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TOAST.life chats to Stuart Groves, co-founder of Shout About – the creative events agency shaking up the industry with their love of London. We hear what it takes to create unique experiences in incredible locations, and get his top tips on how to plan a party like a pro.
Location, location, location. And no I am not talking about Kirsty’s and Phil’s property show, I am of course referring to the importance of choosing the right venue for your event. In cities such as London it feels like you’re spoiled for choice, when in fact it’s incredibly tricky to find a venue that’s genuinely original, unique and actually practically possible. Hours of Googling can be fruitless and frustrating – what you need is someone with an almost encyclopedic knowledge of London’s coolest spaces…
Cue Stuart and Ben – co-founders of Shout About London, a creative events agency responsible for putting on unique experiences in incredible locations across the capital.
“Originally Ben was going to be a pilot, and I should have been a rapper. That seems like I’m joking, doesn’t it? But I’m not” explains Stuart.
“Things change in life. You’ve got to be ready to pivot and accept what the world throws at you. As Iong as I can channel creative expression into what I do and connect with people, I’m in the right place. You Shout About what you love, don’t you?!”
Stuart Groves and Ben Gamble met at the London Film Museum in County Hall; they worked together there for a year, built up a sales and operations team and then launched their next site, LFM Covent Garden, under the world famous Piazza.
In 2013, the dynamic and highly driven duo saw that a change was needed in the saturated events industry; they were bored of what they felt were mediocre parties and brand launches in venues that just about everyone had already been to, at least a handful of times. So, they set up Shout About with the aim of amplifying the industry with altruistic thinking, sound knowledge and an enviable address book…
“We’d spent years dealing with agencies sending us enquiries, but having no clue what we we’re about because they were based up North and couldn’t come down to look at the sites. We thought, we can do this better than 95% of the people that we deal with, just on curiosity alone, you know, and wanting to explore” explains Stuart eagerly.
“This year alone we’ve already had a big London Fashion Week event that ended up in Vogue, and we’ve got product launches lined up for some of the biggest brands in the world. In the last 12 months we’ve worked with Sky Media, Red Bull, the Evening Standard, The Independent and loads more, and this year we’ll be hosting our own events too. We do engage with our competition, but in general I’m only worried about what we’re doing”
Dedicated to London and London alone, Shout About work across a wide range of verticals, from technology, advertising, corporate, media and philanthropy. They are described as ‘the creative agency you have never heard of, but the name on everyone’s lips when it comes to events”; they are in high-demand but with no client wanting to share or disclose who was behind their latest launch, Shout About London are the specialist agency that, quite frankly, nobody wants to shout about.
“We decided to focus purely on London because we wanted to be a specialist; we wanted to know everywhere, know everyone and promote London as the best city in the world” Stuart explains.
“People thought we were mad, but they didn’t see the vision. Focusing on one city gives you clarity of purpose, and it makes us way more productive. Plus we can legitimately call ourselves ‘an expert’. Actually – screw that! We are the expert!”
London is of course brimming with dedicated venues from super swanky hotels to underground tunnels covered in graffiti, crumbling ancient churches to luxurious roof terraces with wow factor, and Stuart and Ben know them all inside out.
“We have our own buzzwords for every venue in our system. We apply them to the demographic of the guests and the values of the client and try and find the most relevant match. It’s a really simple process that takes a hell of a lot of work on the front-end, but pays off once you’ve got it in place”
In the last year alone, Shout About has put on a plethora of unique experiences including a one-off event for Google, held in none other than the Archbishop of Canterbury’s private library. They recently managed to convince Lambeth Palace to hold its very first private event in 600 years, and in 2016 they launched Season 6 of multi award-winning fantasy drama Game of Thrones, as part of Advertising Week Europe and Sky Atlantic, and threw them one hell of an unforgettable launch party…
“We projected flying dragons on the ceiling, and guests had their picture taken on arrival which was was then uploaded and projected on to the Wall of Faces. There were 600 guests and then a private dinner for 100 with a fireside chat with Charles Dance. He plays Tywin Lannister – for those who care!” Stuart explains.
And all this took place in the impressive and effortlessly atmospheric surrounds of Southwark Cathedral. It sounds like it could have felt slightly immersive, I suggest…
“Oh god, the immersive thing winds me up! Secret Cinema is immersive. Punch Drunk was immersive. Having paparazzi on the red carpet and a masquerade ball theme doesn’t constitute immersive!” Stuart laughs.
“When planning an event you really need to decide what you want – if you want totally immersive, where every member of staff has a back story and doesn’t break character, every intricate detail of the set has been meticulously scrutinized and all of the guests are going to get super involved, then great, do that. It’ll be amazing, but it will cost a lot of money” he adds.
“If you’re trying to do something on a budget you can create immersive elements, or even something theatrical across the whole event – just don’t call it immersive, unless it feels like you’re on Pandora talking to an avatar, or people will be disappointed. Most Londoners have been to places like Secret Cinema now, or know what it’s about at least. So, without knowing it, that’s your benchmark, that’s what you’re competing against”
Shout About’s acclaimed Game of Thrones event was the first corporate event to take place in Southwark Cathedral’s 900 year history. The magnificent venue was the perfect backdrop for the theme of the evening, and provided an instant and authentic feel of history, grandeur and atmospheric drama, which just goes to show how important choosing the right venue is…
“Location is important – somewhere near a tube, central, easy connections, that sort of thing, and then it’s different depending on what the event is and who’s attending” Stuart explains.
“What really annoys me about venue websites is the phrase ‘the perfect venue for any event’. If you Google 10 venues now I bet you any money at least 7 of them will have that phrase, probably more! NO venue is perfect for any event – there’s always a sacrifice. Money, location, no natural daylight, ceiling height, the fact that everyone’s been there before, and so on. The game is to work out this list, in order of priority”
Speaking of great venues (but definitely not the ones that claim to be ‘perfect for any event’…) Ben and Stuart have in fact just purchased their very own piece of the London pie – a 1200 capacity event space called Lost Rivers Leake Street. Located under Waterloo station, this urban space comes complete with exposed brickwork and high ceilings, and will be home to a brewery, bar, restaurant and live performance / event space, ideal for parties, product launches, exhibitions and more. If all that wasn’t enough, Stuart and Ben also host their own Shout About London podcast, which introduces Londoners to ‘the people to see at the places to be, in this great city of ours’.
“We’ve done 17 episodes so far where we talk to the people behind the coolest concepts and experiences in London. So we talk about the evolution of their idea, from inception to execution. We also discuss where’s cool to go in London that weekend for the listeners.
“We do it to reinforce that we are the specialist, and we do it to inspire other entrepreneurs. We also do it for friends and clients, because it can be a lonely city if you don’t know where to go. It also really increases our network too – it’s so important to have a peer group of ambitious creative, passionate individuals. They say you become the average of the five people you hang around with most. I don’t want to become bored”
‘Bored’ is something that I can imagine could happen quite easily to Stuart; when he’s not busy working, setting up the new venue or recording Shout About’s podcast, live music is his passion, and he’s out at least a couple of gigs every week. But ultimately, it is the human aspect of his work that satisfies Stuart the most.
“Bringing people together and connecting with them, nothing beats that” he explains.
“The biggest hurdle is probably trying to stay healthy, when there’s an excuse to party every night! I’m quite militant on that these days though. I don’t do shots and I’ve also found my ‘stop button’ – by that I mean I can have a few and then go home, without having to resort to going ‘out-out’. That one took me over 30 years…”
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