The Great Hall, within the People’s Palace, and the Octagon are jewels in Queen Mary University of London’s (QMUL) considerable event crown.
A scrupulous £10m refurbishment across the two rooms, to a multi-purpose, commercial maxim, has delivered a designer core for Events & Hospitality QM, which markets more than 100 spaces at Queen Mary’s Mile End campus, alongside facilities in the City of London and Whitechapel.
The investment restored the 770 seat Great Hall’s art-deco majesty and married it to a state-of-the-art technical spec, which includes an EM Acoustics HALO Compact Line Array driven by a DiGiCo SD-9 desk, production lighting, including VariLite VL1100s, and a12m rear projection screen with two projectors.
Also fitted with an event-friendly bar, the Great Hall re-launched in 2013 and hit the entertainment headlines soon afterwards, when Damon Albarn played two intimate shows there to launch his first solo album, Everyday Robots, in spring 2014.
“We have fully retractable seating downstairs, which lifts capacity to 1,000, and a high stage, but the Great Hall is not just a theatre space,” Simon Barlow, Commercial Promotions Executive at Events & Hospitality QM, says. And while it has to focus on local commitments in the short-term, the People’s Palace will return to the London events map in September.
“We have a good background and event managers have been giving us their business,” Barlow explains. “They understand the room. The Great Hall is there as a cost-effective rehearsal space too, the BBC Symphony Orchestra has practised there, so we have plenty to talk to promoters about. And it works equally well for comedy, exhibitions, gala dinners, dance events, ballet, we’ve had a pop-up cinema in, the list goes on.”
Inspired by the Reading Room at the British Museum, designed by Victorian architect ER Robson and built in 1887, the 450sq m Octagon was originally the university library. The renovation brought brightly coloured volumes back to the bookshelves, beneath busts of famous literati and a high domed ceiling, and the unique space is winning plaudits across the event sector.
The Octagon has hosted several programmes for television, Question Time, Horizon and Channel 4’s Child Genius among them, by way of example. It can seat for 220 dinners or conference style and accommodate up to 500 for receptions, launches and networking functions. Used in conjunction with other spaces in Queen Mary’s considerable event roster, the Octagon can serve as an exhibition or catering space too.
Queen Mary University of London might have kept a low event profile during refurbishment works, and a further project at the front of the Queens’ Building, home to the Octagon, will be completed in late spring this year, but it’s accommodated countless conferences, exhibitions and weddings throughout the process.
“In terms of preferred suppliers, currently, we use our own in-house catering team,” Barlow says in conclusion. “Yes Events provides any additional elements of lighting and sound for the Great Hall and Octagon. Otherwise, we work with the client to ensure the details are covered and their event is designed and delivered to brief, to deadline and to budget.”