Posts Tagged ‘Great Hall’

- 20 May 2013

L’Wren Scott’s Debut London Show at One Great George Street

Peter Bishop/timbismedia

The refined aura of haute couture is strutting its way into the halls of OGGS these days – whether it’s in the form of international clothing line debuts – or in the more humble guise of a trendy international writer watching OGGS evolve into a high fashion venue.

The latter has been keeping tabs on OGGS since last summer’s Olympic Games. Through my work and generally pleasant, if American demeanor, I got to know the staff and fairly well. However, as an outsider, it’s been interesting watching the ongoing evolution of OGGS. When I first encountered OGGS, it was swarming with sports writers and TV reporters covering the world’s biggest sporting event. Now, I find its hosting the famous faces of fashion.

OGGS is becoming a focal point during London Fashion Week in Westminster and throughout the year as individual designers look for a home to debut their lines. Whether it’s the February London Fashion Week or the September equivalent, OGGS serves as one of central London’s prime fashion show locations.

The specifications for a fashion show venue are very specific and potentially rare – even in a massive city like London. The space must be large enough to host hundreds of clothes-minded people.

Also, some exclusive space is needed to keep the designers and VIPs clear of the media and fans. You need enough extended floor area for a runway. You must have proper photographic lighting and the ability to dress a venue properly. And, obviously, kitchen facilities are essential to provide refreshments for the assembled, expensively-thonged throngs.

Between the Great Hall upstairs and the kitchen facilities in the basement, OGGS is a friendly home to the fashion elite. Already in February 2013, OGGS welcomed British designers Alice Temperley’s 1960s-inspired wear and Antonio Berardi’s ready to wear collection in dedicated London Fashion Week events.

The Collective agency selected OGGS for the Berardi show, while the My Beautiful City booked the Temperley event.

Fashion Foie Gras: L’Wren Scott in the Great Hall

However, the most star-studded OGGS show during February Fashion Week drew international buzz with L’Wren Scott’s London debut. An American designer and longtime companion of some British pop star (…Mick Jagger or some such…), Scott was the talk of London and the entire fashion community as she flaunted her wears alongside Jagger, fellow Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood, Sally Humphreys and Bobbi Brown. OGGS again worked with My Beautiful City to sew up Scott’s show.

Now, to digress for just a moment, I tried to sell myself a bit earlier as a well-dressed fashion expert who glides into OGGS a few times of year dressed to the nines. That would certainly qualify me to report the beans out of any fashion story.

However, to be honest, no one in London, greater Europe or the entire face of the Planet Earth will mistake me for a fashion expert. Fortunately, just a little research tells me why OGGS was the perfect spot for Scott’s fashion show. She based her 2013 line on a blending of inspirations, including the work of world famous artists and an almost royal use of shimmering, golden fabrics. She featured gowns inspired by paintings of Gustav Klimt – which played perfectly strutting alongside OGGS’s carefully displayed framed paintings and massive overhead mural in The Great Hall. Scott’s golden flowing gowns glowed under the same reflections cast off the Great Hall’s generous gold leafing across its walls and ceilings.  The classic marble halls and classical Westminster architecture make OGGS a seemingly perfect host to any designer working up a collection relying on classic lines and traditional elegance.

All three fashion shows came off at OGGS without a hitch, taking place on weekends and allowing for setup and sound checks to be completed without disturbing day to day building operations.

The popular and critical success of all three shows generated more than a passing mention in the global and London-based press. Images of the models strutting through the Great Hall graced the print and virtual pages of Vogue, Style, The Guardian and The New York Times.  As important as such press is documenting the recent history of OGGS, what’s more essential is how influential these major fashion events and their related coverage are with an eye to the future. London obviously hosts two major international week long fashion events every winter and spring. There’s also a Men’s London Fashion Week in January because nothing says “handsome clothes” like gray skies, long nights and single digit temperatures. OGGS hasn’t hosted a Men’s Fashion Week event yet, but that’s sure to change.

Fortunately, designers work yearlong and often roll out their lines or smaller additions to their lines outside the boundaries of either London Fashion Weeks. OGGS stands at attention for those busy fashionistas, as well.

Peter Bishop/timbismedia

This year’s successful events at OGGS should keep the major designers and their elite ensembles returning to Westminster year-round. I’m sure the in-house staff will be flirting with every designer they can find. The question is whether folks around the building will snag a few free samples and begin dressing all “pret a porter.”

I’ll find out the answer to that the next time I visit.

As a writer, John Scott Lewinski travels the world, writing for more than 30 national magazines and online news sites – including Crave Online, The Hollywood Reporter, Wired Magazine,, Hemispheres, Via, Popular Mechanics, Scientific American, CNET, Popular Science, and ABC News Online. While covering the 2012 Summer Olympics for multiple outlets, he enjoyed getting know the history and people brining OGGS to life. Whenever worn brings him back to London, he stops by Westminster to check up on the evolution of what was his London Media Center.

- 24 Apr 2013

Westminster Wedding Papparazzi, Hello Magazine and moi!

One of my blog readers and avid OGGS fans is the American writer that was based here last summer. Business brought him to London town all the way from Los Angeles via Milwaukee and he popped in to see us while he was here. His visit happened to be the day prior to our first wedding of the year and it was a high profile one indeed. Here is a guest blog post on what happened next, written by John Lewinski.

Katherine Jenkins' sister Laura getting married at OGGS - Hello special

Taken from Hello!: Our very own Perry’s moment of fame

The writing business brought me back into London for meetings during the final week of March. I was shocked by the nasty weather with single digits temperatures, bitter winds and a blizzard combining to deny stubbornly any possible existence of seasons beyond winter.

When my appointments brought me through St. James’s Park and around Westminster, I stopped in at OGGS for a quick lunch in the packed Brasserie. I never expected a simple plate of fish and chips would lead me to affirmation that spring was indeed right around the corner.
After wrapping up lunch, I took a brief stroll upstairs. It’s not every day I get a chance to look over the paintings along the stairwells or the architecture of the domes. It was a quick peak into the Great Hall (my one-time communal office during the 2012 Olympics) that warmed my heart more than the London weather ever could.

That glimpse revealed white-clothed tables decorated with fresh flowers as well as a stage set up with the band equipment and bar area. An electronics-packed DJ station needed only a cue to fill the big room with music. The hall was set up for nuptials – confirming that wedding season was once again descending on OGGS.

This particular display was for the Laura Jenkins and Gavin Johnson wedding on March 23, the first major bridal event of spring, 2013 at OGGS.
Setup for the event started the day before. While OGGS staffers went about their Friday, Events Manager Perry Simmonds and new OGGS Wedding Coordinator Loan Odd had access to the spaces reserved for the Jenkins party.

The Great Hall with Candles Wedding Set-up
The Great Hall: Steve Shipman Photography

From 9:30 the next morning, Simmonds and Odd worked together to set up lamps and candles throughout the venue, before placing name plates on seats in the Smeaton Room (where the actual ceremony would take place). Then, it was on to the reception space in the Great Hall with place cards matched to the bridal party’s table plan.

By that time, other team members from the OGGS Catering and House teams arrived on schedule to double check and reconfirm information from the function. That means Simmonds and Odd must check in and consult with those departments while also taking care of their own responsibilities. You can imagine how the hustle and bustle ratchets up a few notches.

Deliveries for the wedding preparation arrive throughout the day. For this particular production, the most challenging installation was the baby grand piano needed for the ceremony’s special guest performer. You can’t have a piano without a piano tuner, so that was the next element to show on the scene.

After that, the arrivals were more traditional. There was the wedding cake. Once the band was on site, they needed to set up in the Great Hall for a sound check.  The wedding’s Toastmaster arrived plenty early to review all of the formal proceedings.

One Great George Street on the Wedding cake
OGGS on the Cake! Steve Shipman Photogtaphy 

Dining preparation was in full swing. Guests would enjoy a Champagne and Canapé Reception before settling into a celebratory meal of asparagus wrapped in Parma ham with a warm poached egg, basil oil and balsamic glaze served with Hollandaise sauce; roast rump of lamb served with pommes boulangere; spinach, roast vine tomatoes and rosemary jus; and baked chocolate fondant with a chocolate cigar and vanilla ice cream.

The couple provided a playlist via iPad for a little background music during the drinks reception and dinner. The device and instructions needed to go to our onsite Audio Visual technician for their own soundcheck, scheduling, etc. The couple chose a “walk in” track (Greatest Day by Take That) to be played as they were announced into the festivities. So, the Toastmaster and A/V technician had to check the length of the instrumental on the walk in song as that was the cue for the announcement. Many weddings are considerable productions, and this kind of timing, choreography and coordination takes a little time.

To put it in Simmonds’ own words: “With weddings, you are really on your feet from start to finish – and you don’t realize how tired you are until the wedding is underway.”

The Welsh bride and Yorkshire groom chose a London theme for their big day. The aura of the British capital ran throughout the stationery, table names (including Covent Garden, where they met).

The cake (a three tier, three flavored sponge mix of lemon, vanilla & chocolate) included iconic London decorations – including the Dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral and, with a nice flourish, our own OGGS building. Laura and her mother even arrived in a white London taxi, all in keeping with the theme.

The color scheme was predominantly white and green, so the OGGS pillars in the entrance foyer were lit in white during the drinks reception. All areas were complimented with white linen and a mix of white flowers with green foliage.

The main staircase was adorned with glass hurricane lamps and ivory candles, providing a magnificent background for the wedding photographs and an inviting path for guests to head upstairs into the Great Hall for the wedding breakfast.

The Smeaton Room would host the actual ceremony, and the fireplace mantel pieces both there and in the Brunel Room (drinks reception) had groups of ivory church candles and all of the tables were laden with smart little votives. The pillars in the Great Hall started off being up-lit in soft white light, highlighting the gold leaf in the room and were changed to warm amber after the first dance. The chandeliers were dimmed for mood, but there remained just enough light to allow a twinkle with the additional reflections from the candles below.

When it was finally time for the wedding party to arrive, heads certainly turned as the bride emerged from that white London taxi with her mother and bridesmaids not far behind. They used Storey’s Gate – the location of the OGGS secondary, discreet entrance allowing everyone from brides to celebrities to arrive at the venue discreetly.
That discretion was essential when the bride Jenkins’ sibling, international vocal star Katherine Jenkins, arrived to sing The Prayer (by Celine Dion) at her sister’s wedding. The Paparazzi was on the hunt and managed to snap a few shots of the Jenkins’ clan – and a few OGGS staffers like Simmonds and Odd before the fuss settled down into Westminster wedding bliss.

Hello! Magazine kept tabs on the proceedings from the tabloid shadows to write up a special feature on the wedding. I’ve heard some mumblings that the celebrity magazine was in the neighborhood because of the bride’s celebrated sibling, but I think it’s clear to me they really wanted a glimpse of Simmonds. 

Laura Jenkins wedding at One Great George Street

The Bride and her Bridesmaids: Steve Shipman Photography

By all accounts (including the raves of Hello!) , the Jenkins/Johnson nuptials were a complete success – with the venue staff as happy as the wedding party to see it all come together so well. When all of the guests, crews and delivery folks were gone, with the Great Hall settled back into brief peace and quiet, Simmonds, Odd and the entire OGGS team could enjoy their success for a moment – before ramping up for the next wedding in what will be another busy season.

As a writer, John Scott Lewinski travels the world, writing for more than 30 national magazines and online news sites – including Crave Online, The Hollywood Reporter, Wired Magazine,, Hemispheres, Via, Popular Mechanics, Scientific American, CNET, Popular Science, and ABC News Online. While covering the 2012 Summer Olympics for multiple outlets, he enjoyed getting know the history and people brining OGGS to life. Whenever work brings him back to London, he stops by Westminster to check up on the evolution of what was his London Media Center.

- 17 Aug 2012

2012 London Media Centre Press, Stress and Gummy Bears

2012 London Olympic Games a Sucess with the Major
Coordinating and overseeing 66 press conferences over the 2012 London Media Centre which we have been housing during the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games has not quite stressed out and messed up my hair to the same extent as Boris above or either of the Catalonian performance artists from Osadia in the photo below taken just outside our Brasserie One restaurant.

2012 London Media Centre: Inside the fun
Perry with his new very British fans!

 It also has not left me craving gummy bears, but more about that later ‘I am after all, long in the Westminster tooth so to say’ and have dealt with very many Westminster press conferences during my time in and around local venues.

My most hectic time for press conferences is normally at election time. As we are so close to Parliament, have a division bell and are used to dealing with high profile, short notice press conferences on all things government, we tend to be very popular for these short bookings. BUT MPs would never put in a request for gummy bears.

In twitter lingo, the #2012LMC press conferences have been a bit different from government related press conferences.  Our two purpose built theatres have been permanently prepared for press conferences with the required links to the whole world provided by NorthOne and Ether Live. Our on-site team of technicians worked closely throughout with the LMC Press Desk to ensure that presentations were formatted correctly and ready by the required time. Both the Telford and Godfrey Mitchell theatres have therefore been kept in a permanent state of readiness allowing them to be brought into use at a moment’s notice. Just as well as there were so many tight turnarounds particularly towards the end of the Games when it reached a crescendo with 10 press conferences on the last Thursday alone.

The high profile VIPs I can recall off the top of my head in recent weeks were made up of a mixture from the sports and culinary worlds including Lennox Lewis, Michael Phelps, Jamie Oliver, Heston Blumenthal,  Marcus Wareing from the Berkeley, Paula Radcliffe and many more.  The list is too long to mention. Boris has been in and out of OGGSVenue that many times that I have lost count and barely noticed when I passed by Brasserie One and heard he was just munching away on Chef’s lunch of fish lasagne. I think and hope he really likes it here and his style was certainly very entertaining during the press conferences. We’ll always be more than happy to look after his bike in the usual way.

Here is a selection of some of my favourite recent press conference photos taken at the LMC.

Jamie Oliver with Square Meal at the 2012 London Media Centre

Jamie being interviewed by Ben McCormack from SquareMeal

The Magic Numbers with Visit Britain at the 2012 London Media CentreHeston at the 2012 London Media Centre


Heston demonstrating his culinary artistic or mad scientist skills with nitrogen cylinders and test tubes?

The Telford Theatre filling up and ready for
Jamie’s arrival via our discreet secret entrance for VIPs
2012 London Media Centre inside the Great Hall Jamie Oliver set-up inside the 2012 London Media Centre

The LMC reopens for the Paralympic Games and OGGS gets tidied  and ready to reopen for normal Westminster conferences and events on Monday, 17th September 2012.

- 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.

- 16 Apr 2012

Is Goalball the most popular Paralympic Sport?

Paralympic's most popular sport, Goalball
Goalball player professionals?

I don’t really know where to start telling you about this so how about the beginning? Our Sales & Marketing Director popped by my desk a while back in January and started asking me some peculiar questions such as:

  • “What type of wooden floor is there in the Great Hall?”
  • “What is the wall to wall measurement in square feet?”
  • “Is the Great Hall available on the 16th and 23rd of April?”

 At this point I started to get suspicious and simply said….”IT DEPENDS!”
Then the second round of questions made me really shift around my seat a bit:

  • “Would it be ok to throw a 25cm diameter rubber ball with 8 holes and bells in it around our most magnificent room, decked out with gold leaf detail, marble walls, crystal chandeliers, oak floor and painted ceiling?”
  • “Would it be ok to put two goals (9m wide x 1.3m high) at either end of the Great Hall on both days?”

She then said …”Only 65 cheering, over excited, probably amateur players per day” as if to say that makes it better because the Great Hall can take up to 400 people for a reception.

One thing led to another and next thing I know we were chosen by London & Partners to host their Going for Gold, Olympic staff engagement event.  The aim of the Goalball league is to get London and Partners’ staff fired up before the Games, and what better way than through playing one of the most popular Paralympic sports.

What is Goalball?

I decided that it would be best if I found out a bit more so reached for my keyboard to contact ‘Dr Google’ and found out all I need to know on this YouTube video clip.

What happened yesterday?

12 teams with between four and six amateur (hope they don’t mind me saying so!) players in each team fell about blindfolded all day during the qualifying rounds.

The following teams have made it through to the semi-finals on the 23rd of April:
London Fireballs, Beauties and the Beast, Goodness Gracious Great Balls of Fire, Sepp Reindle Aficionados, Thames Barriers and Tinkle Bells.

The semi finals and final will be played on the 23rd before Gordon Innes, CEO of London & Partners congratulates the winners and they all head for the Westminster Arms across the road for a well-deserved pint or two. Jessica from our Marketing team will be live tweeting updates so be sure to follow us on Twitter and keep an eye on our Facebook page if you want to know the winners.

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