Q&A - Sara Cash - Serpentine Gallery

Written by Paul
Sep 17, 2018

In our latest Q&A feature we talk to Sara Cash, Event Sales Manager at The Serpentine Gallery

Tell us about your role at the venue and how long you’ve been there

I work within the Development Team as the Event Sales Manager. I’ve been with the company for just over a year now.

What’s the best thing about working at your venue?

Being part of the team at the Serpentine Galleries involves you stepping outside of your immediate role and being truly invested in the mission of the organisation: to present the best art and architecture programmes free of charge, keeping the Serpentine open and accessible to all. It’s fantastic to work in such a committed and passionate team that have a wider focus inspiring care and dedication rather than just getting the job done.

How did you get into the industry?

I studied Event Management in Sheffield at University, undertaking a year in industry in my third year. After graduating I moved down to London into a Conference and Events Coordinator role at the Wellcome Trust and have been in venue-based event sales and operations since.

What’s the history of the venue?

The Serpentine Gallery is a Grade II listed former tea Pavilion that was opened by the Arts Council of England in May 1970. This historic building, paired with the world renowned annual architectural commission of the Serpentine Pavilion, offers a fascinating pairing of the old and the new. A five-minute walk across the Serpentine bridge is the Serpentine Sackler Gallery and Magazine restaurant which were designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid in 2013. The restaurant was designed to complement the solidity of the existing 1805 gunpowder store, now known as the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, with a distinctly contemporary space. The Magazine features a flowing membrane roof, and light wells that flood natural daylight into the space.

Interesting fact about your venue/tell us something we wouldn’t know

Though the exhibitions inside the gallery change with the season, at the entrance to the Gallery is a permanent commission by the Scottish poet and artist Ian Hamilton Finlay. The piece takes the form of a complex stone circle inscribed with pastoral poetry. The script contains the names of trees found in Kensington Gardens and a quotation by the philosopher Francis Hutcheson, 1725. At the centre is a dedication to Diana, Princess of Wales, who was the Serpentine Gallery’s Patron from 1993 to 1996.

What’s the coolest/best/most interesting event you’ve worked on, and how did the venue cope with it?

February and September London Fashion Weeks are the only times throughout the year that the galleries are left clear and blank canvas hire is available. In September 2017 we hosted a show presenting the designer’s Spring/Summer 18 line using the Serpentine Gallery and Pavilion. The team really took advantage of the multiple galleries available in the Serpentine Gallery for front and back of house space. Using this and the shape of Francis Kéré’s Pavilion they created a fluid and extending runway against a stunning backdrop. Kéré architects built additional panels mirroring the walls of the Pavilion inside the galleries especially for the show which tied in with both the designer and architect’s ambitions of engendering a feeling of togetherness. With three days of set up and de-rig around it, the show itself lasted only 10 minutes, with 500 guests arriving and leaving the site within the space of half an hour, it was an exceptionally unique and beautifully drawn together event to witness and unlike anything else we hold in the spaces over the rest of the year.

What events work best at the venue?

Standing receptions for between 100-150 work really well in either of the galleries. Our capacity varies dependent on the footprint of the exhibition in place at the time so sometimes we can accommodate larger receptions, but this size works well all year round. In Summer we can host fantastic receptions for up to 500 using both the annual Serpentine Pavilion and Serpentine Gallery.

What are your venues top 3 USPs that separate you from other venues?

Variety: With up to four different exhibitions a year in each gallery space and a newly designed Pavilion built from scratch on the Serpentine lawn each Summer, clients can keep returning to the venue year on year with the knowledge there will be something new to impress their guests with at every event.

Greenery: In a busy, bustling City with new event spaces popping up at the top of every skyscraper we are pleased to be unique in our location, situated within 625 acres of parkland and offering a tranquil setting for events with views from the Gallery out across Kensington Gardens.

Charity: By hiring the Galleries for your private event, you are supporting us in our mission to inspire the widest audiences with the ideas of our time, by championing the possibilities of art and architecture and keeping the galleries open, free and accessible to all.

What changes or exciting plans are coming up in 2019 for the venue?

We have a very exciting range of exhibitions planned for 2019 that will offer a variety of back drops and talking points for all kinds of events. By early February we hope to be able to share the details on the architect and the design selected for the Serpentine Pavilion 2019.

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