Event of the month - Podge Events
116 Pall Mall is the London venue for Podge and its legendary lunches. We find out how a one-off event became a standout occasion on the social calendar…
Podge brings together a veritable who's who from the creative, digital, sport and music industries for a series of unique and agenda-free afternoons.
Clare Balding, Lawrence Dallaglio, Gabby Logan, Joe Calzaghe and Victoria Pendleton are just a few of the many famous faces that have attended previous lunches.
Next year Podge will celebrate its 25th anniversary. Marketing and Partnerships Director Clare Jones explains how the concept was born, why 116 Pall Mall provides the ideal venue for hire in the heart of London and what goes into planning one of their famed events. But firstly, she reveals the story behind that name…
WHO WE ARE…
Podge was initially a joke name. Twenty-five years ago when the lunch was created it was only meant to be a one-off. It was attended by some of the biggest names in the creative world and they would inevitably leave a bit podgier than when they arrived.
Among the guests was Alan Fletcher, the award-winning creative genius who designed the IoD logo. It was so well received it happened again and again, and then branched out into other sectors.
Podge is now Podge Events. Our founder and organiser, Phil Jones, was a judge at this year’s IOD Director of the Year awards. In his words, the Podge lunches are all about giving leaders and influencers a chance to gather for an agenda-free afternoon of relaxed, and enjoyable, networking.
PODGE AND 116 PALL MALL…
Podge began life at Quaglinos in 1994 and has taken up residence in some of London’s most famous establishments, including The Atlantic Bar & Grill, The Arts Club and Harvey Nichols. As the event grew, we went on the hunt to hire an event venue that maintained style, uniqueness and glamour and that all-important central location but allowed us to increase our numbers.
It’s actually very hard to find a central London venue with a 250 + capacity that isn’t a soulless hotel conference room in the basement with no natural light and no personality. In 2009, we found 116 Pall Mall and almost a decade later we are still in a monogamous relationship. Our longest to date!
The main reason, apart from the spectacular rooms and location, is the staff. We have thrown a lot of unusual and ‘out there’ requests at the team over the years and what is great about them is that they always go out of their way to make it work for us. Without them, we could have fallen flat on our face several times over!
THE GUEST LIST…
For the past 25 years, the theming and creative for each lunch has become a key part of the fun. For this year’s Sports Podge lunch, known as ‘The Podge Regatta’, we worked with British Rowing. Amongst our 250 guests, we had several Olympians including Dame Katherine Grainger, Anna Marie Phelps and Mark Hunter, as well as Bill Sweeney, who is the CEO of Team GB, and record-breaking long-distance rower Kiko Matthews.
Podge 66 celebrated the 50th anniversary of England winning the World Cup. The guests included John Motson OBE, Lawrie McMenemy MBE, and Stephanie Moore MBE. Cerys Matthews gave us a fantastic medley of hits from 1966. She also managed to persuade former West Ham winger, and PFA Deputy Chief Exec, Bobby Barnes to belt out ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’.
What we love most is that we don’t sell tables. All tickets are sold individually, and the guests are not there as entertainment. Everyone is on a level playing field, networking and having fun.
One of our most ambitious events coincided with World Peace Day on 21st September. We had breakfast at The Arts Club in NYC, lunch at 116 Pall Mall in London and dinner at a members’ club in Hong Kong all happening at the same time on the same day, connected on a big screen.
NINE YEARS, 30 EVENTS, 7,000 GUESTS…
We have held over 30 events in 116 Pall Mall, with over 7,000 guests in attendance. For every event, a different creative agency, such as Interbrand and Elmwood, take on the challenge of theming the lunch.
We have branded the entire 116 Pall Mall balcony and staircase, the pillars, the windows and the garden. We’ve created bespoke tablecloths, we have applied a special wrap to the bar in Café Duke and we have brought in numerous technology installations.
We brief the agency almost a year in advance and then they usually start work around nine months out. They connect with the 116 Pall Mall team from the offset to hold regular meetings, view the venue, measure up, ask a trillion questions and generally become a pain in the bum.
But the team at 116 are fast responding, helpful and, luckily for us, they never laugh in the face of a crazy idea. We also allow guests to select a main course. So we work with the operations team closely in the lead up to the event on numbers, quantities, allergies and so on.
Then to complicate things further, 50% of the room (all the odd numbers) move seats halfway through the meal so they can mingle with more people. So the operations team not only have to know where they were sat but where they are going to sit.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US...
2019 planning is already underway, and we are excited.
The original Podge celebrates its 25th anniversary next year. That will be a big affair and we are looking to use the 116 Pall Mall gardens as our event venue, just as we did this year. We have Brilliant Path and Fontsmith working on the anniversary as a creative collaboration and we had the first briefing last month.
IF IT AIN’T BROKE…
Throughout Podge’s entire 25-year lifespan, the model has remained the same. It has always been invitation only. No tables sold. No awards. No ego. Our job is to get the most interesting, inspiring, energetic and, most importantly, ‘nice’ people from their respective industry all in one place for a no agenda long lunch where people can be open and have fun.
But on a more basic level, we have never had an event that’s not at max capacity. We always have a waiting list. We can count the number of no-shows on the day on one hand and we have an incredible list of partners who are part of our Podge A-Team, helping support the events and making them that little bit different and special including Coutts, IBM, Maserati, PwC, Crowe, Getty Images, The Drum.
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Book your event at 116 Pall Mall
One of the most prestigious London venues, 116 Pall Mall is situated in the heart of the West End and offers a range of flexible function rooms across five floors, perfect for any kind of event or venue hire for up to 1,500 people.
You can even hire our whole building exclusively on weekends.