London is famous for its beautiful and landmark event venues, and very rarely do they go unnoticed. Having worked for a locations agency before, hearing about some of the venues’ history has always fascinated me; having the strange feeling of standing in the same spot where a great event took place hundreds of years ago, or where people that have created wonderful things once sat where I sat to think and write.
I decided to dedicate the first series of blog posts to the history of some of the most iconic venues in London. But how was I to ever pick a selection out of so much choice? I left it to chance… though perhaps a little biased at times.
Over the next few weeks I will be sharing some interesting facts, some of which I already knew about, and others that totally surprised me! Below is the first one.
So, a lot of people that know me well happen to know that Hercules (yes, the 1997 Disney cartoon) is amongst one of my favourite childhood films. As a good aunt that I am, I decided that it was time my niece was introduced to the masterpiece. So there we sat, one great Friday evening witnessing Hercules go from Zero to Hero, when suddenly it hit me – Hercules was about to inspire my first historical voyage through London’s event venues. I had met my chance.
Olympia London has been popping up all over the news recently; it’s such a great large events space so it all made sense. As you may have guessed, this came about because of the name of the venue, it screams out history – most people have heard of the ancient Greek sanctuary Olympus, a place where people would go to, to worship Zeus, God of War (and also Hercules’ father!).
But did you know that Olympia, voted one of the best venues in the UK this year, was actually originally called the National Agricultural Hall?
- It first opened in 1886, built by architect Henry Edward Coe. Their inaugural event was the famous Paris Hippodrome and stayed there until 1887.
- The first ever Ideal Home Show ran there in 1908 – and it has been going on since.
- During World War I the venue served as a temporary civil prison camp for German nationals
- In 1925, Olympia catered a dinner for 8,000 guests, with over 3 miles of tables to serve. This feast was to be forever remembered as the ‘Feast of the 8,000’, a Masonic war memorial fund-raising dinner. The event required over 1,300 waiters, and 700 cooks!
Other notable events that made their pass through Olympia London include the 49th Miss World Pageant, December 1999, and the famous Radiolympia (previously known as National Wireless and Radio Exhibition).
There is so much information and interesting facts about the venue out there, and the above are just a selection. It has definitely shed some light into its history, and when I next visit the venue I will definitely have a weird collage of images in my head of Hercules fighting in World War I.
For more information visit Olympia London’s website.
Don’t miss out on my next post on our History of venues series where I delve into Somerset House’s royal history.