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The Royal Treatment
In a summer plagued by rain, enjoying hospitality at outdoor concerts could be tricky. But the weather certainly didn’t put a dampener on our trip to the Hampton Court Palace Music Festival.
Hampton Court’s annual outdoor festival is one of the biggest music events of London’s summer season. With a stellar line-up of performers, including Katherine Jenkins, Rufus Wainwright, Jools Holland and Van Morrison, the event manages to mix ideal proportions of historical grandeur with first-class catering and hospitality.
‘The festival keeps getting more popular and I think that’s because it’s completely different to anything else out there,’ says Rebecca Evans, hospitality and events manager for IMG Arts & Entertainment. ‘It’s the kind of event that you can bring anyone along to because it’s as much about the majestic setting and fabulous food as it is about the music.’
The continuing popularity of the festival – it’s now in its 16th year – can also be attributed to the small scale of the venue. With seating for just 3,000 people and corporate hospitality limited to 700 guests, the festival retains a real sense of intimacy.
Fiona Hering, marketing manager for Hush, attended the Tom Jones gig as a guest of Square Meal last year. ‘The event was one of the most memorable I’ve been to,’ she said afterwards. ‘Our dining room was absolutely beautiful and the outdoor setting is the classiest I’ve seen.’
For Square Meal, the no-expense-spared hospitality package provided an ideal opportunity to sit back and relax with the knowledge everything was taken care of.
After an easy train journey from central London (South West trains put on extra late services; alternatively there is ample car parking space), we were led through cobbled courtyards to the hospitality facilities in the State Apartments. The ornate rooms, with their high ceilings, wood panelling and displayed weaponry, make a suitably auspicious setting for a Champagne reception with lots of lovely canapés, followed by a delicious main course & dessert, all designed by Gordon Ramsay.
Attention to detail was exemplary throughout the evening, from the helpful attendants guiding guests through the palace’s historic chambers, to the beautiful flower arrangements, luxury table settings and individual boxes of chocolates.
After dinner, we were ushered through to prime reserved seating in the tiered and covered grandstand, given a complimentary blanket (a welcome extra, Brtitish summertime being what it is) and awaited the legendary Tom Jones to take the stage.
With spotlights accentuating the striking 16th-century palace and crystal-clear acoustics, this really is the way to enjoy summer music hospitality.
DON’T wear high-heeled shoes as there are cobbled paths to navigate (wedges are better)
DO arrive in time to enjoy the magnificent gardens
DON’T stand up by your seat – there’s a designated ‘dance area’ for those who want to boogie
DO book a bar in Hampton Village for post-show drinks, as these can’t be held onsite
DON’T forget to book return cabs or local hotel rooms
For a full line-up for 2009 and more information, contact: IMG Arts & Entertainment, tel: 020 8233 5122 or click here to find out more.
This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, Spring 2008.