René Dee, CEO of the Westminster Collection, explains how much the City of Westminster has to offerAsked to define the boundaries of the City of Westminster, very few people (even Londoners!) would be even close. Westminster, so often the portmanteau word for just the Houses of Parliament, actually stretches to Kilburn in one direction and Paddington in another. Members include Kent House in Knightsbridge, the RIBA in Great Portland Street and the Royal Society in Wimpole Street, Goring Hotel near Buckingham Palace, the Law Society in Chancery Lane and even HQS Wellington, home to the Honourable Company of Master Mariners, moored on the Thames near Waterloo Station.
The CEO of the Westminster Collection is René Dee and he is very much its mainspring. It was founded 17 years ago, but its roots go back much further as there was always a realisation that by working together the different venues could make Westminster a better-defined destination and attract more business for them all to share.
René was for many years the Director of the Royal Horticultural Halls in Vincent Square, which is central in more ways than one to the Collection. It is close to Central Hall and to Church House Conference Centre, home of the Church of England Synod and it has the largest single facility, able to seat up to 5,000 delegates.
René calls the organisation a ‘marketing collective’ that serves to create a presence that the venues could not achieve individually.
Unlike other marketing consortia, the Westminster Collection does not fix membership fees according to the size of the venue. ‘I know from previous experience’, he explains, ‘that in that kind of situation the members that pay the most automatically assume they are of greater importance and ought to have more say in the running of the consortium.
‘We work on the basis of one member, one vote, one fee, with everyone having an equal say and therefore encouraged to contribute to the best of their experience and their ability.’
René is proud of the Collection’s website www.venues-london.co.uk, which has been designed as a one-stop shop, putting such a wealth of choice and information at the fingertips of event organisers of every kind.
‘And, of course’, adds René, ‘the Westminster Collection is always there to receive enquiries and to pass them on to members, so that the enquirer receives the full attention of all those venues that can be of service’.
‘Sweet Peas, Suffragettes and Showmen’ is the name of a new book and visitors to this website might well ask what it has to do with the MICE sector. However, its subtitle is ‘Events That Changed the World in the RHS Halls’ and it is the result of many years research by René Dee. Published by Phillimore & Co, it can be pre-ordered via Amazon at £30. RHS is the Royal Horticultural Society, but René shows that since the opening of the first hall in Vincent Square in 1904 by King Edward VII, its non-horticultural events can provide an insight into the changing life and habits of the country.