July 2012 archive

- 10 Jul 2012

Wellcome Trust Welcomes OGGSVenue & Eclipse

Photo courtesy of  Wellcome Images

June saw Wellcome Trust return to OGGSVenue for their 3 day Pacific Health Summit after a successful meeting with us in 2010. Held annually in Seattle until 2009, the meeting was taken off-shore for the first time in 2010 when it came to London and the decision was taken to run the event away from Seattle in alternate years, to the best Westminster venue in London town of course!

Eclipse-Presentations, our audio-visual provider was also chosen again. Eclipse have been our in-house audio visual business partner with a permanent staff presence since 2006 and was re-appointed in the tender of the audio-visual contract in 2011 for another 5 years which I blogged about back in February 2011. You can read that blog post here.

Clients with large scale AV productions deal direct with the Eclipse Production side of the business rather than the team based at the venue who concentrate on our everyday business. This system has worked well for many years and clients that are used to dealing with a production company, get the full service needed to meet their needs. This can include written proposals and presentations where required where more than one company tender is required.

The Wellcome Trust used a set in our Great Hall for discussions over dinner on the first night and then later for conference sessions in the days following. Plenary sessions which took place in the Telford Theatre were linked via our internal hard wired network to our Smeaton Room which was used as an overflow room. All the main sessions were filmed.

The video below is a promotional clip of their work some of which is filmed at our venue.  The Great Hall always looks stunning for awards events.

Here is a little extract from the nice feedback we received from Susan Bassam of Wellcome Trust:
“We choose One Great George Street to hold our 2nd London Pacific Health Summit as the venue staff and AV team had been so helpful and professional during our first event in 2010.  We were able to use many of the rooms with a different set up in each one, and filmed all of the sessions.  The Eclipse AV team provided a great service and were flexible to all of our last minute requests, which helped to make the event a success.”
I am really looking forward to blogging about all things London Media Centre too but as you can imagine this very same subject is keeping me very busy right now so I’ll save that until next time. Just watch this space!

- 07 Jul 2012

London Mayoral candidates in a Schoolyard scrap at OGGSVenue

Guest blog post by Eleanor Besley, Policy Advisor, Sustrans

I last hosted an event with OGGS when I worked for a charity named PACTS (Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety) and thought it to be a great venue in a great location. So when I was asked to organise a venue for our Sustrans panel debate for Boris Johnson, Ken Livingstone, Jenny Jones, Brian Paddick and Siobhan Benita to be grilled on how they intend to make London a cycling city as part of The Times’s  Cities fit for cycling campaign, OGGSVenue immediately jumped to the forefront of my mind.

London Mayoral Candidiates at the Sustrans debate

 Photo courtesy of Sustrans 
Predictably Boris arrived for the Westminster event on his bike but thankfully not in ‘whippet thin legs clad in cycling lycra whilst skipping red traffic lights’ which is a remark he got heckled much for later on in the debate!
This is why we think OGGS is great for meetings and events including charitable organisations like ours:

1)      Their location in relation Whitehall and Parliament was just perfect. Very handy and convenient when you have Ministers and MPs in attendance.

2)     Security: As they are so close to the Houses of Parliament and located within the exclusion zone, they were well used to dealing with high profile visitors.

3)     Their purpose built theatre, the Telford was ideal as we needed a top table for the panelists with microphones within striking distance (I am joking!) from the 240 delegates and the package included all the Audio Visual equipment we needed.

4)      Sustainability is important to us as Sustrans has its own manifesto 2012 mayoral elections calling on whoever is Mayor to cut congestion and pollution by making it easier to cycle, walk and use public transport. OGGS’s commitment to sustainability is good generally and their recently signed food pledges commended by Rosie Boycott combined with their Silver Green Tourism Award complemented our own ideals in some respects.

5)      As luck would have it, OGGS had an excellent not-for-profit rate available on our event date! We were given a 20% discount off our room hire, saving us just over £400.00 (that should be enough to get a few more “Boris Bikes” around town!)
Yesterday’s event ran like clockwork. Our dedicated Event Co-ordinator (Yvonne Williams) could not have done any more to aid the smooth running of the event. Thank you to all involved and we’ll definitely consider and recommend OGGS for similar events.

- 06 Jul 2012

10 Tips to ‘Feed’ the ‘Appetite’ for Bespoke Menus

Dessert from Bespoke Menu at OGGSVenue
  Elderflower and crème fraîche tart with  mixed berries
(Recent event chosen from our 2012 menu to complement the rest of their bespoke menu)

Increasingly our clients have become “savvy” with food. Along with dietary requirements and environmental concerns, we need to also contend with requests for locally sourced and organic produce and get it all to the OGGSVenue dining tables whilst demonstrating good value for money.


1.    Time. To be creative one needs to be able to find time to step away from the operation and allow lots of research time. When team members are not doing normal routine jobs and what they know, more concentration of energy and therefore time is required.
2.    Research.  Many clients want to know how far ingredients have travelled. During the UK Presidency of the EU in the 2nd half of 2005, DEFRA held their weekend meeting of Agriculture and Environment Ministers with us of the then member states chaired by the Rt Hon Margaret Beckett. It was important for the Department to showcase the UK. We were tasked with providing menus to include a range of UK produce to ensure that ‘all 4 corners’ of the nation were represented and that the provenance of every item was known. This extended to wines and juices too. Not only was it important to know what was coming in but also what was being disposed of. In line with the Department’s sustainability objectives at that time, we had to provide figures on amounts of waste and how and where it was being disposed of. We subsequently sourced ‘Collar of Pork’ from Aubrey Allen, an award winning specialist butcher up in Warwickshire. As they were able to supply us with free range pork traceable from farm to plate, we accepted their invitation to visit their premises where they provided us with an amazing butchery demonstration.  

3.    Listen to the client. In the tastings I attend I have found that the clients often know exactly what they want and will also have their own ideas about what is current and trendy.  Rather than being too precious about it, I like to listen and learn. Working with their ideas is a nice addition to your more traditional knowledge streams.

4.    Learn from the experience.  Take the opportunity to learn new things. It will undoubtedly be different from the norm and keep both yourself and the team interested.

5.    Adapt the service style to suit the menu. For buffets in our Great Hall we normally have a long table display with repeated rows of food and clients are escorted and encouraged to sample it by our team members. For a recent high profile event with a virtually complete bespoke menu, the client requested a different style of service where the visual display and ability to walk up, admire and graze from the selection was a priority.

6.    Involve the team and keep them interested. Most of the time my Chefs have to get on with their jobs, often pressurised by tight schedules and deadlines. In that context, it is difficult to explore their own creativity and put into practice any good ideas they may have that could be successful.  I make a point, whenever possible to encourage them to propose their own dish ideas.  This tends to work well for our Brasserie One lunchtime restaurant menu but especially at the time of our annual banqueting menu review.  Few things are more satisfying and motivating for a Chef than seeing their creations featured in a menu. This sense of ownership of a dish leads to huge pride, motivation and quality.

7.    Menu expansion and annual menu creation. Where new dishes have worked, expand existing menus. Many items from bespoke menus have made their way onto our regular menu for the following year eg. Leg of Lamb Noisettes. This followed after we hosted a 3 day event for the Meat and Live Stock Commission at the time. They have since re-branded and are now known as AHDB (Agriculture and Horticultural Development Board). The styles of Ottolenghi’s wholesome looking salad range is also on my list of inspirational themes with 2013 menu planning high on my ‘to do’ list.

8.    Consider what equipment and crockery you need. Quite often new equipment or new crockery is required along with service staff training and front of house communication in terms of team briefings before and after the event.

9.    Recognise and reward team members that have gone the extra mile.  Here at OGGSVenue we have a monthly reward system called OGGStar. Following a tough but successful tasting with a high profile client recently, my boss and I both discovered that neither of us would actually be there on the day of the event. My number 2 (Joanne Dingwall) did a fabulous job and ended up joint winner with Yvonne Williams (Dedicated Event Coordinator) of the May OGGStar award. This followed after our boss received a glowing client letter after the event.

10.    Feeding hungry people is more important than blogging! Now it is time for me to get back to the kitchen. I have an army of journalists to feed whilst we are currently the home of the London Media Centre for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

- 04 Jul 2012

OGGSVenue team shine at Industry Oscars night

Last night, decked out in my penguin suit and accompanied by our Sales and Marketing ladies, I attended the 2012 Catey Awards at the JW Marriott, Grosvenor House Hotel on London’s prestigious Park Lane. It was my first time back in the Great Room for six years. Back in 2006 I attended the British Construction Industry Awards, an annual event run in connection with our parent body, the Institution of Civil Engineers.

From left to right we have Jayna Patel, Perry Simmonds, Anna Glazebrook and Wendy Greenhalgh

I am still undecided about what impressed me most last night. Joanna Lumley as a very entertaining hostess, the high production stage set complete with enormous Union Jack themed star cloths as the backdrop or perhaps it was the memorable menu!
The menu devised by Tom Kerridge kicked off with a Smoked Bramley apple soup with bacon, eel and borage. I was rather puzzled (as you can see by the look on my face) when the next delivery made its way to the OGGSVenue table.

Anna Glazebrook and Perry Simmonds at the Catey Awards

Before its lid came off, everyone at our table was prodding it and we were contemplating the use of various tools at hand to break in and reveal the mystery contents. It turned out to be salt-baked potatoes with malt butter encased in a rustic looking potato bag made out of pastry. It was served with Beer-braised ox cheek with Colman’s mustard, all in keeping with the overall British theme.

Making our Grade II listed, historic venue the most accessible environment for all our visitors in terms of providing services and support from our team to those with accessible needs is very much part of our management culture and ethos. So we didn’t come back with a Catey’s statue to add to our already full awards cabinet but we did well to make the final shortlist of only three along the Four Seasons Hotel Park Lane and Chewton Glen in the Accessibility Category. You can read more in our latest press release distributed today here