A day in the life of Shout About London
The journey (on the windiest day of the year)
Off to see the Royal Museum venues this morning. Whilst I'm looking forward to finally seeing the space, the thought of missioning to Greenwich sends a shudder down my spine.
With the sudden drop in temperature, first things first, Starbucks coffee in West Hampstead and then on to the tube.
Dying for a seat this morning, after our event at the Penthouse last night, I of course have to stand all the way.
Then... Canary Wharf and the DLR. The only station in the world where the signs get LESS frequent the closer you get.
After my usual headless chicken act I finally find the DLR to Lewisham and start writing my blog (to complain about Canary Wharf more than anything).
Little did I know, this would be only the beginning...
Upon reaching the Cutty Sark drop off point, the signage had thankfully improved and led me nicely to the Queen’s House. As magisterial as the name suggests, we later found out that it was commissioned by James I after his wife said this would be the only way she'd start speaking to him again. She died before its completion, proving how stubborn some women can be.
I stared at a mountainous facade in the distance. Reminiscent of Count Duckula’s mansion atop the highest rocks in Transylvania, I was desperately praying that wasn't my destination. After some more signage failure, I settled for the fact I would in fact have to continue my expedition upwards.
Under-dressed for the winter breeze and feeling like the great Sir Ranulph Fiennes after his recent abandoned attempt to conquer the Antarctic, I was determined not to give up.Trekking through the beautiful grounds would normally be a wonder in itself, but not when you are this cold, it's this windy, and you're this unsure of where you're going.
When reaching the defensive ring around, what I'm still preying is, the observatory, I set up a base camp to call my business partner for an ETA. As usual, 20 minutes behind me, at Canary Wharf. "Well I'm going up, I may be some time".
Last leg of the journey
I can only liken this to when you spend 6 months out of the gym. Wanting to pick up from where you left off you hit the treadmill hard. Setting the largest incline possible and straining with every step. Of course you only last five minutes and that's the whole session over. Add a huge scarf and coat into the mix and that was me. When reaching the summit I had just enough in the tank to side step three classes of kids, plant my Shout About London flag and greet the lovely Nicole at the entrance. Longing to fall in to her arms like James Franco at the end of 127 hours, I just about keep it together. Unfortunately, the wind had left my hair resembling Marge Simpson and my nose resembling the snotty little Ralph. Quick toilet break before further engagement required.
Now to wait for Ben....
(3 months later)
Ben arrives to find me and venue sales executive Nicole parked up on the sofa at the Planetarium’s entrance. Allowing him some time to recover, we have a quick chat about our combined experience in finding the place. His first question to Nicole mirrored mine:
"So how do the guests arrive?"
Nicole palms this aside like a karate kid block, clearly used to this question.
Mini buses are available and larger coaches can be used, with permission from Greenwich park. Although, a lot of people choose to walk (apparently).
The venue tour itself starts well, with a host of interactive exhibitions and gadgets to fiddle with (at the annoyance of a professional trying, in vain, to shoo you from one room to another).
We make our way to the Planetarium and reach the foyer area; this is in fact the main event space. Accommodating 150 for a reception and with glass fronted doors on one side spanning the length of the room, natural daylight floods in.
Not to mention a beautiful area for drinks outside with plenty of space to hire in a marquee to fight off the weather.
All venue hire comes with a minimum of one show in the planetarium itself. We of course asked to see this action. Lying back and staring up and the huge domed ceiling (making sure we're not in the dreaded front row) we are afforded a sneak peak at the Christmas reel - yes apparently there is Christmas in space. We spend longer than perhaps intended in here, using the poor projection lady as our personal year 3 teacher, discussing: the Big Bang, black holes, white holes and worm holes. Apparently some of these are only in Red Dwarf.
For themed events this venue is a big thumbs up and definitely has a lot to shout about.
Some of our favourite bits at the venues:
The Royal Observatory has a stunning outdoor space that offers fabulous views back across the park and far beyond. A telescope lined up with the Meridian line certainly gives the guests a different view point than most venues.
The Grand Hall in the Queen’s House has a masterfully decorated floor, stunning interconnecting spaces for dinner and again outdoor space worthy of Royalty (obviously). My favourite part of this venue and what really completes it, is the artwork. Paintings reminding me of the Voyage of the Dawn Treader took me away in a Narnian trance for a moment. One can still dream at 27.
The Maritime Museum, can accommodate up to 500 for dinner and was the point of our journey where we insisted on coffee. We also received history/geography and life lessons from Nicole who despite only being at the venue for six months is so hard to catch out, she probably even knows where they buy the toilet roll.
You'll see her on QI next series.
(In case you're wondering what she had to put up with: I'd be Alan Davies and Ben would be Phil Jupitus).
Finally the Cutty Sark - the big draw.
I now know the following:
- This was the fastest clipper boat ever built
- Despite the fire, it was being renovated at the time, so everything had been removed and the damage was surprisingly minimal
- You're not allowed to climb on the beds (there was no sign!!!!)
- Continuous boat puns aren't that funny
This really is one hull of a venue (see).
In the berth, where the recently renovated ship used to sit, you now have a capacity of 450 for a standing reception. Just above your head is the base of the ship and it really is quite disconcerting the longer you spend thinking about it.
With a bit of up lighting it can transform the space (like all spaces to be fair) but this surely must be considered as one of the top five most unusual venues in London. There is really nothing of this scale like it. We even had a bit of competition with the interactive games on board and acted out a couple of scenes from Titanic.
By this point we may have out stayed our welcome and gladly waived Bon Voyage to Nicole and headed to Holborn for some drinks with a client.
Left Sway bar at 02:00am.
Despite what people think, Fridays are always the hardest.