Interview with Joanne Cochran at Royal Hospital Chelsea
What is your favourite part of your job?
My favourite part of my job has to be the people I get to work with. There is so much variety and every day is different. I can go from meeting energetic and smiley caterers and clients new and old who adore our venue spaces to royalty and (of course) even the wonderful Chelsea pensioners who always keep us entertained.
What is your favourite feature at Royal Hospital Chelsea (RHC)?
At the Royal Hospital Chelsea we have such a wide variety of spaces, all with different atmospheres. One day I could be working on an intimate dinner in the state apartments with 30 guests soaking up the history of the beautiful panelled Council Chamber and its incredible artwork and the next I’m in a crowd of 6,000 watching Simply Red singing their greatest hits in the open air of Chelsea.
If you could create any event at RHC, what would it be and why?
My dream event would be a Disney style grand ball in the great hall. Guests would arrive into a candlelit octagon with sumptuous floral arrangements and classical music softly playing. Ladies would wear lavish and over the top dresses which sparkle under the lights, and an orchestra would accompany the couples as they walk across the 330 year old venue.
What kind of bugbear questions do you get asked on site visits?
We often have site visits with clients who know all about the Royal Hospital and its residents. They know that we exist to support ‘soldiers broken by age and war’ and that all profits from events go back into looking after the veterans. However we do sometimes meet with people who don’t have as much of an understanding and we enjoy telling them some of the wonderful stories about times gone by and the secrets of this amazing establishment. People are always excited to learn more and meet the ladies and gentlemen who live here. There’s a lot of history and hidden gems to be found!
How many pensioners do you have on-site? Do they attend events?
We have approximately 310 pensioners living on-site in the infirmary and the main wings. They have just had their berths refurbished and extended to make them more comfortable and practical. Guests adore it when the pensioners attend an event. They chat with guests, tell them some of their incredible stories and bring the place to life, allowing everyone to see exactly what the Royal Hospital is all about.
What would you say inspires you most about what you do?
I feel inspired and lucky to work in such a prestigious venue with so much history and importance. Every time we host an event I feel a sense of pride about what we have to offer and of what the RHC stands for. With such a variety of options for clients to choose from, I feel we have a space to suit every event, and we are striving to make sure more and more people know about us and want to be part of it.