One of the most common requests we get at Londonlaunch.com is for “a venue that nobody has ever been to before”. Recent research tells us that, statistically, if you host an event somewhere that none (or at least very few) of your guests or delegates have ever been to (or, even better, one they’ve never even heard of) you’ll get a higher RSVP rate and, ultimately, more guests turning up. This is especially true if you can ‘discover’ somewhere new in a central location.
However, such ‘secret’ London venues are not only rare, but when you do find them, there’s often a logistical hurdle to get over in terms of production, accessibility, even basic health and safety. In reality it’s less of a hurdle and more of a high jump! But there are exceptions and they’re often in very conspicuous locations, perhaps even staring you right in the face. I came across two this week and they’re utterly amazing!
But first. A lot of event industry people are excited by the proposition of being able to access a couple of disused London Underground stations in the coming months. I remember one being used for some spectacular events about ten years ago by a big name caterer (which I won’t name in case my facts are skewed!). I think it was the old platform at Charing Cross, which used to be called ‘Trafalgar Square Station.’ There must be some pictures somewhere as I remember seeing them – an old school white tiled station platform with tables, spectacular lighting and tall flower displays which all combined to create a magical, almost eerie scene which could have aptly been named “Suspended in time.” Although, I admit, I may have been dreaming…
Anyway, you can see how some of these modern day subterranean ‘speak-easys’ with secret entrances in surprisingly conspicuous places could be perfect for modern day events, especially in the age of social media. But most are wrecks and would need so much production (not to mention lifts, running water and electricity for catering and warming canapés etc) that it’s just not worth going (down) there. However, there are some that would work brilliantly and who would turn down an invitation to ‘Trafalgar Square Underground Station,’ which doesn’t technically exist? There’s something delightfully ‘Harry Potter’ about it, that’s for sure! Did you know that there are no less that forty-six abandoned tube stations on the London Underground network. The easiest to spot is on the Central Line on the left hand side (going East and up-hill) about 200 yards after Holborn station. Within a few seconds of leaving Holborn, you’ll race through ‘British Museum’. If you cup your hands (I’ve done it) you’ll just see the old station platform and even a WW2 air-raid shelter poster. It’s awesome, although not quite as spectacular as the rumour that’s been circulating for years – that it’s been preserved since the day it closed before the war, complete with all the original advertising posters etc. If only someone had the foresight to have pickled that!
Anyway, if you have aspirations of giving it a go, and if you want to research every single one of them, here’s a link to the abandoned stations. There are loads of photos and fascinating facts too! http://www.abandonedstations.org.uk/ and you’ll see all sorts of old advertising hoardings and posters from a bygone era, so the British Museum rumour isn’t entirely spurious!
So, on to my discoveries this week. I was invited by a secret contact, who I met a while ago whilst doing one of my talks to a delegation from the Moscow Business School, to come and uncover some ‘new’ Soho venues. Sounds exciting? It is!
The first is a decadent, shabby-chic, former Chapel on Shaftesbury Avenue. And it’s really, really cool. In fact, it brought back memories because, in my band days (that’s another (shocking) story if you don’t already know it!) we actually played a gig here in 1994! OMFG, that’s almost 20 years ago! This venue to top secret and only very few know about it. In fact, there was a secret site visit (by torch-light) when I was there from one of the biggest brands in the world (who I don’t think I can mention). Huddled round their Macbooks with torches and builder’s lights these glamorous PR’s were rushing round taking measurements for their proposed product launch next month. This venue is like a decaying temple. An urban sanctuary in the heart of London’s Soho and will be available for (special) events for up to 300 guests over the next few months before being brought back to life as a performing arts venue. I can’t say much more other than the fact it may look ‘urban’ but the Russian owner has spent serious money on the place to ensure that it’s got everything an event planner could need – power, water, loos, catering areas (for re-heating, plating, serving etc) and details will be on Londonlaunch.com shortly!
The second venue I discovered this week is an extraordinary find! It’s a palatial art deco building that’s been standing empty for about four years. But it’s immaculate. And it’s on Haymarket! I’ve never even noticed it before but it’s huge and beautiful. Like my…(insert any word except ‘wife’ here!) ;-)
This venue is perfect for all sorts of special events. From conferences and AGM’s (it’s got huge open spaces spanning entire floors) to press events and product launches. It was used last year as Monaco House during the Olympics and the upstairs rooms they used as bedrooms are still kitted out as such. Again, it’s a beautiful old building and a snapshot in time. With its grand entrance and sleek, modern interiors (desks and bar areas still remain), it really is a stunning events venue in a prime location. In fact, it used to be Burberry HQ and there are still tell-tale signs, particularly on the outside of the building (a stunning exterior Burberry carriage-clock for example). How did I not know about this place? Amazing. Again, you should be able to find out more about this venue shortly, so be sure to check back into Londonlaunch.com regularly for more information.
So, secret venues are all around us. You just need to know where to look. Londonlaunch.com, of course!