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Thu 14 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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Clients London & Continental Railways (LCR) and Eurostar wanted an opening ceremony fit for a queen at the relaunch of St. Pancras International and High Speed 1 in November.


Clients London & Continental Railways (LCR) and Eurostar wanted an opening ceremony fit for a queen at the relaunch of St. Pancras International and High Speed 1 in November.

After forty years of neglect, the British government selected London & Continental Railways (LCR) to work on the regeneration of London's St. Pancras railway station and the construction of the UK's first stretch of high-speed railway line connecting St. Pancras with continental Europe - High Speed 1.

Eleven years later, the project was complete and to commemorate the occasion, LCR and Eurostar wanted to put on an event that would celebrate the future of the station and the high-speed rail network, without forgetting the history of the station and the surrounding area.

The completion of the railway station was more important than having everyone seated on time.

The reopening of the station in November 2007 - held over three consecutive nights - provided the small army of event management companies involved in the occasion with a threefold challenge.

"My brief was to come up with an event strategy that would satisfy three groups of people: the VIP guests and the people who constructed the track and restored the station on the first night; the launch of the Eurostar trains on the second night; and the people who were involved in the retail side of the new station," explains MVM Events managing director Richard Beggs.

"The three events had a similar flavour to them; we had the 60 piece Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and 40 piece New London Children's choir and on the opening night we had British soul and R&B singer Lemar and Welsh opera star Katherine Jenkins singing."

Organisers commissioned special musical pieces to be written for the occasion and obtained permission to use a specially arranged version of the 1967 Beatles song Hello Goodbye.

"We kept the same words but the song had different undertones to reflect that St. Pancras was a special meeting place in the past and would be in the future; that song embodied that message," Beggs explains.

After welcoming performances, dinner was served from purpose built market stalls depicting London's traditional markets, serving fresh fish and shellfish, cheese and meat and a selection of hot dishes, accompanied by fine wines, courtesy of MVM's sister company, Moving Venue Caterers.

The launch night was attended by some of the UK's most high-profile royal and political figures, including Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh.

"It was the first time we had heard the expression SVIP," Beggs explains. "Super VIP was a new word to me in event management - that is where you have people like Her Majesty the Queen and Ken Livingston the mayor of London to sort out; people of immensely high profile."

"All have to be individually handled by us along with another 1200 people."

Vital statistics

On-site event management

:

• 2 event directors

• 6 event managers

• 1 data manager

• 12 logistics managers

• 4 transport/accommodation managers

• 5 data coordinators

• 12 Super-VIP hostesses

• 44 hostesses

• 8 scanning staff

• 4 drivers


Such high calibre visitors required considerable security measures, including members of the UK's Special Branch police force, which deals with matters of national security, and identification tags for all guests.

MVM Events was one of several event production specialists involved in the delivery of the reopening ceremonies and was responsible for supplier liaison, guest invitation data management and all logistics for the build-up to the event and on the day.

"We were responsible for everything that moved from A to B," Beggs explains.

"We had to ensure that all those people coming from abroad were on the trains, were given the tickets to travel and were provided with the appropriate accommodation in London if required."

He continues: "Because our client was a travel provider, we had to ensure that our travel provision was as seamless as theirs."

"We were coaching people from Waterloo across central London to St. Pancras at 4.00pm, with other road traffic to consider. Eurostar does have the privilege of having no other trains on their track!"

Technical production was delivered by UK based Flux Events, which was responsible for the av system, including four giant LCD TV screens suspended on a remote controlled track on the roof of the station.

"The health and safety considerations, given that underneath was the track, with 25,000 volts of power running through it was immense," Beggs adds.

One of the biggest problems that the team faced was the fact that station was still being refurbished and the lines installed up until the day of the event, complicating supplier site inspections.

"Thankfully LCR and Eurostar had a fairly good focus on what we were expected to deliver," explains Beggs.

"However, the primary focus, from an LCR perspective was to build the station and complete it on time, and from the Eurostar perspective to ensure that the trains would go from Waterloo to St Pancras at the flick of a switch."

LCR and Eurostar told their delivery teams that they would be entirely reactive to them - i.e. they would leave the entire event in their hands unless there was a specific problem that they needed addressing.

"Passengers mean more than guests, and I wholeheartedly agree with that," Beggs adds.

"The completion of the railway station was more important than having everyone seated on time."

"Our job is the seating, theirs it the railway station. In many respects, we are no good at building stations or diverting trains, but we are very good at installing events, so because everyone kept to the discipline they are meant to follow, everything went smoothly."

Fast facts

What

: reopening and launch ceremonies for London's St. Pancras International railway station and high-speed Eurostar rail line.

When

: November 26-28, 2007.

Where

: London St. Pancras International.

Why

: To relaunch St. Pancras International and celebrate the completion of High-Speed 1 - Britain's first stretch of high-speed rail.

Who

: British royalty and senior members of parliament including Queen Elizabeth and Gordon Browne, as well as senior members of LCR, Eurostar and construction, retail and commercial enterprises involved in the project.

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