Unique Conference Centres in the UK
The Globe Theatre, located at Stratford-On-Avon, in London proper, was arguably the most unique and historically significant of the choices, for that it hosts William Shakespeare's birthplace. It's also on the river, and is able to provide catering, laptop connection, P.A. system, etc. All in all, it seems like a very good choice and a morale builder.
Oxford University Conference Oxford is so famous as to need no introduction, and so the possibility of having the conference at so prestigious a location could not be ignored. When I checked into it, I found that there are facilities available at more than one campus. To make it most convenient to international travelers, I chose the London campus. Unfortunately, their conference centre facilities are only available during breaks at the university (mid-December through early January, mid-March to mid-April, and from the end of June through the end of September.) Though they could provide video conferencing equipment, catered meals of purportedly excellent caliber, and an extraordinary experience, the availability simply didn't accommodate our timeframe.
The King's College was another alternative to consider, also within half an hour of the London Gatwick airport, and minutes from the Waterloo Eurostar port. They offered meeting facilities year-round, but housing was likewise only during the off-school season. Remembering their en-suite facilities less than fondly from a visit last summer, I couldn't have advised staying on campus anyway. With London's capable public transportation, I was unwilling to rule King's College out. Their catering abilities were also lacking though, in that they could only offer beverages. When all was considered, though their rates were quite competitive, King's College simply didn't meet our needs.
If the King's College was a bit Spartan, the Kensington Close Hotel and Health Spa more than made up for the lack. Close to the Tube (London's underground train system) and offering all manner of amenities, including wi-fi internet throughout the facilities, ample catering choices and 24-hour room service for guests… even the health spa and related services! Now this was the lap of luxury, and not anywhere near as expensive as I had originally feared. If the attendees didn't become too distracted by the comforts, the Kensington Close might very well offer us facilities worthy of mention.
So far, I'd been limiting the search to places within or very near London proper. Not wanting to overlook some extraordinary possibility that was within a reasonable distance of London, I set out to explore some of the close countryside, and came across the conference centres facilities available at the University of Hertfordshire. Again, them being primarily a center for higher learning limited the availability of rooms to the summer months and Spring Break periods (July, August, & September,). Being only 10 miles from Luton airport and only 25 minutes by train from downtown London kept things promising. That they offered auditoriums equipped with all the latest AV. Equipment (as well as on-site technician support) promised a technologically trouble-free conference. Again Internet access was available in the rooms - when the rooms themselves are available. Though I was favorably impressed with the modern facilities and the beauty of the campus, I'd have to put this location on the back burner, remember it for a summer conference at some future time.
All things considered, London (and really the entire UK) offers a truly impressive assortment of conference facilities for a wide variety of budgets. I hadn't expected such diverse vistas and appeals. There are many other locations within the London area as well as across the United Kingdom, but I haven't the time or space to discuss them all within this recounting. For our purposes, I must recommend the Globe or the Kensington Close Hotel & Spa, but those with a summer conference will find exponentially more inviting venues available to them.
© 2006 RightNow Communications, Inc.
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