Christmas

Why Me?!

Here’s the latest Blogspot from our lovely blogger, Holly Brailsford, all about how to embrace being given the task of sourcing and organising any event….

 

So… since you’d been chosen to plan the office Christmas get-together which was a huge success you’ve drawn the short straw to book an off-site 2 day meeting for all of your senior management or… “bestowed” the honour of organising and running the company’s annual conference!

Inside you whisper… Why me??

When this planning malarkey isn’t part of your main job role, and you’ve never organised anything larger than a dinner for 30 at your local pub for your Christmas Do’, where on earth do you start!?

The whisper of “Why me!” has now grown to a scream!

First of all, there is a reason you have been given the job of planning, implementing and heading up such an important date/s in your company’s calendar so “hurrah” is really what you should be thinking.

How many people will be attending? Find out will the event be compulsory, invite only or do your delegates sign up to attend? You’ll need an idea of minimum and maximum numbers you expect, as well as an idea of room layout. If you’re unsure what would work best, the venue will be able to advise you.

Location of this event is your first point of call, find out what is important to the big bosses. Who is attending and where are they coming from? Do they have a preferred location, such as near Head Office or a flagship site. This will help you narrow down your venue search.

Are they looking for the buzz of a city centre that is easy to access by everyone attending by car, rail or plane, or the peace of the countryside with free parking in abundance? Do they want your attendees to go free into the city in an evening to explore, or keep them in all in one venue for networking and relationship building?

Do you need to think about being near an airport to accommodate your international guests? If so, there are now almost micro-cities on the doorstep of major air links so you can literally watch the planes take off during your event which can add a really quirky edge to the day.

Budget – What do they want to spend on this shindig and how much will be included for the each person attending? Are delegates paying to attend or is this one “on the house?”

Once you know the answers to these questions you’re on the right track to start looking at potential venues.

A Conference & Events Agency is always a great help when venue searching, they will have a list of varied and preferred suppliers at their finger-tips ready and eager to accept your new enquiry. You can also go one step further and choose an agency that can assist in the planning and logistical side of your conference.

Just like buying a new car or house, you’ll know which venue is right when you get there. You’ll get “that feeling” that the atmosphere and staff will create, if you can picture yourself behind their registration desk ticking off names and see your delegates eating their lunch then this is the venue for you. However… You need to look with your head as well as your heart.

  • How easy is it to get from the main plenary room to your break-outs?
    Are your break-out rooms split up over different floors?
    How good is their signage and can you provide additional?
    Do you need the venue to be DDA compliant?
  • Where is lunch & is there room for an exhibition if needed?
    Do you require seating for lunch?
    Will your delegates be queuing for lunch if you’re planning a buffet?
    Is the buffet self-service or will staff be on hand to assist?
  • What is the standard of the food & can you try some?
    Do you need a bespoke or themed menu and is there an extra charge for this?
    Listen to the venues recommendations regarding food and how to fuel your delegates.
  • Is there WIFI for everyone?
    Is the internet key to your event for streaming or video link? Find out the bandwidths  and do some testing if you can.
  • Are you able to provide pop-up banners, uniformed staff and “brand up” as much as you like?
    This will help create the delegate journey, from arrival they’ll  be seeing your logos and company colours making them feel at ease straight away.

The list of questions is endless and this is where your C&E Coordinator at the venue will help and so will your chosen agency. So don’t feel like a rabbit in head lights, it’ll all come together!

Also listen to your Coordinator at the venue too, they know the building and how to make it work best for you. Their advice will come from experience and if you’re ever unsure you can ask for past examples of how something worked or didn’t work for a previous client.

When it comes to signing the contract for your venue, make sure you read all of the terms and conditions. They can differ from venue to venue so ensure you’re fully aware of all the minimum number charges, cancelation policy should you need it and any other important points they may have failed to mention on confirmation.

The most important part of planning any event is to enjoy it!

As long as your open with your communication, ask questions when needed and you’re organised it will all go swimmingly and you’ll feel an immense sense of achievement when it all comes together.

Event planning isn’t for everyone, but anyone can do it.

 

About the Author

Holly Brailsford is Sales Manager at The Midland Hotel 

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Note from Down Under – Blogspot

Our lovely blogger Emily treats us to the next installment of her monthly blog….

Reality Strikes Back!

Can you believe yet another year has past?! Time flies when you are grown up and have a proper job.

Hope you all had a fabulous Christmas and New Year, it was rather an odd one here in Melbourne but me and my partner made the most of it and got into the spirit of things none the less. Anyway, onwards and upwards to the new year and a whole new year of events to look forward to. In true spirit of things, this months piece is going to delve into something we all know all too well, those dreaded January Blues.

Melbourne Skyline

It is an awful feeling, you have had some time off work, been eating and drinking till your hearts content, spending time with loved ones you only see once a year and just are full of Christmas cheer. The weather is miserable, cold and dark yet you still have Christmas to look forward to to push you through. January hits and its back to work, back to routine, diets begin to shed the Christmas pounds and you’re still filled with dark, cold days and nothing to look forward to right? It is not a great time of year, lets be honest, but it has rather a different feel down under where January isn’t all that bad.

We are currently just hitting summer here in Australia so this kind of takes the edge off the typical ‘January Blues’. While we are still all heading back to work after a nice long break. We are welcomed with warm sunny mornings, beautiful sunsets and soaring temperatures which is an instant mood boost, just being able to sit outside to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner helps. We can look forward to the weekend as while we all may be a little strapped for cash, here you can just make a picnic and hit the beach or visit one of Melbourne’s many beautiful parks which are home to open air cinemas during the summer period while back in the UK we end up being couped up inside avoiding the weather which leads to further frustration.

 

A Stroll Over The Sand Dunes

The end of January also hosts a public holiday for ‘Australia Day’ which is rather a big deal over here with events taking place in major cities all over the country. Events range from large fire work displays and street parties to twilight markets, beer and food festivals and array of family fun events, think St Patricks Day but on a bigger scale. Another major event of the Australian events calendar this month is the Australian Open Tennis which people look forward to year round and book tickets well in advance to ensure they have the best court side seats where they can sip Pimms and eat strawberries and not have to worry about running for cover (an all to favourite past time at Wimbledon). A lot of planning an management goes into this event as expected and like Wimbledon it is that of a continuous success, my aim is to try and get involved some way this year, what an event to be a part of. The arena itself is set along the river and is rather prestigious to say the least, again the courts will be graced with some of the worlds best but who will win the trophy.

The summer event season is just kicking off and let me tell you, it looks to be a cracking year for events in Melbourne alone and I for one am stuck for choice on what to attend and get involved with, a slight change to what I would usually be doing at this time of year in the UK, so if you want to banish those January Blues I suggest you enjoy a nice wintry Christmas in the UK and then get yourself on the next plane and soak up some of this sun, there is plenty to go around thats for sure.

 

Emily Dwyer is an event manager originally from the UK that’s just emigrated to Australia with her partner. Emily regularly writes blog of her experiences in the event industry and has a monthly blogspot here on the Top Venues website amongst writing her own. You can read other blogs Emily has written about her experiences here: www.theeventure.wordpress.com

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Something Everyone Should Do….

Here’s a few pictures taken from a video one of our clients, Winning Pitch, created during their Christmas conference and party that we organised for them…gives you an idea of some of the festivities they got up to, something I think every business should do!

Lots of fun had and a brilliant event all in all:

It was absolutely fantastic, the whole day was perfect everyone loved it and the room was magical at the night time – all twirly lights all over!!! Thanks so much for sorting it all out, we really appreciate it.

 




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Notes from Down Under – Blogspot

So here at Top Venues, we thought you might like to get the opinions and stories of an event planner Down Under to compare to that of event life here in the UK.

We’d like to introduce you to Emily Dwyer, an event planner who’s just emigrated to Australia and has agreed to post a monthly blog right here on our blogspot for all you lovely readers. Over to Emily:

 

Notes from Down Under – Its beginning to (not) look a lot like Christmas.

 

Hello Top Venue Readers!

Most of you probably won’t know me but I am the writer of The Eventure. I am rather new to this blog writing business but I am enjoying it. If you read my about me page, you will discover that I recently made a life changing decision to move to Australia in pursuit of my Event Management dreams. The blog will document my journey into the events industry down under and how it differs from that in the UK. Join me here every month to see how I am getting on.

Firstly I would like to say a massive thanks to Top Venues for having me write for them and rant to all their readers along with my own.

My first piece to you this month is going to discuss how the lead up to Christmas here in Australia differs from that of the UK’s and particularly with the events industry. I hope you enjoy and feel free to email me any comments.

So, It is that time of year again when the nights start drawing in early, the frost starts to take over, madness starts in the shops and the decorations and bright lights start to appear, its Christmas of course, my favourite time of year! As we know all too well in the UK the build up starts earlier each year, unfortunate for those with young kids who have excited little youngsters for about 3 months but it is a particularly busy and exciting period for event organisers and venues across the globe.

Australian Christmas Tree - no different to ours!

 

From experience, I know that within the UK in particularly Christmas is an event managers and venues busiest time of year. We are a traditional country and like to go all out over the festive period. Venues get booked a year in advance, parties have to be booked months prior to the actual event and larger council run events take at least a year’s planning so overall a lot of thought goes into this holiday season.

Now hold that thought, I am going to paint a mental image for you, here I am in Melbourne in the first week of December basking in glorious sunshine (30 degrees worth I may add) with the main topic of conversation being about the summer holidays, not a Christmas tree in sight and not even a Christmas song played in any shop and not much advertised around the city or in venues for Christmas events. Now not only am I the biggest kid at Christmas but I love the buzz and atmosphere around the season and the vast amount of events that occur over this period. A time to be merry and thankful for great family and friends and the year gone by and a time to celebrate all that was in the past year.

It started to occur to me that the Aussie’s do it a little differently to us, as this is currently their summer period its difficult to engage in the christmas type events that are on offer to us in the UK such as ice skating, drinking mulled wine and keeping in warm in front of a log fire in a nice country pub. In Australia you can expect the type of events that take place in our summer such as outdoor music festivals, Open Air cinemas and street parties with not much emphasis placed on Christmas parties, Christmas themed markets and venues seeming to do very little marketing for Christmas parties and dining events. Events companies across Australia are not planning for Christmas events but for summer weddings and outdoor garden parties along with outdoor events within the music and sport arena.

Its not all bad though, I can only speak for Melbourne but the council here make a reasonably effort for the kids by decorating the town hall as a massive present, placing large toy soldiers at various points around the city and having a large gingerbread house where the kids can see santa. One of the biggest Christmas events to take place here in Melbourne is the revealing of the Christmas window displays at one of the department stores and the Christmas Decoration trail around the city but I have got to say it is nothing spectacular but then I am bias. It is just a very laid back approach over here and not a massive emphasis placed on the season but fear not, I will be bringing the Great British Christmas to the shores of Australia this year and be basking in all things christmasy, well as much as I can anyway but for now have a very Merry Christmas Great Britain and I guess i’ll get a shrimp on the barbi or something like that.

 

Read other blogs Emily has written about her experiences here: www.theeventure.wordpress.com

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End of Another Year…

Well what can I say – it’s been one hell of a year for us here at Top Venues and Events.

With wedding bells, new team members and bigger events there’s been something to keep us on our toes all year (we’re not complaining!).

We’ve been that busy, particularly the last three months, that we’ve even failed to keep our lovely readers up to date with everything that’s going on. (Sorry about that)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what’s the score for 2014….

  • We have a guest blogger from Down Under that will be providing monthly blogs on everything event related to give us an incite into how our pals across the water work.(first blog will be this week)
  • We’re looking to find new offices as we need a bigger space so will keep you posted when we do.
  • We’re taking on even bigger events and working even closer with some of our regular clients to create better working partnerships.
  • We’re continuing to keep up the service standards we’ve set ourselves over the last few years.
  • We’re looking to keep you updated with more blogs that we hope you’ll find of interest.
  • We’re getting to know even more suppliers to be able to offer more to all our clients, old and new.
  • More importantly – we’re still the same approachable, happy people you currently work with and will continue to be 🙂

So, with all that to come and with this year coming to a close, all that’s left to say is:

MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY NEW YEAR!

from all the team at Top Venues & Events xx

 

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A Little Bit of Christmas Cheer

Ok, ok, so we’re supposed to be into the height of the summer months…and as I look out of the window to the rain, I have to say I’m not particularly feeling it.

What I am hearing is the call for Christmas events. Yup. You heard right. C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S. There. I said it.

It doesn’t feel too long ago when I was discussing Christmas events last year on the blog but time does seem to fly and it’s important that you think about these things before they creep up on you and it’s too late.

For those of you thinking “You’ve got to be serious – Christmas thoughts in July” – well I forgive you. It does sound a bit ludicrous and almost feels like we’re wishing the year away.

I can assure you we’re not.

We’ve been receiving Christmas brochures in the office since the last Christmas party finished in January! I kid you not.

We’ve also been receiving Christmas party enquiries since February. I kid you not again.

While Christmas parties have changed somewhat over the last few years (namely down to a certain something happening with the economy – ssshh!) it’s still important to make your staff or work colleagues feel a bit of love from the office. While not everyone has the luxury of spending lots of money to reward staff throughout the year, it’s important that staff morale is kept high in order to keep the work flow going.

Royal Courts of Justice, London

So why not spend a little bit of money, put a bit of thought into the gathering and you’ll probably get a happier member of staff that wants to continue working hard so they can do it all again next year. It doesn’t need to be expensive to make someone feel special.

Prices range from £25.00 per head up to £150.00 per head depending on whether you want an all inclusive, drinks, food, theme and everything or just a meal. The average price for a party package in London for instance will cost between £50 – 80 per head whereas in Manchester you’re looking at more £30 – 50 per head. Obviously the price goes up or down depending on venue, date and what’s included.

If you really don’t have a budget for an external event, have it in the office. It’s not completely wrong to be sat at your desk with a glass of wine in hand – is it?!?

Alternatively, head to a local pub or restaurant and have a meal.

For those wanting to make it a little bit more formal or more of a party, there really is something for everyone. Think about joiner parties. If you don’t have a large group to accommodate, lots of venues offer joiner-parties where you can (as it says) Join A Party. Costs per head are lower and you still get the theming, entertainment and meal with novelties.

Alternatively, for something a bit more lavish, consider having a theme created just for you – while a bit more expensive, it will be exclusive and you can have it tailored to suit your needs.

Of course, there’s still the top venues that offer a themed private party and these can be fabulous and cost less than if you were to devise and dress a venue in your own theme. You could try somewhere like the Great Hall at the Royal Courts of Justice in London for a more formal event. Or the Bloomsbury Ballroom, again in London. Alternatively, somewhere like the National Football Museum in Manchester may be more your style.

National Football Museum, Manchester

In all honesty, most venues will offer you different packages for different prices depending on what date and day of the week you want to hold it. The options are endless…with more and more venues making a bit more of an effort to draw in business, you can expect good rates, more for your money and more exciting ideas.

 

But I warn those of you with large groups – you need to be booking now. Dates are filling up for private parties and once they’re gone, they’re truly gone, leaving you with limited options.

So go ahead…have a look around and see what you can find for your Christmas party.

Or, if you really don’t have the time, let us know and we can do it all for you – big or small we’re here to help!

Merry Christmas Everyone! 🙂

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A Little Christmas Message from Top Venues…

Please note: our office will be ‘Off Duty’ from Friday 21st December through until Wednesday 2nd January 2013. All emails will be responded to upon our return!

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A Dickensian Christmas Market

(Event management experience and words from a Top Venues Intern)

Dressing for the part!

As part of the International Events Management course that I am currently on each student is tasked with attending a week long placement working on a real life event, helping out from the preparation stages to the management of the event whilst it’s on. I was assigned the Dickensian Christmas Festival held at Lightwater Valley in Ripon North Yorkshire which is a Victorian themed four day event that offers a huge range of high quality contemporary and traditional merchandise. Originally I was apprehensive as one of the first things I learnt about the event was that everybody involved dresses up in traditional Victorian Clothes and stays in character whilst the event is on. On top of this the event is aimed at elderly cliental and I wondered whether this would put me outside of my comfort zone.

Upon arrival at the event venue, Lightwater Valley Amusement Park, the events manager gave us a brief description and history of the company and the event we would be working on. The event has been running for 7 years and has grown in size each year; it now has over 100 stalls exhibiting over the four day period with thousands of people visiting during that time. As well as high quality services and merchandise the festival also offers entertainment with carol singers, a school choir, bell ringers and a magician all featuring. The event has a real Christmas feel to it with the whole thing being Dickensian themed, the decorations and the opportunity to meet Santa and his Reindeer. The Dickensian theme extends to the exhibitors and the people working on the event such as myself, during the course of the event I wore a fetching traditional Victoria outfit consisting of a waistcoat, neckerchief, jacket and top hat.

The first couple of days spent at the event were focused on the exhibitors and it was my job to ensure they all arrived and got set up in their area as smoothly as possible. Having spoken to the event manager I learnt that a huge amount of planning had already gone into the event for something as basic as the layout, the whereabouts of each exhibitor had been meticulously planned for a number of reasons. The first was the type of stall; they had to ensure that stands selling similar things were not placed near to each other. The second was the exhibitor’s requirements as each exhibitor had different needs, some required electricity and so had to be placed round the outside of the halls or marquees to ensure this could be accommodated. Some required additional tables so they could correctly display all their products.

Before a single attendee had walked through the doors I had already experienced numerous problems which gave me a real taster of what it’s like to be hands on at an event. The first was a dispute between two exhibitors over boundaries; each exhibitor is given a certain space which they must stay within and a gentlemen selling shortbread believed that the lady next to him was taking up part of his space. Having consulted the regulations and the master plan for the event I was able to reach an agreement that both exhibitors were happy with and the conflict was settled. The next problem came from a gentleman in the corner of one of the marquees who wasn’t happy with the space he had been given, in a large exhibitor event such as this there are sometimes people who don’t turn up or have to cancel, in this case I was able to swap the man to a table which had been cancelled leaving him pleased with the new space he had been given.

Once the event had begun I was assigned the task of ensuring the entertainment went smoothly, something I was very happy about as it is something I can see myself doing in the future. I greeted the entertainment as they arrived, relayed the information to them regarding where and what time they would be performing and ensured they had everything they needed. Again I was faced with the kind of problems that arise frequently during events involving live performances; some of the acts were running late and so with the help of the event manager we shuffled round some of the other performances to ensure that there was no area left quiet for too long.

Whilst there I was involved in all aspects of the planning and management of the festival from the setting up of the stalls to organising the entertainment during the event and I left with a real sense of satisfaction that I was taking some invaluable experience away with me. Working on this event has given me a great insight into how events work from an operational point of view and the problems that are faced by event planners during the course of a live event, the best thing I will take away from the past week is that events truly are unpredictable and it’s the way you react to the things that occur that define you as an event manager.

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Center Parcs – Something a little bit different!

I decided it was about time I made the trip to Nottingham’s Center Parcs (the largest of the venues in the group) to see what all the fuss was about in relation to using the venue for events.

I’d been to the ‘village’ over ten years ago, purely on a leisure basis and I have to say, while I loved the place for leisure, I wasn’t entirely sure how it would work for business events.

In my head I had the picture of a large event space and facility that, by day, was a resting place for those families that wanted to get away from all of the activities on site, and by night, would turn into an event space similar to that of the cabaret acts you’d find at those well-known leisure seaside resorts we all know about.

How wrong was I!

I got to the ‘village’ (which is what the staff lovingly call the resort) early afternoon to be greeted by fake snow on the way in, lots of fairly lights in the trees and Santa’s reindeer on the roofs of the buildings dotted around the place. It reminded me of Christmas. In fact, it basically is set for Christmas which is fair enough considering we’re close enough to December.

My site inspection consisted of walking around all of the facilities, which actually didn’t take as long as I imagined it would, past real reindeer and Santa’s grotto through the ‘square’ (a street with all the food outlets) through the indoor leisure spaces including ten pin bowling, indoor badminton courts (that can double up as exhibition space or a large space for corporate dinners or awards ceremonies). I was then taken through ‘The Venue’ which is the private event space that is totally separate to any of the leisure space and consists of one extremely large floor space that can br subdivided into smaller rooms.

Center Parcs - Santa's Reindeer!

With its own bar and foyer area and located in an area that the general public don’t tend to frequent, this space is perfect for keeping the business, business and moving into the leisure side as and when you need or want to.

It’s location in the middle of woodland with its man-made lake (which looks as natural as any normal lake), beach and plenty of options for both food and activities provides the perfect option for a venue with a difference!

With easy access to the M1 motorway and fab new rates of £39.00 for a day delegate meeting rate (from Jan 2013) or from £79.00 to include 2 activities, it makes meetings more affordable and interesting.

Accommodation can be provided in the lodge facilities onsite, a little bit higher in price but then, you get a lot more for your money than staying in a standard (if there ever is such a thing) hotel.

So all in all, I was extremely impressed with the quality of the venue options and choices that you have for mixing a bit of business with pleasure. Consider it for your next meeting, if you’re travelling, as all of the sites have meeting facilities onsite and with a new location opening in 2013 near to Woburn Safari Park, it will provide options up and down the country.

(plus it’s well worth the visit, even if you only want to sample the spa facilities – something I’ll certainly be returning for!)

Happy Christmas from Centre Parcs! (and me)

 

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Dare I say It – Christmas Events (There, I said It!)

It’s that time of the year when clients have to start thinking about planning for their Christmas party events.

I know, we’re only just in September, I hear you cry. I too dislike having to think about Christmas as it feels like I’m wishing away the year.

Sadly, if you want to get a decent place for your Christmas gathering now is the time and, for some, is probably too late to get the venue they want.

Since July (well actually, I received my very first brochure back in January!!) I’ve been receiving Christmas brochures from venues wanting to show off their Christmas parties and I have to say some of them look and sound amazing!

It’s also been up to me to supply ideas to clients of what they can do for both their smaller and larger Christmas gatherings. From finding small and intimate places for dinner with a difference to large marquees and extravagant themes.

I recently went to the Hard Rock Café Manchester who hosted a Christmas taster event where the venue went all out to show you what they can do for your Christmas event. I could go so far to say they really over did it (there were live reindeer and even a Santa on his sleigh!) but I won’t as it was lots of fun, if not a little random in the heart of summer.

Now Hard Rock Café Manchester isn’t somewhere to use if you want a big extravagant dinner, but it does offer something a little bit different with their regular live bands and exclusive events along with the mezzanine area that overlooks the whole of the venue and offers a bit of VIP treatment for those who are allowed up to this area.

With the ‘recession’ (shh!) in full swing and the media constantly reminding us of the trials and tribulations we’re having as a country, some businesses have opted to either cancel their Christmas events or change the way they host them altogether by making the attendees pay something towards them.

That’s not the case for everyone as some business bosses also realise the benefit of rewarding their staff with a little something to celebrate the end of the year.

So whether you’re looking for something big and brash or just want a small casual get together, now is the time to start looking. Some of the best deals are available if you’re able to book quickly but be warned, those larger event spaces are booking up so you might want to look into the options before the real rush takes place. If you’re still stuck, give us a call and we can help point you in the right direction!

Good luck! 🙂

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An End To Another Year…

And so, we’ve come to the end of 2011.

What a year…it’s been manic to say the least. With lots of
conferences, meetings, exhibitions, trade shows, incentive trips…the list is endless…taking place this year, we’ve been very busy.

Along with all that we pushed the business forward by offering our Event Management services (although the website is still to reflect this – we just simply haven’t had time to update it!).

We’ve had some tough times with the economic crises having a knock on the market and clients being unable to do the events they want but we have hope…there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Careful management is the key and we’ve made sure that all of our clients have managed to get what they need within their budget and with the customer service they require (and should expect)!

Our aims for 2012 are:-

  • To continue to put our clients’ needs first
  • To continue to source new venue options and make sure customer service comes first
  • To work with our clients as much or as little as is required
  • To keep smiling even if things seem tough

With that in mind, we wish everyone a fantastic Christmas, a brilliant New Year and we look forward to speaking to you in 2012.

 

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