When I moved to London, I didn’t have a job for about three months. It got to a point where the party had to stop and the work had to begin so a friend of mine, who was working at Sky, said that they were holding a graduate group interview day and that I should come along. It was the kind of interview where you either sink or swim and everyone could tell from the get go who would get the jobs. It wasn’t necessarily about being the smartest or the most educated – it was about you as a person, being sociable and whether you got involved – all things that come naturally to me. I landed the job as sales assistant and while I never loved the role, it was a great place to work and a fantastic first job.
Sky has a team called ROSS (Representative of Sky Staff) and that was where my love for events began. I got to do my day job but also organise fantastic parties and events for a team of over 300 people. Meeting with those big bosses about budgets and venue sourcing on my lunch break was where it all began. I learnt a lot there but decided to leave to work in events full time. Quitting that role was scary to say the least, as I was going back down to the bottom of the pecking order. It’s easy to stick to what you know, especially if it’s comfortable and doesn’t push you but I’ve always been a firm believer that change is good and if you want something, you have to go and get it.
My first role in events most definitely lived up to my expectations – I’ve never looked back! Working at Doll and On|Off for a well respected boss like Lee Lapthorne gave me some amazing tools that have seen me through my career. Working with a small team like I did at Doll, gave me the opportunity to try my hand at all elements of running and organising an event and it’s there that I began to see where I could excel.
I had been a huge fan of Purple for years but felt I needed to gain as much experience as I could before joining their team. I eventually crossed paths with them when working for On|Off during London Fashion Week. I’ve always believed that if you’re reading a job spec and feel you can genuinely accomplish what they’re asking for, then you’re ready for the role. You don’t need to know everything because nobody does. You just need to believe you can accomplish it. This is one of the main things I now look for when hiring staff. Drive and ambition is so important in this industry.
As head of events, I am responsible for managing events across all departments, ensuring all deadlines and budgets are adhered to. The main elements of my job involve early starts and late finishes and it’s certainly not as glamorous as everyone thinks. Guest list compilation, RSVP management, VIP management, transportation organisation, VIP dressing, post release compilation and send out and in-house photographers are just a few of the things I have to think about. The PR teams know their clients inside out so I work really closely with the account managers and directors to make sure each event is on point for the client. I have to be in control of everything from the run-up and preparation to the actual running of the event but it’s all teamwork – without my team, the event doesn’t come together. Purple is so unique in that we look after a whole host of clients from music and fashion to beauty and lifestyle. That’s what makes my job exciting because each day and every event is completely different to the next. I could be organising the Brits after-party one day and then a gallery opening the next. I really thrive under pressure and love just how fast paced the industry is.
Events are all about logistics and planning. There are elements that are imperative to make an event ‘great’ and I always let the client know these at the very beginning. It’s things like when to send hard copy invitations out and what date an event should take place if they want to get the most PR coverage. A massive part of being a great events person is being in the know. If you’re asked in a meeting about new amazing venues, you need to be able to say, “yes, actually this restaurant is about to launch.” So much of what we do is about knowing venues, both new and old, used and over-used. Everyone wants to do something that hasn’t been done before.
I’ve had some huge highlights, most of which come from my time here at Purple. The secret Prince gig we arranged within 24 hours that Kate Moss attended was incredible. Organising the Gabrielle’s Gala Charity Ball, was a fantastic night for a great cause. The Nicole Farhi exhibition at the Bowmans Gallery was a very special night where we were celebrating Nicole as an amazing artist with her close friends Helena Bonham Carter, Anna Wintour and Dame Judy Dench.
One of the main pieces of advice I give to anyone wanting to get into events is that networking is key. Don’t be afraid to talk to people. Go and say hello to people. Let them know you’re there and interested.
The industry has changed so much since I started out. It’s not about the huge parties and the lavish banquets anymore. It’s all about the boutique and the intimate, the chic and the unique. People have their views on social media but I, for one, think it’s a fantastic tool for events. Facebook has more than 1 billion active users and 500 million tweets are sent per day. These numbers offer extraordinary opportunities to both enhance a brand and it’s reputation while allowing them to connect directly with their customers. Things happen so quickly in this business and people want to know what’s going on and who is where “right now”. We always use amazing spaces and have wonderful people at our events so there is always someone to photograph! When measuring the success of an event, though, it’s not down to us but the client. Some judge it on who attended or what press received on the night and how much fun people had on the night. I always aim to tick all of those boxes.
There are problems in every job and the one thing I say to all my staff is, “I don’t mind if you come to me with a problem, as long as you suggest a solution.” For someone trying to get a foot in the door, internships are definitely the way to go. It shows the employer how hard you want to learn and push yourself without a stable wage or contract at the end of it, and it helps you to learn and test the waters in the field. There is definitely a misguided notion that people in events party all night but what people quickly realise is that this is a job like any other work place and you have to stay professional even if it’s 4am. That’s why I have a strict no drinking policy for my team during an event.
I gave birth to twin girls Bronwen and Miller six months ago and I would say they have not changed my life but have added to it. I believe you can do what you love, be successful and have children but it does mean embracing the new and adapting. I love my job so will always work in events – the decision is a personal one but my only advice for professional women wanting to start a family is to just do it. Companies and brands are more open and welcoming to the idea than you think. I think I’ve been lucky in my career but things haven’t just landed in my lap. I believe that you need to work hard but most importantly, it’s all about enjoying what you do. I’ve lost count of the number of times I sit in the pub with friends who continuously moan about their jobs. I just can’t get my head around that.
When I got engaged, I think I had my wedding day planned within a week! I actually had two weddings: one in Kent, in the same registry office as my parents, so my Nanna could attend and one in Hampshire, which was the big, all singing, all dance, white dress and big party. Like most girls, I had an idea of what I wanted and being an events organiser, all it took was a few phone calls. I did feel a bit of pressure though because everyone that attended knew that I did it for a living so it had to be perfect. One of the lovely things about having such great relationships with people in the industry is being able to ask them to be part of your special day. For example, I had the amazing Joanne Stoker make my beautiful wedding shoes.
One of the main pieces of advice I give to anyone wanting to get into events is that networking is key. Even when you’re shattered and don’t fancy being out, it’s so important to go to other people’s events. How can I expect guests to come to my events if I don’t turn up to theirs? I really love meeting new people and I can chat for England so it’s no surprise that part of the role isn’t a huge struggle for me. Over the years I have built some amazing relationships with photographers, artists, talent and journalists. I treasure these relationships and believe that your reputation in the industry speaks volumes. Don’t be afraid to network. Go and say hello to people. Let them know you’re there and interested. With everything I do, I follow my instincts and I’ve always believed in myself, which I think is what got me where I am today. I have met and worked with many respected and inspirational people and I have been lucky enough to learn from them. If you want to learn and are interested, you will.
This interview has been edited and condensed. Images by Dvora exclusively for The Lifestyle Edit