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29 July 2014

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Area Focus - Hoxton & Shoreditch

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As Shoreditch’s legions of art galleries, bars and clubs are joined by an increasing number of glossy new venues, London’s ‘edgiest’ district is growing up, finds Sophie Dening


Cheek-by-jowl with the City but hanging onto its scruffy-cool identity, Shoreditch lies on one of London’s most fascinating faultlines. A single generation ago, the area could best have been described as a twilight zone. When the capital’s hub was more westerly, Old Street was a road to nowhere, Curtain Road and Shoreditch High Street low-rent locales where you’d be lucky to find a newsagent, let alone a style bar. Marginal culture took root among the wholesalers and warehouse spaces, with artists and artisans followed by new media, then style-setters, then money.

With investment came transformation. Before you could say ‘up and coming’, dozens of loft-style developments emerged in warehouses and studios, accompanied by handfuls of edgy hangouts and style boutiques. The bohemians may have moved on to Leyton, Deptford, Acton, but the nightlife culture has taken root and diversified, and the ‘creative quarter’ tag remains, albeit tempered by a more comfortable, mainstream maturity.

Rob Colbert, corporate programme manager at the Circus Space on Coronet Street – and a local resident – says: ‘Having lived and worked around here for over 12 years, I’ve found it amazing to see this previously neglected part of London grow into a vibrant area full of quality bars, restaurants, cultural venues and hotels. It’s a great place to live and work, with a fantastic array of options for corporate entertainment.’

As the DJs and technological whizzkids who first colonised the area progress from skateboards to school runs, and the loft-seeking style tribes become increasingly better-heeled, sophisticated bars and restaurants are becoming the trend. Rachel Hope, senior events manager at Deloitte, says: ‘My team and I are expected to find the newest and hippest venues for our events. We are constantly looking for entertainment venues that reflect the diversity of Deloitte’s clients, and the slightly edgier venues in Shoreditch and Hoxton provide an informal yet sophisticated ambience that is harder to create in West End venues.’

There may be none of the establishment bedrock on which St James’s or Chelsea is built, but last year’s launch of Shoreditch House – a Manhattan-style members’ club from the Soho House stable of Nick Jones – in particular, marks the beginning of a new phase.

Aside from the logistical benefits of a City fringe location, the major appeal for corporate event organisers is the creative energy that has made Shoreditch and Hoxton such a crucible for movements in club culture, music, art and fashion. Gallery spaces and arts centres provide quirky, inspirational backdrops for training and teambuilding; the international and new-media blood networks in the area are predicated on the kind of ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking that inspires larger firms.

Max Tan, event designer at the Energy Clinic, says: ‘Shoreditch has become the new meeting point for bankers and rebels; you can feel the buzz in every corner. It feels fresh, exciting and relaxed – a cocktail of creativity, flair, style and, now, money.’ And, crucially, proximity to the City means that even many of the edgier venues are keyed up for business-oriented events.

There was a time when City boys would pour northwards to unwind at one of Old Street’s strip bars. Now, they’re more likely to be en route to a motivational exercise or a meeting in a boutique business suite. Shoreditch lends visiting corporates its spontaneity, creativity and a change of scene, while the City brings funds for regeneration, as well as a grown-up polish that suits the changing demographic of the creative quarter very nicely.

From hidden galleries and Victorian warehouses to business hotels and style bars, the area’s diversity is mirrored in the range of venues now opening their doors to organisers. So the Venues & Events team thought it was about time to commit them to paper.


AOP GALLERY

WHAT: Attractive, light and airy, with 1,600ft of renovated warehouse space set over two floors, this is the house gallery of the Association of Photographers
BEST FOR: Cocktail parties, product launches, networking or charity events
TOP TIP: The world-class, commercial/advertising photographic displays make the two-floor space a shoo-in for media-business dos
81 Leonard Street, EC2, tel: 020 7739 6669
FR: 1 M: - D: - R: 200 OA: -

AQUARIUM

WHAT: Aquarium is actually two venues, a club and a bar, located next door to each other. The club has been open since 1995, and is a well-established local hotspot
BEST FOR: Promotions, corporate events, extravagant private parties
TOP TIP: Aquarium has a doozy of a selling point: a swimming pool and Jacuzzi on-site with an overall capacity of 35 and all the requisite showering and changing facilities
256–264 Old Street, EC1, tel: 020 7253 3558
FR: 3 M: 650 D: 400 (buffet) R: 400 OA: 50

BONHILL HOUSE

WHAT: Victorian building between Old Street and Liverpool Street, converted specifically for use as a business venue, with a vaulted restaurant and light-filled meeting rooms
BEST FOR: Training and conferences, with equipment and catering provided
TOP TIP: There’s a 392-room Travelodge nearby to meet accommodation needs; contact the venue for a corporate login and password
1–3 Bonhill Street, EC2, tel: 020 7588 2334
FR: 12 M: 45  D: 20 R: 60 OA: -

CIRCUS SPACE

WHAT: One of Europe’s top circus schools,
set in the suitably cavernous chambers of a former electricity-generating station
BEST FOR: Conferences, away days, staff development and teambuilding programmes based around circus-skills workshops
TOP TIP: Get the best from your team by getting them into trapeze (encourages calculated risk-taking), human-pyramid balancing, tight-wire and stilt-walking (fosters trust and supportiveness) and clowning (develops authenticity in communication)
Coronet Street, N1, tel: 020 7613 4141
FR: 4 M: 300 D: 300 R: 500

CITY PRESENTATION CENTRE

WHAT: A dedicated corporate presentation venue that hosts one client group at a time, guaranteeing confidentiality, personal service and expert attention at each event
BEST FOR: Team or brand presentations, networking seminars, press briefings
TOP TIP: Metal walls allow for easy magnetic branding of the venue
4 Chiswell Street, Finsbury Square, EC1, tel: 020 7628 5646
FR: 6 M: 130 D: 80 R: 130 OA: -

CROWNE PLAZA HOTEL

WHAT: Upmarket, business-orientated chain hotel with 196 bedrooms
BEST FOR: Visitor accommodation, meetings or low-key receptions. You can’t put on entertainment or live music, but the business areas are both well-equipped and modern
TOP TIP: The variety of business spaces on the top floor, plus lobby life in Saint’s Bar on the ground floor, makes this a good spot for last-minute, informal meetings
100 Shoreditch High Street, E1, tel: 020 7613 9800
BR: 196 FR:11 M: 120 D:100  R:120  OA:-

ENERGY CLINIC

WHAT: An innovate, feng shui’d event space with whizzy technology, therapy rooms and a can-do approach to events
BEST FOR: Quirky ice-breaking activities, such as sushi-making, salsa classes, chi rejuvenation and complementary Chinese vocal training
TOP TIP: Embrace the optimal ‘energy flow’ for which the site was selected, and hold your training session in the Fire Zone, with its copper-coated wall, designed to stimulate creativity
132 Commercial Street, E1, tel: 020 7650 0718,
FR: 5 M: 150 D: 80 R: 250 OA: -

EXPRESS BY HOLIDAY INN

WHAT: Purpose-built and newly refurbished member of the consistent InterContinental-owned group, with business staff on-site
BEST FOR: Conferences – the Holiday Inn brand is familiar and reliable
TOP TIP: Let overnight guests at the hotel know London’s most vibrant nightlife scene is right on their doorstep
275 Old Street, EC1, tel: 020 7300 4300
BR: 224 FR: 10 M: 32 D: 40 R: 70 OA: -

GEFFRYE MUSEUM

WHAT: Niche design museum set in elegant, 18th-century almshouses between Dalston and Shoreditch; historic, educational and quirky
BEST FOR: Small to medium cocktail parties, book or product launches, one-off team
events such as conferences or receptions rather than full-on parties. It’s mainly available on midweek evenings
TOP TIP: As well as the galleries (middle-class living rooms through the ages) that afford users a ‘walk through time’ during their event, there’s a herb garden overlooked by the restaurant, where drinks can be taken in the summer
Kingsland Road, E2, tel: 020 7739 9893
FR: 3 M: 60 D: 70 R: 250 OA: 100

GESTALTE CENTRE

WHAT: Psychotherapy training centre with versatile meeting room options, training facilities and complimentary Fairtrade tea and coffee available
BEST FOR: Training sessions and informal meetings. The space can be varied to provide circles of chairs or floor cushions, as well as conventional boardroom-style arrangements
TOP TIP: Flexible hire options mean that the nine consulting rooms can be booked by the hour for one-to-one meetings or interviews
62 Paul Street, EC2, tel: 020 7613 4480
FR: 12 M: 45 D: 20 R: 60 OA: -

HOXTON HALL

WHAT: Well-preserved music-hall theatre
with a saloon-style auditorium, home to a youth arts charity
BEST FOR: Weekend receptions, theatre-style conferences and motivational addresses. A priority agenda of after-school activities
means weeknights are no-go from 4 to 7pm during term time
TOP TIP: The staff have great contacts among the cabaret fraternity and can help arrange memorable entertainment
130 Hoxton Street, N1, tel: 020 7684 0060
F: 3 M: 120 D: 50 R: 60 OA: -

HOXTON HOTEL

WHAT: A GREAT-value hotel venture from a co-founder of Pret à Manger, a self-styled ‘urban lodge’ with some fun details
BEST FOR: Budget entertaining in style
TOP TIP: As part of the group’s mission to provide quality at low prices, Hoxton Hotel also houses basic ‘private offices’ with WiFi, desk and phone, from £19 a day
81 Great Eastern Street, EC2, tel: 020 7550 1000
BR: 205 FR: 7 M: 20 D: 20 R: 200 OA: 60

LEONARD STREET GALLERY

WHAT: A contemporary gallery focusing on the works of young next-big-things
BEST FOR: Sophisticated launches and hip corporate events. Missoni and Ralph Lauren have both held parties here
TOP TIP: Unusually for a gallery, they have both a DJ booth and a lounge area on the ground floor, so you don’t have to celebrate in silence
73 Leonard Street, EC2, tel: 020 7033 9977
FR: 2 M: 300 D: 100 R: 300 OA: -

OLD TRUMAN BREWERY

WHAT: Massive, ever-evolving complex of former light-industrial space on Brick Lane, much of which is available on a dry-hire basis
BEST FOR: Large-scale functions, launches and trade shows, from exhibitions set in 2,000sq ft galleries to heavy-footfall events using huge warehouse spaces. Live music is possible in some parts of the complex. Not cost-effective for training or lectures
TOP TIP: The interesting architectural features of the 250-capacity Boilerhouse, site of the Brewery’s emblematic chimney, give more of a sense of place than the bare-bones spaces
91 Brick Lane, E1, tel: 020 7770 6100
F: 12 M: 1,000 D: 950 R: 1,000 OA: 300

RICH MIX

WHAT: Newly established cultural, arts and media centre with two recently refurbished City-view studios and three smart, modern screening rooms with big comfy seats
BEST FOR: Presentations and seminars in the screening rooms, followed by a reception or creative workshop in the top-floor spaces
TOP TIP: Cinema three is kitted out with digital technology but it’s significantly cheaper to hire than the larger, funkier screens. Offers drinks, popcorn and ice-cream to guests, too
35–47 Bethnal Green Road, E1, tel: 020 7613 7490,
FR: 2 M:150 D: 120 R: 250 OA: -

RIVINGTON PLACE INVIVA GALLERY

WHAT: A recently opened gallery devoted to displaying the work of artists with culturally diverse backgrounds. It was designed as a forum for the dissemination of internationally flavoured, contemporary visual art
BEST FOR: Arts-based seminars, talks and forums, parties with a global bent
TOP TIP: Strikingly designed by David Adjaye, the centre includes a library and screening facilities.
Rivington Place, EC2, tel: 020 7729 9616
FR: 3 M: 200 D: 30 R: 40 OA: 100

ROCHELLE SQUARE

WHAT: Handsome Victorian school complex in which a creative/fashion network has settled into studio spaces, sharing resources and ideas, and engaging with the local community
BEST FOR: Fashionable launches, exhibitions, dinners, receptions and cocktail parties (anything without amplified music – it’s a residential area)
TOP TIP: When you hire space here, you
get access to top-notch ‘Nose to Tail’
catering from a team headed by Margot Henderson, wife of  St John founder Fergus Henderson
Club Row, Arnold Circus, E2, tel: 020 7729 8275
FR: 2 M: 150 D: 40 R: 220 OA: 300 >>

SHOREDITCH TOWN HALL

WHAT: Old Street’s well-loved stately centrepiece with a pillared entrance hall that leads to a series of atmospheric public spaces as well as smaller rooms
BEST FOR: Lavish, large-scale entertaining à la Elton John (whose 60th was held here), such as awards ceremonies, fundraising events, wedding receptions and Christmas parties
TOP TIP: This is a dry-hire venue, so event organisers can use the baroque exterior and grand interior as an impressive backdrop
380 Old Street, EC1, tel: 020 7739 6176, FR: 6 M: 600 D: 500 R:800 OA:

SHOREDITCH HOUSE

WHAT: Super-cool members’ club frequented by creative/media types; informal, elegant and with a spectacular rooftop pool
BEST FOR: A game of bowling at the two-lane Biscuit Pin bowling alley, and a reception or dinner in the Biscuit Tin, a smart flexible 200-capacity space with a bar
TOP TIP: Ask about Pretty Parties, which include Champagne, dinner, Cowshed spa treatments and goody bags for 8-12 guests
Ebor Street, E1, tel: 020 7739 5040
FR: 3 M: 30 D: 30 R: 160 OA: 160


This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, Spring 2008.


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