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I Was There – The Worst Corporate Event in History

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Over the years I had heard the story many times, told by event managers and PA’s organising staff parties in hushed tones and whispers around the water cooler. I admit, I always put it down to urban myth; a cautionary tale on what can go wrong. However, even I was surprised to find out that ‘it’ actually happened.

After much research and several failed attempts to make contact, I finally tracked down the man who organised ‘that night,’ and after much persuasion he agreed to meet me.

***

John, a former event organiser for a major city firm, enters. He seems tense despite the bar being on neutral ground, one where his face isn’t known. Despite not working in the events industry anymore, he is still unsurprisingly living in fear of his former employers.

John: Did you tell anyone we were meeting?
Me: No.
John: And you’re sure you weren’t followed?

I assure him I was not. He settles into his seat and orders a pint of Ruddle’s County and a large vodka chaser. He has evidently aged since the night in question.

Me: Tell me a about that night.
John: (Sips his beer) It was the annual client and company party, biggest event of the year, all our major stakeholders were there… I mean how could I know it would go that wrong? You have no idea the kind of pressure we’re under,everyone wants something new, something different, something memorable.
Me: I’m pretty sure it was memorable.
John: Was that sarcasm?
Me: (I shake my head) I understand there was a problem with the catering?
John: That was not my fault! The caterer cancelled on me at the last minute, so I got Mr Majeski from my local restaurant to cover it. How was I to know he had a criminal record? (Points a finger at me) And it was me that called the ambulances, no one ever mentions that.

I wait for him to settle again.

Me: So, when did the trouble start?
John: (Downs his chaser.) Right from the beginning. I was told to get family entertainment, so I thought, you know, shadow puppets. How was I to know the guy didn’t use his hands? I mean, he came highly recommended!
Me: By?
John: My niece. She neglected to mention she booked him for her hen…
Me: How did your boss react?
John: Man, he was furious. His son found it funny though.
Me: So there were families there?
John: Families, kids, at least one grandparent.
Me: Was that who had the heart attack?
John: It was a seizure, not a heart attack! No one had a heart attack!
Me: But it got worse. Didn’t it? (John nods forlornly.) Was this because of the choice of venue?
John: I read that ‘industrial’ was really chic! And it doesn’t come more industrial than a warehouse in Peckham. How could I know it formerly held chemical waste? Or that it had (makes inverted comma gestures with his fingers) ‘structural integrity’ issues.
Me: Was that when things got…
John: Violent? Yep. They chased me through the streets. With dogs. Dogs! Where the hell did they get dogs from!

John and I exchanged a few final words and he polishes off his Ruddle. I watch John as he leaves, pausing to check the street before vanishing into the night once again. I heard a rumour much later that he had gone into a less stressful line of work… and was now a teacher in an inner city school.

I never saw him again.

Despite my sympathy for his situation and all that he’s endured, I just can’t help but feel a lot of the issues could have been solved with a little time and research, or perhaps just by calling Incognito Artists.

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