A round up of the best London venues for World Cup screenings - the perfect excuse for a sports-themed summer party.
It's summertime (almost) and although the living is still far from easy, it's definitely improving. There is far more activity this springtime than there has been in years and in an increasingly automated age, it's interesting to see face to face events making such a comeback. Virtual is cool. Actual is cooler.
The Christmas party (now known as the 'Christmas Event' to avoid accusations of frivolity) was the first to make a comeback a couple of years ago after a miserable period of Scrooge-ism which lasted three or four years resulting in...well, nothing really but belligerent misery and general corporate despondency from an uninspired and unappreciated workforce. There's simply nothing to gain from not having fun with your colleagues and I'm delighted that everyone agrees with me. There, glad that's cleared up. But hot on the heels of the Christmas resurrection (if that's not too ironic because I'm clearly and inadvertently mixing in an Easter metaphor there!) is the long overdue resurgence of the summer party. Summer is a great time to celebrate because its mid year (about time for a celebration?), its light at night and people are generally up for some fun. If Dr. Seuss was a party organiser, I think he'd sell the benefits of a summer party to someone who hasn't staged one before, like this - "If you never did, you should. These things are fun and fun is good!" Simple.
What's more, this summer is going to be huge.
Aside from all the regular (but no less exciting for it) sporting events from Wimbledon to Royal Ascot, there's also a summer of world class football looming (just when you thought it was safe to suggest a Sunday afternoon movie!) Yes, the World Cup is back and this time its serious because England are going to win it (as all the bar owners bite their nails and hope we escape the group stage!) However, even if you hate football (a notion I accept but don't readily acknowledge) there are a whole host of venues out there, which masterfully and simultaneously entertain the lovers and the haters in equal measure.
This new genre of venue combines virtual (TV) and actual sports activities, catering for everyone.
I'll come on to this but the ironic thing is that for those who don't want to watch sport, they can get off their asses and play it instead - everybody wins! It's the perfect solution.
It's no secret that, with the resurgence of events as, not only a viable but also the second best (that's a statistical fact) means of promoting a brand or product, after a company's own website, London is awash with superb, world class venues who have all upped their game (excuse the pun) to offer an 'experience' rather than a 'space'.
The quality of venue packages and experiences means that you don't often have to conceptualise or create your event from scratch (unless you have the desire, inclination, means and budget to do so - in which case it can be spectacular, of course). I remember the days of cobbling together 'Its a Knockout' style summer parties (a 90's trend) but they were often more trouble than they were worth. One example was when we received a letter from an insurance company asking for a witness statement because a Partner of a certain firm who had found a venue through our site (however tenuous that sounds) had, and I quote "become inebriated, fallen off a giant inflatable and now has one leg shorter than the other".
You simply couldn't make it up! Needless to say, the whole industry has moved on since those rather more haphazard days and there are excellent companies such as Global Games Sports who manage things beautifully resulting in a spectacular experience. Indeed, the ultimate World Cup event, in my opinion, would be a morning conference, followed by an afternoon of interactive fun and games, perhaps with Global Games Sports, culminating with a screening of an England World Cup Group match in the evening over burgers, beers and chips. Business and pleasure. Back of the net!
So, with all that in mind, here are 10 ideas for a World Cup themed event:
1. Steam and Rye
This place is gloriously bonkers. And effortlessly cool. Owned by serial uber-club owner Nick House, co-owned by Kelly Brook and overseen by the mysterious handlebar moustachioed 'Beamish', Steam & Rye is an eclectic mix of fantastical aspiration, adorned with global artefacts from a bygone era. Their stunning private room was recently described as 'like the attic in Jumanji' and its piles of antique leather suitcases, maps, birdcages and even a giraffe give it a sort of Indiana Jones feel, steeped in nostalgia and well travelled excess. Downstairs, the large former banking hall couldn't be further from its origins. With upside-down Statues of Liberty, giant sharks standing on their tail-fins, elevated dance floors and an entire flank of the main space adorned with an open sided Pullman train carriage, this has got to be one of London's most exciting new City venues.
The banquette seating nestled within each train carriage compartment has its own large screen LCD TV, making it the perfect private viewing booth for this summer's World Cup - private and comfortable, yet open to the stunning and vibrant venue beyond offering a unique atmosphere for your clients to soak-up.
2. Namco Funscape
On first inspection this is a mass of beeping, blinking, flashing arcade machines set within County Hall, but venture downstairs and you'll discover an uber cool large scale warehouse space with giant screens, pool tables, ping-pong tables and lots of big comfy leather sofas. Like an adult playground with lots of places to chill and watch the game (if that's possible in an England World Cup campaign). Namco Funscape is a fusion of hi-tech and retro, a gaming paradise combining an abundance of open-plan urban style event space with classic, unadulterated fun - from bumper cars to the hi-tech Karaoke lounge, pool halls to large format screening areas, Namco is a brilliantly appointed fun palace on the Southbank and absolutely perfect for this year's summer World Cup...
3. Riley's Sports Bar, Haymarket
The original West End Sports Bar (there have never been enough of them) and its recent revamp means its now even better for sports fans than ever before. Riley's is geared up to optimise the sports fan's viewing experience to the max but also provides a separate dimension for those wanting to participate as opposed to just watch. Adorned with sporting memorabilia and with inspirational and iconic quotes from sporting greats plastered across the walls, London's most prominent sports screening venue has it all - big screens, little screens, tiny table-side screens and plenty of interactive stuff too. There's a great private area for presentations with a giant screen behind the stage and stadium style seating - perfect for a bit of business before some big game pleasure afterwards. Riley's is a great place to mix business with pleasure - especially during World Cup season...
4. The Secret Garden at Crowne Plaza
Its amazing what you discover when you know where to look. And this beautiful (big!) garden has been hiding in plain sight for years, nestled neatly between the Crowne Plaza Hotel and a rather large church, making it the perfect summer reception venue for weddings. Except the church haven't realised this yet so it's never been done. Instead, its the perfect inner city oasis for corporate entertaining and unrivaled alfresco World Cup screenings. This secret garden really has it all. A sweeping, beautifully manicured lawn, secluded patio areas (perfect for alfresco dining) and little enchanting areas beneath the trees. There's also a really stylish tented area with open sides for cover so it's not entirely left to chance. Although, when you discover this place, you'd probably risk it anyway, even if it didn't have such exceptional facilities courtesy of the Crowne Plaza hotel it adjoins.
5. Minories, Tower Hill
This is a fascinating series of venue spaces. On one hand, it's a highly traditional old school under-the-arches London pub venue, on the other a cool, vaulted ceiling warehouse style urban space, perfect for large-scale screenings and corporate gatherings. The cobbled floors and steel-on-brick look makes it a fascinating place and a real corporate flagship from the same group who operate the impressively successful Slug and Lettuce pub chain. Situated at Tower Hill, it's in a brilliant City location too. I'm actually going to a Black Tie Ball there later this year, which is testament to the venue’s diversity. And class. A great traditional place with enormous screens to watch England win the 2014 World Cup...
This has got to be one of the coolest new venues in London. A super spacious urban mecca of fun and games with ping-pong tables everywhere (even official Olympic ones), urban cages, graffiti, art-deco tiled walls, and an amazing private room with its own bar, ping-pong tables and ultraviolet lights which, when switched on, reveal all sorts of hidden secrets. This place is just awesome - different, inspiring, fun and enormous. It also benefits from the Benihana/Tardis effect. The tiny Holborn entrance belies the large-scale urban expanse, which opens out below - a veritable treasure trove of City venue spaces, tucked away from the public eye with a Speakeasy style point of entry, which is both intriguing and enigmatic. Fat Sam's grand Slam, of the ping-pong kind!
7. The Broadway Bar and Grill
Our local office haunt in Fulham and a brilliant place for watching football this summer. With three floors and two lovely roof terraces, this place has great food, a great atmosphere and screens everywhere! No matter what floor you're on - from the Brasa flame grill restaurant with its cosy private room to Broadway House (the private members' club upstairs), there's big screen football for those who want their weekly fix. For those who don't there's plenty of opportunity to escape to other parts of this diverse venue. In fact, so close is this joint to Stamford Bridge, the match officials often eat here on match day as well as stage pre-match meetings in the private room. The perfect place for fine food and fine....err....England football!
8. The Crystal
For a huge-screen hi-tech extravaganza, The Crystal opposite the O2 is the ultimate destination! Their state of the art inner core (which is actually like stepping into a giant apple) is like a next generation HD cinema with both a gigantic screen and equally gigantic sound. There’s no better place to live and breath the tension than in this uber-immersive environment – the closest you’ll ever get to actually being in Brazil. Especially if you go for their riverside barbecue package and turn up the heat…
9. Shillibeer’s Bar & Grill
A totally cool new warehouse style bar in North London – close to King’s Cross and a hop skip and a theatrical dive from Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium! Amidst the authentic wooden floors, iron girders, beer barrels and old tram factory wheels and pulleys, Shillibeer’s are incorporating a giant twelve foot by ten foot screen and are remaining open late for all the key games!
10. Global Games Sports
If you want to really go to town this summer, Global Games Sports have a range of interactive, hi-tech and fun-fueled Football games such as their addictive ‘Kick Point’ challenge which measures the speed and accuracy of your penalty-taking, ‘Skillball’ which uses light sensors to test the accuracy of your passing, ‘Shadow Runner’ where you can race your heroes via Augmented Reality and, my favourite, ‘Robo-Keeper’ where an actual goalkeeper reacts to the speed and angle of your shot, diving to save almost anything you can kick at it, whoever you are! Long-term venue installations are available, as are one off hire items. Of course, there’s also the more low-tech yet equally exhilarating inflatable range – from ‘Speed Cages’ to inflatable pitches for tournaments of all shapes and sizes…
11. The Bull and the Hide
And a late entry for the City’s most stylish new gastro pub. This beautiful and excellently located venue is poised to reflect its effortless class with gastronomically themed World Cup Screening dinners. Whatever your team, from England to Italy, Brazil to France you’ll be able to immerse yourself entirely in their culture and cuisine, followed by the big game itself. Bliss…
And don’t forget, there are hundreds and thousands of World Cup ‘accessories’ to sprinkle into the mix too, such as The London Barbecue’s ‘Brazilian BBQs’ and the Ice Box’s stunning World Cup themed ice sculptures, which will crank up the heat and add a dash of ‘cool’ respectively, animating any event (even if the football doesn’t!)
Will Broome CEO
Event industry trends
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