60 Minute Museum Makeover

July 5, 2019

How does the museum go from gallery to glamour for corporate and private hire?

One of the best parts of my job is guiding people through the process of transforming our amazing space at the V&A Museum of Childhood. One evening we can host a chic gala dinner, the next a romantic wedding reception, and then a trendy fashion show. Demand for non-traditional event spaces is on the rise, and many people come to me with this in mind, but they sometimes need a little help envisioning the end result.

The V&A Museum of Childhood in 'day-mode'.

Painting the picture

My trusty sidekick on any site visit is my tablet. It is loaded up with images of a wide variety of past events and the different lighting and décor options we can offer. It’s an invaluable tool when showing the client what is possible. Many of my site visits occur while the museum is in ‘day mode’, and having a selection of event photos can really bring about that ‘aha’ moment.

Once the client has confirmed they would like to host their event here, I can get started on making that a reality. We are flexible with the look and feel of our events and work closely with the client to bring their ideas to life. Although it isn’t always a straightforward process!

The display cases disappear into the background after you've decorated the museum for a wedding.

Juggling the museum's priorities

As the venue operates as a museum during the day (with a very different audience), it can be a delicate task balancing everyone’s needs. Often this means me pestering colleagues in the Learning Team, trying to convince them to release more space. Or, conversely, the Exhibitions Team trying to convince me a display is ‘very small’ and ‘really won’t take up that much room on the event floor’! Both diplomacy and assertiveness are definitely key skills in my job.

Event bookings can often be confirmed as early as 12 – 18 months in advance, so it’s important that all teams are aware of a booking as soon as possible. This means that I can be juggling up to 12 months worth of events at any given time, so organisation and planning is a must. 

Lighting is so important for transforming the space - it is amazing what some fairy lights and a splash of colour can do!

Questions, questions and more questions

In the lead up to the event, I turn into the source of knowledge for all venue-related questions.

Can we have drinks and canapes on the lawns? Can I get 300 people seated for dinner and have a massive dance floor all in one space? Can I hang fairy lights and drapes from the balconies? Do you allow fire eaters on roller blades? (The answers are yes, no, yes and DEFINITELY NOT, in case you’re wondering. These are just some of the questions I have to answer on a regular basis to ensure that the client’s dream event can become a reality.

The expansive space is a joy to work with, and can look so different depending on what style the client is going for.

Ready, Set, Go!

The museum closes to the public at 5.45pm every day, so it’s a very tight turnaround to clear the main space, clean it, and re-set it for an evening event. During this slot it is all hands on deck. Our record time for a full turnaround has been 35 minutes – now that was a hectic one! Seeing the building transform so dramatically and so quickly is one of the most satisfying aspects of my role.

One of the best events I’ve worked on was London Queer Fashion Show in September 2018. The client wanted an unique venue that could accommodate up to 750 guests, as well as a 20 metre catwalk. Things we had to consider included how to rapidly build a catwalk after the museum closed, what lighting to use and where to put 150 models and designers who all needed dressing, hair and makeup space. Our electricity grid worked overtime that evening!

The end result was a vibrant, fun and diverse evening, with appearances from more than 100 models of different genders, sizes, sexualities and abilities. It was a joy to work on.

The 60 Minute Makeover is always stressful and action-packed, but our team have perfected it.
London Queer Fashion Show used the Marble Floor to great effect. What a night!

No two days are ever the same in my role, and I love the  variety of tasks, processes and personalities I interact with. My role encourages me to think creatively, act purposefully and build relationships. The events I plan are a labour of love. They can be challenging at times, but it is all worthwhile when I help make someone’s dream event a reality – a day to remember.

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