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by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 14.16.05Cool and unusual – these are often the lead criteria in venue selection these days as meetings and events planners seek brand new ways to surprise and delight their increasingly more discerning and sophisticated audiences. Attendees these days demand far more than a simple meeting room or a mere event space. They expect a total, holistic experience where the selected venue matches and reinforces the theme of the meeting or the event. They want an authentic destination experience where the uniqueness of the venue highlights and informs the meeting or event content either by way of perfect alignment or complete contrast. Here are 5 venues in Dublin where the venue plays a key role in the meeting or event content:

1. The Stadium

When you bring your event to Croke Park you’re tapping into a well-spring of passion, pride and performance, key attributes of the Gaelic Athletic Association – the GAA –  whose home this is. The GAA has been building strong and vibrant communities since 1884 and this makes Croke Park the perfect place to convene your own community for a meeting, conference or event.

Croke Park is really a campus, offering a multi-stage environment for meetings and events. Run your meeting at Croke Park and surprise your sales team with a half time talk in the actual dressing room where countless county managers transformed losers into winners with rousing speeches. Alternatively do pre-dinner drinks in the privatised, fully inter-active GAA museum. You can also walk across the stadium rooftop and discover Dublin from a height. Croke Park offers such a variety of options for meetings planners not least the Hogan Suite – 5m ceiling height, natural daylight, 800 attendees theatre-style. The only limits at Croke Park are those of your own imagination!

2. The Castle

The Norman legacy in Ireland includes a constellation of castles scattered across the entire country, many in moody ruins, some fully restored and functioning. Dating originally from the later Norman period, Luttrellstown Castle has been enlarged and enhanced over the centuries and is now a sumptuous private venue with 12 individually style bedrooms and dining facilities for up to 100 guests.

Located a mere stone’s throw from Dublin’s pulsating city centre, Luttrellstown Castle retains an aura of aristocratic splendid isolation surrounded by 560 acres of lush pasture land on the north bank of the meandering River Liffey. It’s perfect as a corporate retreat when you need a special location for your Board of Directors as they re-imagine the future of your company. It’s perfect too for Gala dinners when you want guests to feel unique and special. It’s particularly perfect for weddings when you want to celebrate in style and draw on the heritage and history of a location that’s been hosting extraordinary events for centuries.

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3. The Theatre

When SoolNua wanted a special showcase venue to interact with our community of friends and clients we chose a theatre: SmockAlley, Dublin’s oldest public venue now magnificently restored as a 3 location facility offering great versatility and flexibility. SmockAlley comes with a proud thespian heritage: David Garrick, actor, producer, playwright – the Clint Eastwood of the seventeen hundreds – actually played there.

We used the Boys’ School for our “formal” presentation. This is a wonderful multi-level facility with a huge central void. The original windows and brickwork of a much earlier structure form the backdrop of the space with the audience seated on traditional church pews which can be configured in a U-shape to create maximum intimacy.

SmockAlley also includes a traditional theatre with tiered seating for 178 attendees where the back wall of the stage formed the original walls of the 1662 construction. The Banquet Hall, meanwhile, is a capacious space of 325 sqm, full of wonderful period detail including an ornate stucco ceiling and some lovely stained glass from when Smock Alley served as a Church. It’ll take 250 theatre style for a meeting.

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4. The Church

Last week, following a rather long hiatus, FactorOne, the band I’m in with Andrew Basquille and Eugene Murphy played our first public concert in Ireland since the mid 1980s. We wanted a “listening” venue, that is, a venue where we wouldn’t have to roar over the din of drinks, a seated venue where we could play for a couple of hours and then adjourn for a post-gig adult beverage.

We chose the Unitarian Church on St Stephen’s Green for its great city centre location, its 200 seater capacity and its reputation as a “listening” venue (due, no doubt, to the fact that there’s no bar!). It was the perfect venue with amazing on-site assistance provided by venue manager Josh and sound man Kevin. It’s very reasonably priced and is perfect for any style of meeting or event where food and beverage is not a requirement. The period setting and the traditional church artefacts provide a unique context here that will suit particular types of corporate communications.

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 5. The Pub

The Pub in Ireland over the decades has often played the role of crucible, acting as the clearing house for new ideas, new insights, new departures. This was certainly the case in the early years of the last century as our country took its first steps towards sovereign nationhood. It was also the case in the 1950s when a new emerging breed of writers injected new life into Ireland’s literary scene. Such luminaries as Brendan Behan, Flann O’ Brien and Patrick Kavanagh emerged from the bar stools of McDaid’s, The Oval and The Palace Bar. Pubs are natural places to meet but can you do a meeting there?

The Bernard Shaw in South Dublin, named after the famous nobel laureate, offers a particularly interesting option for daytime private meetings and events. Using the Beer Garden and The Big Blue Bus you can easily accommodate 35 attendees for a truly cool and unusual meeting or event featuring mismatch furniture, garish colours, funky street art and endless attitude. Hipster beards and skinny jeans optional!

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Pádraic Gilligan and Patrick Delaney are Managing Partners at SoolNua, a boutique agency working with destinations, hotels and venues on strategy, marketing and training for MICE | Business Tourism. This week they were listed by the US based media organisation, MeetingsNet, amongst the 20 most influential “ChangeMakers” in the Meetings and Events Industry.


2 thoughts on “Cool and Unusual – 5 great places to hold an event in Dublin

  1. Dr. Patrick Patridge says:

    Great post Padraic!
    Glad to see that your band is back on stage – I still have an old MC cassette dating from the early 1990s (?). Thanks also for the useful venue tips – keeping me up-to-date over here in FFM!!
    All good wishes as ever, to Pat, Andrew and Eugene, too!!

    1. padraicino says:

      Mile maith agat a Phadraig!

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