NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM
When creating extraordinary experiences we are privileged to work alongside industry leaders. From caterers to entertainment suppliers, and venue teams to our clients, we live for the moment when all the key elements come together to create a truly memorable and engaging event. As part of an ongoing series we will meet some our event partners and find out a bit more about what makes them tick.
Next in the series is the iconic Natural History Museum. From the truly jaw-dropping scale of the architecturally stunning Hintze Hall, to the out-of-this-world astronomical Earth Galleries, and the contemporary, light-filled spaces of the Darwin Centre, the museum is one of the largest and most versatile venues in London in which to create truly unique experiences. We sat down with Head of Venue Hire and Catering, Robert Wetherell to find out more.
What are the most spectacular events you have been involved with at the Natural History Museum?
We are in a very privileged position that so many clients chose to host their events in our spectacular event spaces at the Natural History Museum. Some of the most recent events that particularly stand out have been the Olivier Awards after‐party due to its scale and calibre of 2,500 guests, welcoming Ed Sheeran to play an acoustic gig exclusively to 200 guests fundraising for East Anglia Children’s Hospice and of course the re‐launch event of Hintze Hall was a once‐in‐a‐generation moment to be a part of.
Recently held in Earth Hall, the ‘Hold The World’ VR launch with Sky featured interactive displays around the event space and an audience Q & A session with Sir David Attenborough. This event, produced by Event Concept, shared very similar values and ethos of the Museum so was an honour to work together on such an occasion.
Working in such a historic building every day must be an inspiring experience; do you have a favourite spot or exhibit?
Hardly a surprising answer, but Hope the Whale continues to impress me on a daily basis. Being part of the renovation process was incredible, from watching it being installed, hosting three days of back‐to‐back press showrounds before the space opened up to the public to watching the launch night itself. It was such a special occasion and great to see everyone react so positively to the change as they walked into Hintze Hall after months of it being closed.
In Earth Hall, I’m proud we can offer guests an incredible event backdrop of the most complete stegosaurus in the world, it’s an incredibly beautiful space. I also love the fact that in our lesser‐ known spaces like the Images of Nature Gallery, not only can we host dinners and drinks receptions but also more intimate celebrations for just 20 people.
Stegosaurus Launch Event
The Museum is home to a wealth of incredible exhibits, including a piece of Stonehenge the size of a brick in our Red Zone, not exactly the type of exhibit you’d expect to see in a collection these days!
What makes NHM one of the UK’s leading event venues, and what makes the guest experience so special?
The building itself makes the guest experience special, we are renowned for the stunning buildings’ beautiful terracotta and its architecture that dates back to the 1800s, whilst also offering guests a complete contrast with modern contemporary spaces like the Darwin Centre and the outdoor courtyard.
We’ve got an in‐house events team purely dedicated to running events seamlessly, transforming spaces from a daytime exhibition space into a world‐class event environment within just one hour, in partnership with carefully selected suppliers, such as Event Concept, who understand the responsibilities of working within a historic building. Our flexible team always look for new opportunities to offer added‐value to a guests’ experience, whether that means providing exclusive use of the Museum for a private dinner for two, organising guided tours of the exhibitions or arranging after‐dinner speeches from our world‐class research scientists.
Client Entertainment Under Hope The Whale
A huge number of event guests who walk through our doors have previously visited as a child and therefore have a very emotive connection to the Museum, bringing back many a happy memory. As a large venue often making changes to temporary exhibitions, there is always something new to see for our repeat bookers, whilst always providing a sense of warm familiarity and comfort.
How have events as an industry evolved in your experience? What trends can you see in the future? How will this change events held at NHM?
We’ve seen the topic of events sustainability rapidly evolving and becoming a hot topic on everybody’s lips, we now look at how people arrive at the venue, how the food is sourced and how many miles ingredients has travelled. Our caterers are placing greater importance on seasonal and local produce and want to know how we, as a venue, can reduce our carbon footprint and recycle materials wherever possible.
Over the years we have noticed an increased demand from clients for healthier catering options, showcased in the partnership launch between Hugh Fernley‐Whittingstall and River Cottage. Dining styles have shifted from formal sit‐down meals towards fusion cuisines and street food options, with the royal weddings bringing the concept of bowl food finally to the masses.
As a result of increased requests for less‐formal set‐ups, our accredited suppliers list has evolved to incorporate companies who can accommodate food stations and pudding bars which encourage guests to move around through the venue more and engage with the collections.
Bar & Food Stations at Big Love Gala 2017
The wedding format has also relaxed over the years, with the planning process no longer solely the responsibility of the bride’s family the couple have the flexibility to make more of their own choices. The weddings held at NHM see couples getting married from varying cultures, bringing in a wealth of different influences which is fascinating for us watching the whole event come together.
What advice would you give to somebody starting out in the industry?
Be that person who gets involved with everything – any task you get offered the opportunity to help out with, do it. Roll up your sleeves and pitch in with the team at 3am stacking chairs or clearing up as that’s where you build solid relationships with your team.
Ask lots of questions, absorb information like a sponge and say yes to any shadowing opportunities you get!
Watch our event film of the Sky VR 'Hold the World' Launch below.