Finding a venue for staff conferences or away days that is conveniently located, unique and within budget is always a challenge – especially as delegates are starting to expect more from a venue than just a blank canvas space offering soggy sandwiches.
The trend for unusual, multi-purpose, aesthetically interesting locations has seen pop-ups, repurposed cathedrals and sustainable green spaces entering the market. And then there are the venues offering more than just a space for hire – breweries, cinemas and even a safari park are all investing in conference capabilities to lure in the corporate market.
All these options and competing demands could strike fear into the heart of even the most seasoned event professionals. But fear not: People Management has teamed up with corporate event brand C&IT to reveal the UK’s top 10 venues for HR-related events – with something for every budget, location and size, or some quirkier venues if you have a yearning for the unconventional.
1. The Monastery, Manchester
This former church and friary has been restored and transformed into an events space available for private hire. Once listed by the World Monuments Fund as one of the top 100 endangered sites in the world, it can now be used for banqueting, conferences and meetings.
The Grade II* buildings are still owned by the same charity that began the campaign to save them in 1996, The Monastery of St Francis & Gorton Trust. With all proceeds from events donated to the Trust and used to support the ongoing maintenance and conservation of this heritage site, it’s a venue that will appeal to anyone seeking a space that is both beautiful and socially conscious.
The main space, the Great Nave, can host a minimum of 100 guests at a daily rate of £3,500.
2. The Jetty, London
Nature lovers searching for a green oasis in the heart of the capital should try The Jetty in Greenwich, which provides a floating garden space on Greenwich Peninsula. The Venue Lab-owned space has room for groups of up to 400, with panoramic views of the Thames.
Guests have the option to dine al fresco on sunnier days, enjoying meals prepared with locally sourced, fresh ingredients. As well as film screenings, The Jetty can host corporate away days, private events and summer and Christmas parties.
The Jetty is a short walk from North Greenwich tube station, and is next to the Emirates Air Line cable car, making it is easily accessible from all parts of the capital. Prices are available on request.
3. Picture House Social, Sheffield
Treat delegates to an evening packed with fun and games at the beautiful Picture House Social. The venue is housed in the former ballroom and billiard hall of Abbeydale Picture House, which opened in 1920. The Sheffield space boasts both a cinema room and games room, which can be hired for groups of 30-60 people.
The games room can be hired from 5pm until close, featuring a staffed bar serving spirits, bottled beers and ciders and wine, costing £150 from Sunday to Thursday, and £300 on Friday and Saturday nights. For an additional £50, the adjacent 24-seat cinema can be used for private screenings. Guests can embrace their competitive streak with a ping-pong table, which costs a further £20.
4. Curtain Hotel, London
The luxurious, £70m Curtain Hotel and Members’ Club features more than 6,000 sq ft of meeting and event space, including restaurant Red Rooster, which doubles as a live music venue – providing the perfect after-event hangout for delegates to unwind over a cocktail or two.
Its main space, the Ballroom, hosts 210 standing guests or 120 for a dinner and dance, with a minimum spend of £10,000 based on food and beverages.
The hotel, located in vibrant Shoreditch, also offers the Screening Room for more intimate gatherings. The room hire rate is £2,500 plus food and drinks costs.
5. Everyman Cinema, Leeds
Everyman Cinema operates 21 boutique theatres across the UK, but its venue in Trinity Leeds is our pick for private events.
The five screens can host group sizes from 32 to 230, while the bar and restaurant areas are perfect breakout spaces for pre and post-screening receptions. Delegates can sit back and relax in the comfort of their own luxury sofa, making this location the perfect antidote to high-energy team-building days or busy networking events.
The largest screen, which seats 151, costs £3,500 to hire for 2.5 hours at peak time, which includes a £2,200 spend on food and drink at the bar. The smallest screen, for 32 people, costs £665, which includes a £200 bar spend.
6. Cameron House, Loch Lomond
Cameron House lies on the picturesque banks of Loch Lomond, set in 400 acres of countryside. Located 30 minutes from Glasgow and an hour from Edinburgh by car, the five-star hotel offers a countryside retreat with seven flexible private meeting rooms.
The largest room, the Lomond Suite, can accommodate 300 delegates, with prices starting from £45 per person.
A dedicated meeting and events coordinator can assist with bespoke team-building sessions, which range from whisky tastings and golfing days to clay pigeon shooting, archery and falconry.
Thrill-seekers can enjoy various adrenaline-pumping sports including paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking, mountain biking and a Segway safari. Leave a lasting impression on colleagues with a trip on the Loch Lomond Seaplane, or a 60-minute Champagne cruise aboard the Celtic Warrior, a luxury motor cruiser.
7. Culloden Estate & Spa, Belfast
The stunning Culloden Estate & Spa is a rural sanctuary just 10 minutes from Belfast. Delegates can bask in luxury following a redesign of the hotel, which included an upgrade to its event space, the Stuart Suite, one of the largest conference rooms in Northern Ireland.
All-day hire for the suite and Lady Jane Tower is £2,500 to £3,000 for meetings, and £900 for a drinks reception and dinner. Theatre-style seating allows for up to 800 guests, while a cabaret set-up allows for 350.
Team-building activities can also be incorporated into events, including race nights, a millionaire quiz show, casino nights, murder mystery dinners and themed suppers.
Make an evening of it with a residential package starting at £200 per person, giving delegates the option to enjoy some downtime at the Mitre Restaurant – which offers menus created by chef Paul McKnight – a refurbished spa with a new quiet room, a nail bar and remodelled gym facilities.
8. Cardiff Castle, Wales
For those who like their venues to have a bit of history, Cardiff Castle provides a majestic backdrop in the heart of the Welsh capital. Its magnificent banquet hall was used by the Bute family for grand entertaining, and now up to 100 guests can experience a feast fit for a king under its high ceilings and atmospheric lighting. There is also the option of a drinks reception in the library and drawing room.
Pricing is £625 per hour for a minimum of four hours.
The guest tower rooms offer further period suites for private dinners and smaller meetings, at £150 per hour.
9. Blackfriars, Newcastle
This former medieval friary in Newcastle upon Tyne features the 90-seat Blackfriars Restaurant, a 50-seat banquet hall, 36-seat tasting room, 14-seat cookery school, 40-seat meeting room and a parlour bar accommodating up to 40 guests.
The venue provides various activities for corporate groups including a bespoke cocktail masterclass led by a mixologist. For £29 per person, six to 14 guests receive a glass of bubbly on arrival, three cocktails each plus snacks in addition to the masterclass.
Budding Bake Off contestants can work in teams to challenge an in-house chef to see who can create the best gastronomic treat. Prices start from £39 per person and include food for eight to 20 guests. A bottle of fizz is awarded to the winning team and the whole group gets to enjoy the spoils – the food cooked by the teams – afterwards.
10. Etc.venues, Manchester
With Manchester heading up the northern powerhouse and becoming an ever-growing presence in the UK business world, London stalwart etc.venues opened its first training, meeting and conference venue in the city last month at 11 Portland Street.
The eighth-floor glass-clad venue offers daytime and evening guests views across the city in three directions. With access to 15 flexible rooms, including a suite for up to 300 delegates in theatre style, there is also exhibition space and opportunities for exclusive hire of parts of the venue.
Etc.venues Manchester also features onsite dining and a bar as well as its own theatre kitchen. Unlimited tea, coffee and snacks are included in day delegate packages, and rooms are fitted with NEC projectors and screens, with access to free wi-fi. Exclusive use of the conference wing is priced at £8,000-£10,000.