The ever-cool head of commercial events at London’s Royal Opera House (ROH) and chair of Unique Venues of London (UVL) talks BAFTA, social media and bringing her venue into the 21st century
SHOW BIZ I started working in the exhibition industry, organising government-sponsored British group stands at overseas trade shows – mostly for the building industry. I thought it was the show business of the business world and I loved it. I hadn’t heard of the ‘events industry’ back then.
GOING DIGITAL Since I joined in 2004, the most striking difference at the Royal Opera House is the rise of digital output and its importance in terms of reaching our core audiences. We now have a whole broadcast department dedicated to delivering programme content for cinema, big screen relays and our YouTube channel, which now has hundreds of short films covering all aspects of the creative process. The footage of the Royal Ballet class has had millions of hits.
IF YOU CAN’T TAKE THE HEAT… If you can’t keep a cool head in the middle of an event, frankly, you shouldn’t be in the events industry. Events are really a series of deadlines – if you can’t recognise that, plan and put systems in place to deliver that, then of course you will be stressed. On big event days, I know that there is a team of qualified people in place – so my role is just to support the team and deal with the inevitable last minute requests.
NO ‘I’ IN TEAM The relationship between client and venue and suppliers is too often seen as a ‘them vs. us’ combative relationship, when in truth, the best events come from a partnership between all parties.
PRESTIGE EVENTS Selling the Royal Opera House to both BAFTA and the Society of London Theatres (who organise the Olivier Awards) was the easy bit. The hard bit was finding time in the ROH performance schedule to accommodate these events in our busy theatre, as we plan four to five years in advance. The great thing is now that both events are built into our schedule every year.
IN MEMORIUM The lowest point in my career was losing a very dear colleague to cancer. I considered her a mentor and I held her in such high regard. In truth, you don’t bounce back from that – but I became a lot closer to my colleagues, as we supported each other and came to terms with our loss – not just in terms of losing our friend, but losing all that expertise and wisdom.
NEW ADDITIONS UVL’s main strategy for 2016 is to launch our new Unique Insights London programme – which will be a series of evening events open to members and the wider events community where we have an opportunity to discuss an events issue. Our first one, in January, will discuss how we measure and value return on investment for events from the perspective of the corporate event planner, as well as the venue.
POST-PARIS I think that we may see a short-term drop in enquiries, but there is an acknowledgement from European countries that we are all at risk. Listening to the advice from the police and security services and taking advice from one’s own Government as to the wisdom of travel is the first most sensible form of action. We may see a tendency for events and incentive groups to want to stick closer to home – but in reality I think the industry is robust and will withstand this threat.
FAINT PRAISE On one of the first site visits we held for the BAFTA Awards team, I took the team up to the Royal Ballet studios, just as the dancers were holding their morning class – one of the BAFTA team nearly fainted on the spot when she realised that both Darcey Bussell and Carlos Acosta were in the same room.
This feature originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Access All Areas, out now.