News & Media


Filter by
Posted by

In his 1938 comic song “I Went to a Marvellous Party”, the songwriter and playwright Noël Coward described a particularly colourful event:

"The Grand Duke was dancing a foxtrot with me 
When suddenly Cyril screamed ‘Fiddledidee’
And ripped off his trousers and jumped in the sea.
I couldn’t have liked it more."

Coward’s song was of course poking fun at the society types he mixed with in the south of France. But these days, extravagant parties are no longer the preserve of the privileged classes. Many of us work for businesses that hold annual parties – some of them at Christmas, but increasingly spread throughout the year – to foster a sense of togetherness among employees or to celebrate achievements and anniversaries. And parties are an essential part of the annual round of showbusiness awards ceremonies such as the Baftas and the Brits. 

The party industry has grown to become a huge business. The events sector is worth £42.3 billion to the UK economy, of which corporate hospitality and corporate events accounts for £1.2 billion. So, where does all this money go? Here’s a segment-by-segment assessment of the party business, showing where the best parties are being held, and revealing some of the best hidden hideouts.

Hotels and private members’ clubs - the perfect venue for a party?

These are the most conventional venues for parties. With their ballrooms and other public spaces, the bigger hotels in particular are well equipped to deal with large events, being able to feed and entertain large numbers of guests in an evening. Following this year’s Brit Awards, for instance, Universal Music’s after party was held at 180 The Strand in London, hosted by Soho House. Here, A-list guests such as Katy Perry and Ellie Goulding mingled in an environment that was chiefly aimed at a standing, circulating crowd – there was some furniture, such as velveteen cubes and low upholstered benches, but mostly the venue was left as open space, with DJs supplying music. 

Hotels and private members’ clubs

And the Rosewood Hotel in London has hosted the post-Bafta party (sponsored by Grey Goose vodka, a big player in the party business). The hotel itself was essentially a sober backdrop against which stars such as Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch could shine. Meanwhile London’s Groucho Club – which opened in 1985 and pioneered the trend towards younger, hipper private members’ clubs – has various spaces available, including its Soho Bar, which can accommodate up to 150 standing guests. The room is impressively furnished with club sofas and stools upholstered in bright, attractive fabrics.

Churches - suitable venues for staff events?

It might come as a surprise to learn that houses of worship are now also serving as palaces of pleasure. But these are straitened times and churches are using their attractive, distinctive premises to host events and parties. Hallé St Peter’s church in Manchester, and LSO St Luke’s and St John at Hackney in London are among those that host celebrations (these venues also host regular music concerts). These spaces are flexible, with removable seating, which means that they can be used for wining, dining and even dancing. A well-lit church interior with a high ornate roof and stained glass windows can be a dramatic backdrop for a celebration.

Museums and galleries for business venues?

Like churches, these venues can provide a spectacular and historic party setting, often amid fascinating exhibits or stunning artworks. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, for instance, can provide spaces for formal dining in the Victorian grandeur of its galleries, with the traditional arrangement of tables, or it can host more informal events, with guests standing and circulating in the museum’s Edwardian Tea Room. The museum’s Industrial Gallery, for instance, provides space for up to 250 guests surrounded by impressive decorative arts. Most major galleries and museums across the UK, including London’s V&A, Science Museum and National Portrait Gallery, will provide venue hire, though the types of celebration may be limited to ensure the protection of precious exhibits.

Tourist attractions and heritage sites for work events

Anyone passing through London’s Regent’s Park in the evening might come across a stream of party-goers heading towards London Zoo, which has for some years been hiring out parts of its extensive grounds and buildings for parties and events. The Zoo has various pavilions and rooms, as well as outdoor areas, for corporate and private hire, many of which have animal enclosures as a backdrop; some packages will include access for guests to attractions such as the Aquarium or the Reptile House, or even encounters with some of the animals, such as llamas, also giving access to the animals’ keepers. A cocktail party in the Komodo dragon house is one of many packages on offer. Formal dining or more relaxed celebrations can be catered for, both inside and outdoors on terraces or in public areas.

Animals for business venues and parties

The Tower of London is one of many historic tourist attractions to offer venue hire for parties. The Tower, which is owned and operated by Historic Royal Palaces, has a selection of rooms and venues rich in history and brimming with artefacts. Among the smallest is the Jewel House, which can accommodate 50 guests; the largest is the Tower’s moat, which can hold up to 2,000 guests. A specially-built pavilion is also available, furnished with long sofas and upholstered ottomans, with the Tower as an iconic backdrop.

London’s Guildhall, meanwhile, has hosted major events such as last year’s Save the Children Winter Gala, a fundraising and celebratory event featuring guests such as Grayson Perry and Mary Portas. The event was themed around the work of Roald Dahl, marking the author’s centenary, and guests were taken into a Dahl fantasyland where characters from his books roamed the party and guests could order drinks from the Marvellous Medicine bar.  Fundraising auctions were held, with guests seated at banqueting furniture

Meanwhile, on a smaller scale, the London Eye offers private hire of its capsules for a 30-minute rotation of the wheel for up to 25 guests (though that might be quite a squash).

Theatres and music venues for businesses

Christmas venues for work parties

Many theatres will hire out their premises – either individual rooms or the whole auditorium – for events. Those with removable seating are best suited for parties. London’s Troxy, for instance, normally serves as a live music venue, but recently hosted the Christmas party for staff at Google. A hipsterish environment is provided by Village Underground in London’s Shoreditch, with its high brick walls and post-industrial ambience. London’s Roundhouse, too – home of performances by bands such as the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and The Ramones – is a fine venue for a party, with its iron pillars and brickwork walls. And the fading grandeur of Wilton’s Music Hall in east London, where music-hall stars such as George Leybourne (otherwise known as Champagne Charlie) used to perform, has provided richly atmospheric surroundings for many celebrations. Elsewhere in the UK, venues such as the Leadmill in Sheffield are available for hire for parties.

Music halls and corporate venues


These highly decorated mobile performance venues (it means “mirror tent” in Dutch) are coming back into favour, with some – such as the Spiegeltent on London’s South Bank – being used as permanent cabaret and circus performance venues, and others being available for hire for parties. They offer flexibility and an excellent opportunity for a “themed” party, with fairground attractions, circus performers and popcorn vendors adding to the flavour of the event. Seating can be removed or installed as required.

Warehouses for your next party?

Disused warehouses and old industrial premises offer an edgy, urban space for your party (they’re also popular for fashion shows and photoshoots). Usefully, they offer a blank slate – an empty structure with countless permutations and variations. (Canvas can arrange hire of a range of warehouse spaces in London.) Some provide furniture, which is often, as you’d expect, idiosyncratic. A popular warehouse is The Bargehouse at Oxo Tower Wharf on London’s South Bank, which has peeling plasterwork and bare metal girders. Most major British cities will have post-industrial premises for hire. A typical example is the Victoria Warehouse in Manchester, a complex of rooms that have been used for events by corporate clients including BMW and Gap.

The Bays at Victoria Warehouse, Manchester

Stately homes - the solution for business events?

With the aristocracy in financial decline, Britain’s stately homes are in search of revenue, and many now offer rooms and spaces for parties and events. Perhaps the most famous of these is Cliveden in Berkshire, where, in the summer of 1961, 19-year-old Christine Keeler swam in the pool while John Profumo looked on, thus sparking one of British history’s most notorious scandals.  It seems that Cliveden is not ashamed of its role in the scandal. In fact the house actually trades on its role, offering what it calls “decadent celebrations as wild as your imagination”.

Immersive parties for work? 

These events lie in the rarefied upper echelons of the party business. Organised by high-end production companies such as Immersive Cult, whose prices typically begin at around £100,000, these parties are more like theatrical events and cater to hosts who want to give their guests a unique and unrepeatable experience, with little spared in the way of expense. Immersive Cult, for instance, organised a party themed around The Great Gatsby, with guests being loaned their own vintage car in which to drive to the venue.

More modestly priced parties based around a culinary theme are offered by London-based Shuttlecock; a travel-themed party created by Shuttlecock, the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, simulated seven train stops from Rangoon to Kashmir via a seven-course tasting menu, designed around a colonial-style dining car and featuring actor hosts performing “in character”. No doubt Noël Coward would have been amused.

Shuttlecock parties for staff events

Holiday parks

In the past few years, the British have rediscovered the pleasures of holidaying in their home country. This is thanks to the effects of the financial crisis, and the fall in the value of sterling following the Brexit referendum. And we are rediscovering the holiday park. Once a byword for spartan conditions, holiday parks now offer high levels of comfort and sophistication. Their furniture should reflect this.

In the accommodation and living areas of these parks, space is at a premium, so it’s best not to squash in too much furniture. A breakfast bar with high stools in the kitchen area is a space-saving solution. Living areas will need comfortable sofas and armchairs, preferably in neutral shades. And bear in mind that people will visit each other’s accommodation and take note of the decor, so perhaps each unit could be individualised by varying fabrics and finishes. Customers will appreciate this “personal” touch.

But it’s in the outside areas that a holiday park can really make its mark. Increasingly, these parks offer hot tubs, decked areas and terraces. Some even offer “treehouses” – accommodation elevated to treetop level, linked by walkways, with lots of outside spaces. These spaces will need furnishing. Outdoor furniture has long since progressed beyond the bog-standard set of four white moulded plastic chairs (with matching table) and the ubiquitous picnic bench.

Tree house furniture

Chairs and tables in a variety of durable materials are now available: hardwoods, cane and metal (usually aluminium), weatherproof rattan, wood-effect finishes. Many of these are stackable for winter storage. These products show that outdoor furniture can be both stylish and practical, comfortable, and functional.

Cricket clubs

The thwack of willow against leather; a ripple of applause.  On the green, the teams are kitten out in cricket whites. In the afternoon, everything will stop for tea – and it will be a grand tea, a table laden with sandwiches, cakes and scones.

cricket club furniture

Cricket is a sport that’s steeped in tradition. Things have to be done a certain way. Don’t ask why: it’s just the way things are done. And that should go for the furniture. A cricket clubhouse is not a place for modernist designs – it should be soberly furnished, with predominantly natural fabrics in neutral shades (and the cricket tea should be presented on tables draped with white linen tablecloths).

Inside, there should be comfortable chairs, club chairs and tub chairs in leather (or, at a pinch, a convincing substitute); in the bar and dining areas, there should be chairs and tables in wood or wood with upholstery. Nothing too shiny! Outside, for spectators, white benches and perhaps some folding chairs, or stackable outdoor chairs. How very traditional. And perfect.

Rugby clubs

The rugby club is still at the heart of many an English town or village, a place where both players and followers of the game and hangers-on will congregate, celebrate, eat and drink. There was a time when the clubhouse would have been, essentially, a cavernous space with functional chairs around the perimeter, perhaps a few tables, a bar, and little else. Many people would have spent their time standing up.

These days, we want a bit more comfort. But that shouldn’t mean setting out rows and rows of tables and chairs in regulated ranks; the heart sinks at such a sight. Interior designers use a method which they call “zoning”: dividing a space into zones, which have different uses. So there will be the bar itself, with space for people to buy their drinks, but also perhaps some high bar stools.

Next, there are the standard-height tables and chairs, where groups can sit, drink, snack, chat. Don’t put them in straight lines – mix them up, put them at angles. And in the corner, a more laid-back vibe could be created with low tables, armchairs, club chairs, tub chairs and suchlike. And mix up the finishes and fabrics – tartan and checks have recently made a comeback. The zones, of course, are not separate, but flow into each other: an evening that begins at the bar might end on a sofa. 

Golf clubs

They call it the “19th hole”: the place where, at the end of a thirst-making round of golf, the reward is to sit back with something cool and refreshing. It’s also a place where non-golfing visitors meet up for a drink, a coffee, a snack or a bite to eat. But whether it’s populated by dedicated players or by those who wonder what this pursuit of a small round ball is all about, the golf clubhouse is a sedate place, and its furniture should reflect this. It’s a place for sitting back, clinking glasses, murmured conversation; softness, comfort and elegant simplicity should therefore be the guiding rules. Low-level chairs and low tables will encourage a relaxed ambience. Deep leather sofas and club chairs lend an air of tradition and solidity.

Perhaps a few high stools could be placed up at the bar for solitary drinkers. Golfers are a quiet bunch; many golf clubs ask members and visitors to be discreet with their mobile phones, and some etiquette guides advise against their use in clubhouses (and also on the course itself). The furniture should be likewise: quiet and comforting.

No mobile caravans allowed

Student unions

Readers of a certain age will remember the student union bar fondly, but not for its ambience. The floor would probably be sticky with old beer; the air would be a fug of tobacco smoke and beer fumes; the furniture would be chipboard tables with peeling veneers, wobbly chairs, and little else. There might be a jukebox. Today, following the huge growth in universities and the numbers studying at them, the student union bar has had to smarten up – it will have plenty of local competition, after all. So: the decor will be bright, clean, contemporary. The bar will serve a broader range of drinks than the old menu of Newcastle Brown Ale (though brown ales are said to be making a comeback). And the furniture will be clean-looking, in metal or perhaps blonde wood.

Student bar furniture - student union decor

This is not a place where you’ll find a comfy armchair in the corner; youngsters are less bothered about home comforts. And bear in mind, too, that many student union bars also function as cafés during the daytime, so furniture should be flexible: seating cubes that can be moved around, tables that can be shunted together or scattered, stackable chairs. And it’s worth bearing in mind that most students are youngsters. They can be careless. So everything should be durable, hard-wearing and easy to clean.

Wedding venues

It used to be a straight choice: church, or register office? Today of course all kinds of premises can host weddings – all that’s required is a licence; the local council will need to be convinced that the premises are “seemly and dignified” and that they will be regularly available for marriages or civil partnerships. So, grand estates, country houses, hotels, converted barns, as well as well-known locations such as London Zoo and Shakespeare’s Globe on London’s southbank – all these are now hosting ceremonies and the celebrations that follow.

wedding venue furniture

Many of these venues are used for other purposes, so they need to be flexible. Each wedding is of course special and unique, and will be decorated with the patrons’ choice of flowers, etc. But at the same time there will need to be predictable elements: the chairs, the tables, the table linen, cutlery, crockery, and so on.

Tables and chairs will need to be stackable so that they can be stored away between weddings, thus freeing up the space for other purposes. Removable seat cushions are a useful way to give guests comfort while being easily stored away. So the choice of furniture will be a trade-off between style and functionality, between aesthetics and practicality. White is a popular colour for weddings: room full of white furniture and white table linen, with subtle flowers, can serve as a backdrop against which the bride and groom and their guests can shine on their special day.

Sagepay Secure Payment Secure Payment