer is count. I could have got my accountant to do it – it would have been cheaper.

What are your top tips for looking and feeling good?
I like to look at the day as two days. You wake up, have three meals and then go back to bed. Then wake up in the afternoon, have three meals and then go back to bed. And that’s how you do it, that is how you become happy and fat.

Have you ever had to stay in hospital? How was it?
I was there when my wife was giving birth but I just sat there in stunned silence.
I was also in hospital myself when I dislocated my shoulder but I don’t remember it. I have been told about it, and apparently I was really arrogant. I was out of it on morphine and all I would talk about was my tour. I don’t remember a thing about it.

What is your advice to children and young people who have health problems?
Oh, no. I can’t give out advice. Not someone like me.

Would you have liked a health website written specifically for teenagers when you were younger?
It would have been lovely. All we had was the little red book under my mother’s bed. It can be dangerous to Google injuries so it’s good to have something like this to trust. You go on some sites and it’s terrifying.

Do you have any other health advice you’d like to share?
I’m not the one to be giving out health advice. I was told that if I exercised I would have loads of energy and look good but that’s not the case. I only still go because I paid in bulk. I exercise and now I look terrible AND feel terrible.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Meet the Market introduces ISES members to event buyers

It was a busy few days last week as International Confex got underway at Earls Court. On the show’s first evening, I had the privilege of hosting and playing compere at a ‘Meet the Market’ event, which brought together more than 300 corporate buyers to meet with UK members of the International Special Events Society (ISES).

Meet the Market took place at the recently refurbished Wyndham Grand London hotel. More than 25 ISES UK member companies showcased their services from exhibition stands in the hotel’s new ballroom.

ISES UK members were able to spend the evening networking with client buyers after the trade association teamed up with Confex and Visit London hosted buyer programmes.

During the evening, corporate buyers were entertained by The Globe Girls and two West End theatre performers. Raffle hospitality prizes were donated by Sandown Park Racecourse and Lord’s Cricket Ground. Buyers who visited the ISES member stands were also given a passport stamp, which entered them into a competition to win a bottle of Dom Perignon 2000.

Meet the Market concluded with a discotheque and casino table entertainment supplied by Sharper Solutions.

Watch my video blog from the evening below and to see more photos, courtesy of Simon Lane Photography, click here. If you’re unable to view the video below, find it on YouTube by clicking here.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Brits lose their French appeal

Has the main after-party at the Brits become another victim of recessionary times or has designer Bruce French simply run out of ideas?

Last night the Brit Awards celebrated its 30th anniversary at Earls Court with a star-studded ceremony, elaborate set and stage designs and the obligatory rock ‘n’ roll moment, which saw organisers having to plead with the pit full of baying teens to hand back Liam Gallagher’s microphone during commercial break.

But once the cameras stopped rolling and sing-a-long with Robbie was finally over, it was time to head next door for what should have been another year of Tim Burton-esque party theming.

Down the years, Bruce French has produced some spectacular backdrops, which would regularly make it onto the covers of my former magazine RSVP.

In 2005, the Brits celebrated its 25th anniversary with a Silver Jubilee Cockney Street-party, complete with East-end pub, whilst on Valentines Day 2007, revellers partied on Love Street complete with its own Elvis Chapel.

I first heard about his work from those that remember the fully blossomed pink and white trees he once installed at the Brits. So in 2004, when looking for a cover story to launch RSVP, I headed to his two-tier Heaven and Hell themed extravaganza.

Being the 30th anniversary, this year should have been special so I was shocked to discover that Lady Ga Ga was better dressed than the 2010 after-party.

Earls Court’s Brompton Hall looked looked liked the Brompton Hall with dodgems, an out-of-place over-sized crazy golf course and a Rockeoke stage inviting wrist-band holders to screech out their favourite song whilst a band tried desperately to keep them in time.

It was achingly bad and budgetary issues aside, I know a hundred different events agencies that could have done a better job. Maybe it’s time that the Brits organisers put this annual party contract out to tender. Let theatre designer Bruce French be remembered for his legendary Brits work and next year, give this after-party contract to the UK’s creative events industry.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Decade of Sport demonstrates a raft of event opportunities in the lead up to 2020

More than 200 events industry professionals gathered at Somerset House on Wednesday 27 January for an exclusive opportunity to learn about major sporting events planned for London and the rest of the UK over the next ten years.

Decade of Sport, staged by ISES UK in association with Visit London, was the first major conference to detail opportunities that exist for venues, suppliers and agencies around significant sporting occasions planned and confirmed until 2019. These included the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, a possible FIFA World Cup in 2018, the NFL’s competitive American football matches, ATP Tennis Finals and many more events outlined by the four speakers.

Hosted by me, the conference and subsequent networking event took place in the Embankment Rooms at Somerset House, staged with the assistance of key ISES member companies Fisher Productions, Sound By Design, Thorns, Simon Lane Photography and Leith’s Catering.

Speaking to a packed auditorium, Visit London Director of Business Tourism Tracy Halliwell and 2012 Director Mark Howell updated delegates on London’s plans for 2012. With just over 900 days left until the greatest sporting event on earth comes to the UK capital, both keynote speakers urged delegates to proactively seek out business opportunities and, be talking now to potential clients about a full-range of satellite activity including live sites, fan festivals, media hubs, broadcast points, destination houses, hospitality programmes and auxiliary events.

Following a coffee break, during which delegates could discuss the enormous amount of detailed information they’d just received, Decade of Sport resumed with a session from Iain Edmondson, Senior Projects Manager for Events for London.
Iain provided the lowdown on how this specialist division of Visit London works to attract major events to the capital and some of the ways it can help organisers to unlock the city’s full creative potential in order to stage spectacular stunts such as Robbie Maddison’s death defying back-flip over Tower Bridge to promote Red Bull’s X-Fighter event last year.

Iain concluded his session by describing London’s role in becoming one of the host cities in England’s 2018 FIFA World Cup bid. He was then followed by the bid’s Accommodation and Hospitality Consultant David Hornby, who talked about the national set-up for bringing the FIFA World Cup to UK shores in eight years time.

ISES UK President Zanine Adams says: “Through our collaboration with Visit London and England 2018, we’ve been able to offer ISES member companies true value and provide an afternoon’s worth of invaluable business advice. I am so pleased with how much relevant content we’ve been able to deliver during this event and it’s a strategy we are working hard to maintain for all ISES member activity.”

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Jedward tear it up at the NTAs

In a month when The O2 has been named the world’s most popular music venue after selling 2.3 million tickets last year, it was only fitting that the celebrity world should descend en masse on the docklands arena for the National Television Awards.

In the days leading up to Wednesday’s showpiece ceremony, all the talk on Twitter was about the X-Factor’s Jedward performing their dubious version of ‘Under Pressure / Ice Ice Baby’ alongside the original Vanilla Ice.

From my vantage point alongside a bevy of celebrity boozers and movers, it looked like a few extra post X-Factor rehearsals have done the twins the world of good (although that may have been the free beer!).

I was going to post just a one-minute highlight from their performance but come on, you know you want to relive the whole shebang! And if you missed it, here’s a chance to catch this instantly forgettable moment of pop history. It’s definitely not one for the O2’s British Music Experience exhibition but it did add to a fun night of celeb spotting and hospitality courtesy of The O2’s Comms team. Enjoy!