Built on historic foundations at the very heart of the capital, you would be hard pressed to miss the grandeur and heritage of Somerset House. We absolutely love the event spaces within this iconic building which lends itself brilliantly to those wanting to create a standout wow factor event.

We caught up with the lovely Luci Sorell to talk about her role at Somerset House, their re-opening plans, all things Meetings & Events and what she has been up to during lockdown.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself, your role at Somerset House and how long you have worked for the group.

I am the Business Development Manager for the Commercial Events team at Somerset House. I manage the reactive sales team and focus on proactive sales and marketing. I have been at Somerset House since October 2016 and started off as an Events Assistant and have been involved in both the sales and planning process of events.

2. What do you love most about your role?

Being able to work with so many different people, from my great team, clients, suppliers, agencies – it really is a team effort! And of course getting to attend so many brilliant events and experience the delicious food, drinks and production our industry has to offer. Also being able to see events come to life in an iconic and historical building and supporting Somerset House’s brilliant work – Run as a charity by the Somerset House Trust, all event hire income directly contributes to our diverse cultural programme, education and outreach work and helps achieve the upkeep of the Grade 1 listed, public building – you can be confident that your event will be directly supporting an organisation offering immense value to an audience that goes far beyond your attendees.

It is great to work within a Unique venue, as Somerset House is more than a building, it is a global platform for creativity, dedicated to nurturing and empowering ideas, backing newness and championing openness. Somerset House draws on its diverse cultural programme and creative community to provide event organisers with a unique offering.  Organisers have the opportunity to enhance their events by combining the artistic and commercial offering, including private tours of the building and exclusive access to exhibitions,

3. How many individual event spaces do you have at Somerset House?

Our neo-classical building offers 12 blank canvas, versatile event spaces, including indoor and outdoor spaces suitable for staging events of all styles and sizes – ranging in capacity from 10 to 1,500.  Somerset House is ideally located, sitting between the River Thames and Covent Garden and is accessible via major transport links in the centre of the capital

4. Do you have a favourite event space and why?

I think it would have to be the Lightwells and Deadhouse because it’s unlike any other space at Somerset House and a space we would love to host more events in! Our most atmospheric space lies hidden from the public gaze, one level below our famous fountains. Running along three sides of the Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court, the lightwells are a long-time favourite of location managers for major film and television series. The Deadhouse, meanwhile, runs directly beneath the Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court, and its eerie memorials set into the walls help lend this underground tunnel an ambience all its own. Descending the stairs from the courtyard, you will discover the unique architecture and unexpected hidden depths of Somerset House. With an abundance of secret nooks and crannies, this fascinating space is perfect for creative and surprising events with an edge. If you are looking to take your event beyond the ordinary and into the unknown, this unique subterranean space, rich in atmosphere and character, is the ideal location. With 12 very different spaces to choose from it’s very hard to pick just one – no event looks the same! 

5. Tell us about the types of events that you host at Somerset House?

I can’t think of what types of events we don’t host at Somerset House, in my time here I have seen so many, and as we are a blank canvas venue all events are bespoke and no event looks the same, its offer clients the opportunity to be as creative as they want to be – we have hosted brand activations, product launches, press events, receptions, dinners, conferences, meetings, fashion presentations, catwalk show, live events, art installations, exhibitions, large scaled film shoots and photo shoots. The possibilities are endless!  

6. Is there a stand out event that you have organised and are really proud of?

I think hosting a catwalk show on our ice rink as part of Men’s Fashion Week in 2018 for the fashion brand ‘Band of Outsiders’ has to be a real highlight. It was the first time we had hosted an event such as this on the rink and it was really exciting to be part of. An image of the event can be found below.

7. How have you been spending your time in lockdown?

I have spent a lot of my time reading, drawing and buying various house plants to look after! I am also very luckily to have a garden and have been spending lots of my time in the sunshine. My most recent purchase was an inflatable Kayak so my new favourite thing to do at weekends is to go kayaking up and down the Thames – something I don’t think I would have ever consider before this!

8. Your venue is currently closed like the rest of the country and events are on hold, how have you stayed connected to your community, guests and bookers?

Social Media has always been important but I think it seems to be now more than ever. Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn are all brilliant platforms and allow us to stay connected with our clients, agencies, suppliers and industry friends in various ways. We also have a ‘Venue Hire News’ section on our website which has been a great resource for us. Otherwise, we have found personally getting in touch with our contacts via calls, zoom etc. has been a great use of our time, I think communication is key at the moment and it’s been really nice to have the opportunity to have a general catch up with so many great people that we work with over the last few months and we can’t wait to be working with them all again!

9. Do you have a date you are planning to re-open the venue at this stage?

Currently Somerset House is closed until at least the 4th July but we are following government guidelines and working through may different scenarios on how we can host events when we are able to re-open. As a Commercial Events team we are of course looking to do everything we can to make events possible and will be as flexible as possible with this

10. What plans and safety measures are you putting in place when your doors re-open and you welcome guests and event bookings back to your venue? 

This is something we are currently working on with our Estates and Health and Safety teams, using current government and industry guidance to shape our plans while we await further hospitality specific guidance from the government.  We are currently working through a number of scenarios and identifying the different ways we could host events safely with restrictions in place when we re-open. We are putting together guidelines for socially distanced events at Somerset House which will be share with all clients enquiring to host their event with us as well as already confirmed events – this will include (but is in no way limited to) additional cleaning in the event spaces during the event, additional deep cleans before and after each event, additional staffing for queue management, one way system management across the site where possible, additional back of house for suppliers to help them work safely and different capacity scenarios depending on social distancing requirements. We are also working with our accredited suppliers to understand how they would plan to work on site, to make sure we are all working safely during this time.

11. Are you currently still receiving enquires for late 2020?

We are yes, which is great! Mostly from September/October onwards.

12. Is you venue fully equipped to host virtual and Hybrid events?

We are a blank canvas venue so all production, AV etc. is supplied by one of our brilliant accredited suppliers. With this in mind, we have been catching up and working with them all on how we can support each other during this time and the Hybrid Event Packages for some of our most popular event spaces. We are also looking to upgrade our complimentary Wi-Fi and IT packages within our event spaces to make sure we can host all hybrid events effectively.

13. Do you think event bookers will always prefer live events to virtual events or do you think virtual and Hybrid events will become the new norm?

I think as time goes on people are realising the importance of face to face reaction and physical events. I am definitely excited to host and attend physical events again – you just can’t beat it! However, it is exciting to see how events can be adapted to work virtually or as a hybrid event and for some events this will be the better option going forward – I think it depends on the event and there will be a real mix going forwards, which is exciting.

14. What positive have you taken from lockdown and what advice would you give to other people to stay positive during this time?

Working in the Events Industry is full on, we are always busy and juggling many jobs at once. This is an opportunity for us to reflect and reset, something we don’t usually have time to do so my advice would definitely be to not put any additional pressure on ourselves during this time as we will all soon be back to business as usual and hopefully busier than ever!

Thank you so much to Luci for this wonderful insightful interview. This unique venue really is unlike no other when it comes to nurturing creative flair & enhancing every type of event brief to its full potential.

For more information on booking Somerset House for your next event, get in touch with Miss London Concierge on info@misslondonconcierge.co.uk

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