All Hands On Deck

Equipping London Event Planners with fresh ideas, news and tips to create memorable events

Making a night of it: The best ways for venues to source entertainment

Cirque Noir 1

Entertainment plays an important part in creating a successful event and most venues offer a variety of performers including musicians, magicians, comedians, dancers and, increasingly, interactive acts. Although The Deck is part of the National Theatre, which has its own extensive production facilities, we are also happy to work with external companies to make sure we always find the right entertainment for each event. We’ve put together our top tips for sourcing entertainment and how this can benefit you and your clients.

Think about the big picture

As an event manager, you need to be both architect and engineer to realise the ideal event according to your brief. Instead of starting out the planning stages with budgets, limitations and restraints, the event manager should always aim to look at the overall vision of what can be done and build all your plans from there. When working on events that have a specific theme, you can really add an extra dimension through a creative performance element.

December 2015 saw the transformation of The Deck into ‘Cirque Noir’ – an interactive feast of the obscure which explored the darker side of Christmas. To add an interactive aspect to standing receptions, we sourced a variety of acts from the circus and carnival worlds, such as jugglers, fortune-tellers, contortionists and a ringmaster MC. Not only providing visual engagement, these performers went further in managing to shock and excite, leaving guests feeling they have genuinely stepped through the secret areas of a big-top circus tent.

Nurture agency relationships

If you are making regular bookings for a venue, you get to know the entertainment industry very well – and the people who are sometimes the forgotten backbone of it. Music and entertainment agencies are responsible for providing work for full-time and part-time performers and their books can be wide-ranging and extensive. Building a strong relationship with an agency that you use regularly can be beneficial when it comes to looking for a bespoke act that you just can’t seem to track down by yourself. A female Sinatra tribute act who also does street magic? Your agency contact has probably heard of much wilder things, and will also know what the going rate is. When you have a last-minute cancellation and need a gypsy violin duo at 24 hours’ notice, where’s the best place to look? Not Google that’s for sure.

Keep in contact with performers

Performers can be a key part of the event vision as long as you know why they’re being chosen and how they will enhance the event. You can offer direction to make sure the performance fits the theme perfectly, such as recommending repertoire for a pianist or announcements for an MC. Performers are creators and are usually willing to adapt to match the style of the event and the audience.

Another important point to remember is that if you treat performers well then they are much more likely to return the favour. Many artist contracts mention the provision of food and drinks but by also ensuring they have a suitable storage and setup area, being very clear about timings and logistics and being personable as well as professional, then you are on your way to harbouring a positive performance environment.

Know your space

When booking acts, you as the event manager are the best person to decide what will and won’t work logistically. You can make recommendations based on the size and capacity of the venue, the sound aspects and any noise limitations, timings that will work best alongside food service and even details as small as where the power points are located.

Timings are important too – a 12-piece swing band will be hard pushed to set up and sound-check in 30 minutes, but if you know this is your window you can work out a solution. Sending access times and parking details in advance, having a team to assist with equipment transport whilst in the building, and memorising the technical rider are all small things which can save you valuable minutes on these occasions.

Build A Database

The more acts you book yourself at your venue, the better you will get to know what works for certain types of events and what clients will like. Building a database of performers who know the venue well and know how you work as an organisation will make life a lot easier and make the whole booking process more efficient.

Directly sourcing performers who aren’t linked with agencies can have its benefits too, including lower fees and generating loyalty towards your venue by creating regular work for acts. In 2013 we set up a scheme here – NT Talent – which utilises the talents and skills of those working in the National Theatre who are also part-time performers. This in-house pool of entertainment is offered for clients to choose from and we have a constant series of bookings, especially during busy summer months.


Whatever type of venue you have, it is always valuable to know of the resources available to you. Furthermore, by sourcing entertainers of any kind, you will be offering an extra service and will also be widening your field of vision when it comes to planning future events.


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This entry was posted on January 22, 2016 by in Event planning, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , .

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