ASE editor, Trevor Connell interviewed Brenda Bailey, sales and marketing manager of the Big Group, at AIME.
ASE started by asking Brenda about the MCVB welcome function at the Myer Mural Hall on the Sunday night preceding AIME.
BB: Oh yes, true; that was a gorgeous night. Sunday night was actually hosted by Melbourne Convention and Visitors Bureau who approached us late last year and asked us to put a concept together as to how we might entertain their guests in the beautiful Mural Hall which is completely restored and only opened in April of last year, so it’s a very new space.
ASE: And you’ve been involved with that space from the start?
BB: That’s correct. Actually two years prior to it opening we were approached by Myer. We’d been working with Myer for the last 15, maybe even 20 years as their caterer, so in many ways we were the incumbent. We’d worked in Mural Hall previously, we did the Cate Blanchett SK2 launch and some other private events for the Myer family, so we have actually worked in the space but it fell into a state of disrepair and had not been used for many, many years. So when the collaboration presented itself, we won the tender and together with Myer and their design team, we worked with the architects and interior designers in one of the finest examples of an art deco room in Australia.
ASE: So for any event in the venue you don’t have to do much because the décor is all there
BB: It’s true; you don’t have to do much. Mural Hall is an incredibly beautiful ballroom, it’s got a very art deco, very vintage overlay to it, all the furniture and the pieces within were custom designed, but we felt that we needed to provide something for the guests to experience. We were in one of Melbourne’s most famous shopping emporiums, so we thought that it could be fun to emulate some shopping and styling experiences.
So we created four individual shopping pods if you like within the mural wall. One was eyewear, so you could actually go up and try on exquisite designer sunglasses and be assisted in what suited your face. There was also a fashion illustrator who was drawing you, drawing your shape, your body shape, what items would suit you to wear.
There was a colour specialist and her job was to advise you on what colours went with your eyes beautifully and to suit your skin tones; and we finished with shoes. Every girl’s thing, shoes, shoes, more shoes, so there was always an opportunity there to do shoes as well. It was great fun.
ASE: And the guests certainly enjoyed it, we noticed that; but last night I think you had a slightly bigger event. First of all, tell us about the venue that we were in last night.
BB: The Melbourne Pavilion is a very new space for events. It’s actually an old springs factory located in Flemington. We discovered the space a little bit by accident and actually and they weren’t really quite ready for an event of this size, but we pushed and prodded and poked around until they finally agreed to take the booking.
They were still painting and finishing off some back-end kitchen and storage areas, so on Saturday morning we told them all to go home and to come back on Wednesday because we were doing a creative overlay; we just needed to get access to the space so we could start building the design and the creative template for the themeing for the welcome reception.
ASE: Tell us what the existing use of that building is?
BB: Okay. At the moment they’re building some unusual activities. On Friday and Saturday night there was a very famous international Greek. They also do boxing, it’s called “Box on the Docks”, very famous boxers, they fly in from all around the world. I also heard that they had a Zumba exhibition in there and I think there’s been a couple of car launches. But essentially Corporate Australia really hasn’t had much yet to do with the venue. However, I think after last night they might be put on the map because it’s a pretty amazing space.
ASE: So it’s essentially a big shed, that there’s been some work done in. Now tell us about what was there and then what design-wise your team worked with and who that team were and how you came up with what you had there last night?
BB: Okay, that’s easy. Imagine a big black polished concrete warehouse. The venue has one full feature bar and all the bathrooms and there is one commercial kitchen. There were some other concepts that we worked up that were in slightly elevated areas within the space.
Upstairs are a series of small rooms, petite spaces that we used for Green Rooms last night and also for our staff compound. We had 150 staff there last night, so we needed somewhere for them to park themselves.
The Big Group has a styling creative and theming arm of our business, it’s called the Design Depot, and it was their job last night to bring to fruition a concept that we had presented to AIME and the concept was called ‘Melbourne after Dark’. What we were trying to emulate was all the amazing things that happen in Melbourne around food and wine, just taking it up a notch and delivering it on a very high-end, luxurious experience and I hope we portrayed that because it was a pretty amazing party.
ASE: What did you bring into the venue?
BB: Everything that you sat on last night, every piece of furniture, all of the props, all of the glassware, all of the food of course. We built an additional three kitchens back of house so we could facilitate the food. We also built a collection of bars and designed all of the fun stuff, the floral; everything that you saw that was not part of the original space was all bought in.
We started the bump in on Sunday morning at ten o’clock with the delivery of eleven truckloads of furniture and infrastructure and then it took a team all day Monday until seven o’clock to actually place it, get the food delivered, set the bars with the beverages, light the candles and be ready on time. We actually had a few early arrivals and buses started turning up at twenty to seven and we were lucky that we had that lovely outdoor area and the weather held out for us, so we had a holding bay and we wanted everybody to be impressed when they entered into the first part of the space which was styled as an Imperial Kingdom, so getting everybody a drink at the outside bar was vital to the success of the event, so that’s how we did it.
ASE: What would be the biggest challenge in working a venue like that for an event like this?
BB: Well getting 2200 people into a space safely and also getting those people a cold drink and something to eat the minute they arrived so that everybody has a sense of calm, they know that there’s more of that great stuff going to happen, and also just making sure that we had delivered on the concept that we’d sold to AIME. We were very high brow in how we presented our original tender and we wanted to make sure that we delivered on that; so it was really important to us that the venue looked amazing and that you had at every touch point a genuine sense of having an experience in the space that was different to what you maybe had done.
ASE: I noticed that international and interstate guests were impressed with the venue and I understand that Melbourne people were a bit surprised as well?
BB: Yes, it’s actually really great and always good fun to reveal something that’s new, that people didn’t know about before and Melbourne Pavilion is incredibly new and I think after last night’s event possibly they’re going to be inundated with some enquiries, which is great to see. But yeah, Melbournian’s don’t know about it, the Events Industry didn’t know about it and we were really excited and proud to be able to bring it to market and showcase it the way that we did. So yeah, there was a lot ‘wow’ factor and a lot of ‘oooh’ and a lot of ‘how did you know about this?’ Big Group prides itself on finding out about spaces where we can hold events, you know how we work, and a lot of the briefs that we get from our clients is to find them somewhere where they’ve never been before, so that’s often a challenge and I think last night we achieved that.
ASE: Are you looking forward to doing another event in there?
BB: I’m looking forward to doing another event in there. We have got a private event coming up in June which is a little bit smaller, so it’ll be fun to actually rebuild and roll out a whole new look and feel in there. But yes, it’s a terrific space and it worked really well for us last night. Everybody today at the show has been incredibly complimentary; we’ve been overwhelmed with the response.
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