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Venetia Harpin

How and why did you get started in events?

I started out working in music – booking bands and organising gigs. From there I started getting involved in other aspects of live production and before long I’d learned about everything from arranging flowers to ordering canapés!

What does your job involve on a day to day basis?

As a freelancer I work on all kinds of events, from luxury private parties to creative brand launches to immersive festival experiences. The challenge of producing fresh and innovative events is what makes it interesting.

My day can involve anything from venue hunting to meeting with suppliers such as caterers or set designers, sourcing bespoke props, and managing budgets.

What’s a highlight of the last year in events you’ve produced?

I had a really fun three-day activation I worked on at Camp Bestival last summer, which is a family festival in Dorset. We created an ‘Intergalactic Space Base’ where kids could make their own space-themed festival headdresses. I learnt a LOT about different types of ping pong balls, glitter stickers and pipe cleaners!

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What causes the most stress in event production? How do you stay motivated?

Bringing so many different elements of a project together for such a short amount of time. I can spend three months planning an event that lasts five hours, and you only get one chance to get everything right on the day. But seeing a bespoke concept come to life is incredibly exciting and rewarding, and I love seeing people have a great time.

Any funny event stories?

A few years ago I was working at Glastonbury, where Block 9 had a venue being run by some fabulous drag queens. The weather was atrocious but they adamantly refused to swap their heels for wellies. A bunch of them got really stuck in the mud and myself and the production office team had to physically rescue them!

What do you think are the key qualities to being a successful event producer?

Being a multi-tasker is essential as you are constantly juggling lots of things. Being prepared to work long hours, and being flexible with last-minute changes also helps.

Good attention to detail comes in handy, as does being a night owl – my working ‘day’ sometimes finishes at 5 or 6am!

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What would be your dream event to work on?

There are some fantastic developments in event technology now that can really bring your imagination to life. I’d love to create a magical other-worldly party using holograms, VR and 360 projection mapping to really dazzle the guests.

Do you ever plan big events for your own occasions, or do you tend to keep it low-key in your personal life?

It’s sometimes hard not to get involved! I love being able to help out friends and family when they need recommendations but actually prefer not to organise big parties for myself – It’s hard to switch out of ‘work mode’ and relax.

How would you describe your personal style?

Hipster goth – I wear a lot of black! Partly because I prefer to blend in ‘behind the scenes’ when I’m running an event, haha.

What’s your career/life philosophy?

I am fortunate enough to live in a city busting with creativity and ideas and I love to be part of celebrating that. The world around us may be fraught with uncertainty and conflict at times, so it’s important to find space for the frivolous and joyful.

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Who inspires you creatively?

There are some amazing innovative companies here in London. Secret Cinema and Punchdrunk have taken immersive theatre to new levels, whilst Bompas & Parr are a real-life Willy Wonka factory of wonderful crazy ideas.

Where are your favourite places to eat, drink and be entertained in west London?

Bush Hall has great eclectic programming and their dining room next door is excellent too. I love a good street food market so Golborne Road on Fridays is fun to explore. For a fancy dinner, the chef’s table at Parlour in Kensal Rise. And for drinks The Portobello Star; try anything made using their own Portobello Road Gin.

What might you have been doing as a career if not events?

I almost trained to be a lawyer – I love negotiating! But these days it’s usually over the price of draping fabric or tealight votives.

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What was the last series you watched?

I just finished watching Atlanta and would thoroughly recommend it. You think it’s just about these guys hustling to make a rap record but there’s all these funny side stories and surreal moments that just get dropped in.

What would your ideal day out in London involve?

A lazy brunch at Snaps + Rye followed by a stroll up Parliament Hill or if it’s rainy, a potter around a museum. The Wellcome Collection and Sir John Soame are two of my favourite quirky spots. Finished off with cocktails at Evans & Peel detective agency!

What would you say to anyone looking to get started in event production – any tips or warnings?

Be a team player and get stuck in with whatever needs doing. Nothing beats hands-on experience. You can’t be precious. I’ve been known to wield a wood sanding machine at 11pm to get a set build finished!

What are you looking forward to?

Summer! It’s always the busiest time of year and preparations start now. For a rainy country we sure do like outdoor events.

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