Everyone wants to be different but not many people dare to be different. It’s very important to stand out and stake your claim to possibly the only thing that’s rightfully and unequivocally yours – your unique character.
“Today you are you, that is truer than true, there is no-one alive who is ‘you-er’ than you” said the most philosophical man ever (and my anapaestic tetrameter spouting hero, Dr.Seuss). We all have one but sometimes we choose to suppress it, which is a great shame because in many ways it’s our most powerful asset. I actually quite like hanging out with myself because I’ll always find something to be excited and enthusiastic about. What’s more, childhood daydreams have become day to day reality because, as long as it doesn’t harm anybody, I’ll do what I want to do without any fear of the consequences. I Live by the sword, Die by the sword because I regret not doing things instead of regretting doing things. Try it, it’s refreshing, liberating and sometimes a little bit scary all at the same time!
Events offer the perfect solution to this dilemma though because they represent an opportunity to do something different in a safe, controlled, professional and sometimes magical environment. In my opinion, even content-heavy conferences should be fun (check out the video of the Crowdfinders London conference we were involved in from earlier this year if you don’t believe me!) let alone product launches, corporate away-days and Christmas Parties (the rubber-chicken dinner had its day long ago, in case you missed it?!)
It’s a double edged sword though because now that events are officially back on the agenda and have been proven to be the best way to promote a brand or product in the digital age, it also means there’s a lot more competition out there. On any given night, Monday to Thursday, there are at least three different events that the Londonlaunch team are expected to be at. That’s fine but the interesting dynamic is the behind the scenes squabble that goes on in our office daily, to determine who gets to go to what. This is a great barometer as to what’s cool and what’s decidedly run of the mill…
So, if you’re staging events (which you absolutely should be) then for God’s sake make sure you do something that stands out, even if it seems like a massive risk at first. Remember what I said about regretting not doing something as opposed to regretting doing something? Well, your event needs character and the more bold, ambitious and unique it is, the more memorable, tweetable, commendable and attendable it will be. I promise.
Now that you’re primed to do something different, I’m going to strike whilst the iron’s hot. Here are our twelve weirdest London venues which are a great way to start (and maybe work back from to a point where you’re comfortable) when planning your next, memorable, event…
If you’re looking for something completely different to engage your audience with, then why not lock your guests in a secret room with no obvious way out and let them try to solve a Victorian style murder mystery in order to escape?! It’s the ultimate ‘gameification’ and it’s an intensely fun-filled unique 90 minute experience that no-one will ever forget….
This has to be London’s creepiest events venue, bar none. Accessed by a small and rickety spiral staircase in a tower opposite St.Thomas’s Hospital (at least that’s how I remember it), the Old Operating theatre is as authentic as it gets. At the centre of the old medial centre’s theatre is the original operating table (or slab) complete with saw marks from the days when amputations were a little more B&Q than NHS…A fascinating, intriguing and historic event space with all sorts of gruesome medical artefacts to chill the spine. Amazing for Halloween (or pharmaceutically inspired events!)
In a way, their world class Natural History Gallery is similar to the aforementioned Old Operating Theatre’s bell jar adorned ante-room but there’s just so much more to this wonderfully eclectic and fascinatingly diverse museum. From their aquarium to their music gallery and even their sixteen acre gardens, the Horniman is a versatile (and gloriously weird) events location.
The essential destination for ‘the incurably curious’, this fabulously inspiring venue celebrates and explores the connection between medicine, life and art with some suitably weird stuff to get stuck into. Sort of similar to the more ‘themed’ Ripley’s Believe it or Not! in Piccadilly Circus. The real deal for all things surreal…
5. Mail Rail and the Abandoned Tube Stations
I’ve written about one of the 46 abandoned tube stations in the past because it was proposed that the long disused Brompton Road station was to be developed as a restaurant, bar and event space. Funnily enough, I bumped into the developer in Pret the other day and he informed me he’s back on the case with another ghost station, so watch this space. You may, however, have heard of ‘mail rail’ – the secret underground mini-tunnel network under London which was originally designed to shuttle mail around the capital (it’s redundant now because the Post Offices they were delivering to above ground have all but gone!) Well, word has it that a major events company may just be about to offer this long forgotten network to corporate explorers…
The most famous address in detective folklore is actually a few doors down the street but, after a long legal dispute with a bank, they’ve managed to commandeer a second 221b, making Baker Street the only street in the world with two identical door numbers. A nightmare for the postman but essential to Sherlock Holmes fans! This museum dedicated to all things Sherlock is so well put together that you really do get the feeling you’re in the home of Holmes in the late Eighteen hundreds. A great location for events with an eccentric British twist…
The last time I visited this quirky little Euston theatre, I ended up on stage with the ‘Man of Steal’ (aka James Freedman) and was literally robbed of my pen, my wallet, my watch, my belt and even my tie – without me even realising! The venue itself is perfect for any presentation based events for up to 160 guests and there are a number of fascinating alternative event spaces including the Devant Room and the Museum of Magic filled with amazing magical artefacts – such as the bullet that killed a famous Chinese magician during a trick who, it turns out, wasn’t even Chinese at all…hmmm….
8. Circus Space
I remember visiting this place back in the very early days of Londonlaunch and it captured my imagination for the two same reasons that it still does today. Firstly, it was one of London’s cool original event-ready urban spaces and secondly it’s an actual school for people who dream of running away with the circus. There’s something instantly inspiringly controversial about somewhere that encourages every parents’ worst nightmare (you can even get a BA(hons) in it, innit)! What’s more, the integral apparatus and equipment means that this unique London venue is perfect for team building and corporate away-days with an acrobatic twist (pun intended)…You can even learn Trapeze and tightrope walking. Looking for an awesome events venue? Ta-dah!
9. Clapham North Air-raid Shelter
There were ten massive dedicated air raid shelters built during the Second World War and eight of them are now underground data centres. The shelter at Clapham North is a eerie reminder of the dangerous days of the early 1940’s (until Alan Turing saved the world by cracking the Enigma Code) and remains exactly as it was back then – even the air raid warden sign remains in situ deep under the streets of South West London. Perfect for unusual events and zombie apocalypse warfare themed Halloween parties etc 😉
10. Cirque Le Soir
For a crazy, immersive experience in a controlled environment, Cirque Le Soir will enable you to push boundaries in a way that you perhaps wouldn’t have dared to push a few years ago. As ‘crazy’ becomes increasingly mainstream due to a pandemic de-sensitisation to general corporate sensitivity, this place offers an environment I can only describe as ‘magical-macabre’ with their quirky floor-shows, their interactive funfair and a hoard of weird and wonderful performers – dwarves, magicians and even dwarves who are magicians…Welcome to the jungle!
11. The Box
The craziest place in Soho without a doubt. The American owner once told me he wanted the crowd to be so outrageous that the police would storm in and not know where to start looking! In reality, it’s a beautiful Victorian theatre, suspended above a decadently seedy little Soho side-street. Once on the other side of the massive and seductively secretive wooden doors you’re immediately faced with a Gatling gun type of thing which actually somehow resembles a giant mechanical fallus (I guess that’s the point) and you know you’re in for a unique night. The acts get increasingly crazy as the night rolls on but, despite who you’re with, it somehow works. If you’re with a particularly straight-laced corporate client, you might want to call it a night before their midnight shock act but if you’ve gone that far you might as well go all the way, right? That’s my philosophy anyway…
You will know this place even if you don’t, because of the four old Jubilee line tube train carriages on the roof of this Great Eastern Street icon. Although part of the same innovative project, the tube trains aren’t actually anything to do with the event space below but they are probably the coolest ‘hot desks’ in London, used by artists, designers, film-makers, DJs and musicians as quirky (and mildly impractical, if you’re not a Hobbit) temporary office space. The main warehouse space below is an awesome urban hub of cultural and now, creative corporate event activity.
Three more weird things to look out for the next time you’re walking round town:
Nelson’s ‘spare nose’
If you walk through the right hand arch of Admiralty Arch looking towards Buckingham Palace, high up on the left hand wall you’ll see a protruding piece of stone which was put there when it was originally built. It’s a spare nose for Nelson on top of his column incase it’s ever knocked off…
The ‘old’ Old Compton St
If you walk to the large traffic island in the middle of Charing Cross Road at Cambridge Circus and look down through the sewer grill, you’ll see the original Old Compton Street with its original road sign several feet below from the days when this famous street was on an entirely different level…! It’s a genuine lost street of London and harks back to the pre-Charing Cross Road era of Crown Street, which no longer exists…
British Museum Tube Station
If you cup your hands over your eyes and peer out into the blackness between Tottenham Court Road and Holborn, you’ll just be able to make out the lost British Museum Station in a surprisingly well preserved state. Rumour has it that there are still original 1930’s posters on the Art Deco ceramic tiled tunnel walls….
Will Broome, CEO, London Launch