This month we are bringing you an exclusive interview from The Hospital Club – a prolific member’s club in buzzing Covent Garden, the first in a series looking into London’s best exclusive member’s clubs and what makes them unique. We spoke to head of marketing communications Anna Chapman about Hospital Club’s creative members, the building’s design, it’s operations and exciting new ventures. It boasts seven floors and 60,000sq ft of amazing spaces and unique facilities including a TV studio, a music studio, a gallery, a screening room, private dining and meeting rooms, a loft lounge, a pool room, a restaurant and two wonderful cocktail bars.
When was the hospital club set up? And by whom?
We celebrate our 10th birthday this year! On the 7th November 2004, the club opened its doors. It was founded by Paul Allen who co-founded Microsoft and the musician Dave Stewart from the band the Eurythmics. It was Dave’s idea and Paul bought the building. Paul is current the owner and Dave is still heavily involved in its running.
Who is behind the club these days?
Still Paul and closely connected with Dave. We have a lot of the original team still working with us. At least 5 or 6 who were involved in the original set up. Its run quite a lot like a family business. We’re a small company though we run the event company, members club, the TV studio, all of the food and beverage, the gallery programme and we’re setting up a charitable foundation. There’s a lot going on!
What makes hospital club unique amongst other members clubs in the city?
I think they’re all unique. London is doing something different to other creative global cities, as there are so many members clubs opening up and there’s clearly an appetite for them. We’re one of the older ones. Soho house is 25 years old, we’re obviously 10 years old, Everybody has their USP. For us, we were set up to support the creative industry so we have a TV studio, a screening room, production facilities and an art gallery, a performance space; the room you just saw is being set up for a mercury prize session recording tonight. Theres always something being made here. Even if its just people having a coffee and planning their next business move! Its very collaborative and constructive. Our motto is ‘Create, Connect, Collaborate’ – we seed that into every thing we do. Essentially though as a hospitality organisation your first priority is to make people feel welcome and comfortable.
Morcheeba performing at The Hospital Club
How can you possibly remember everyones names?!
We only have 3000 members. Our team may not remember everybody’s names but we make an effort to. And even if we don’t know their names then a “Hi, nice to see you, how are you?” is well received. I read somewhere that its really important to treat your clients/members as more intelligent than you are. Don’t assume you know more than they do. And I think it’s a really good piece of advice…everybody’s doing something else and as a service based business its really important to remember that.
Are you going to cut or grow the member numbers at all?
It’s a slightly moveable number just because it depends when people are coming in all the time. I think we’re pretty much at 3000, we just physically cant fit anymore people in the building! Especially not if theres something big going on in any of the spaces we have. The British Fashion Council are here at the moment, it is their menswear week which they launched 2 years ago and we’re the HQ for that. That’s a really exciting position to be in. We’re in the process of planning bedrooms; we’re opening 15 bedrooms on the 3rd floor – the building works started last week – in order to try to and increase the flexibility for the space.
Who is your typical target cliental? You did mention the creative industries but is there an ideal target box to tick?
The 3 main business strands are: The event companies, the creative industries (design disciplines and music production) and Advertising – theres a brand association attached with holding your event here therefore we do a lot of press junkets, fashion stuff… We have quite a lot of cast and crews from theatre too, as we’re in the heart of covent garden. Theres a lot of theatres – Drury Lane is just round the corner. Average member age is 35, some with children, some without.
Now for the big question for me – who designed the hospital club? Im very curious .Who designed the space? Who was involved in the design?
In the last 3 years, we’ve been working a lot with Russell Sage Studios and he has been gradually re-doing every corner of the club. Its quite nice actually because in a way you move from one room to another and you feel like you’re somewhere completely different. It’s an evolution.
Any reason why he was picked up for the project?
We really liked the work he did on the second floor. He uses a lot of recycled furniture and materials so there’s the sustainability element to that. He’s got a real understanding of the building and he understands what it is we’re trying to do and how to makes us look different. If you look at Soho house it has a very different design aesthetic even to Shoreditch house. Each building needs to have its own personality that’s appropriate to the area that its in. I suppose you can’t just create something that’s completely extraordinary that stands out like a sore thumb. It’s important to fit into our local environment.
What is your favourite element of the space? If you had to pick one room, one corner?
We just opened a performance space called the Oak Room on the 4th floor and there’s a little tiny bar attached to it – tiny! It takes 25 people. When I saw the plans for it I was a little sceptical about how it could work, but it does. It’s like an homage to 60’s design. It sounds really garish but Russell chose a really pale duck egg blue wall and a mustard yellow velvet sofa and I just really like it. It’s a very soothing but strong combination. Then we have a studded indigo leather wall down on the floor floor which is very cool.
The Oak Room designed by Russell Sage
Whats your take on the trend & influx of members clubs? how are they changing? Its so fascinating for londoners but most of all for international tourist?
I think London is, if not actually at the forefront then pretty close to the forefront, of the technical revolution. Regardless of what London as a tech industry hub is doing, technology globally is enabling people to work a lot more remotely and be a lot more mobile. We have provided a space for these people. Theres a lot more entrepreneurialism I think that’s actually due to the recession. Theres a lot more bravery out there, even 20-somethings graduating. It’s a huge energy.
The other thing is that member’s clubs help people curate the London that they want to be part of. London is growing at an extraordinary rate the population is just booming. If you’re new to London and you want to go out on a Friday night, you want to find somewhere at 7 o’clock to have dinner – you can’t! The tube is packed, it’s hard to get around otherwise – it’s all quite hard going.
Members can have dinner here. They know your name, what’s on the menu, that the quality is going to be good and that they can get a table. Sure it will be busy, but it’s a wonderful vibe. It sort of pulls familiarity out of the anonymity of an enormous city.
3000 people is a village isn’t it? I come from an island with 5000 people…
Exactly! It is the same principle. We put a lot of effort in to our members events programme. We probably do 30 or so members events a month. It’s a lot! Its one of the biggest members events programmes of most clubs in London. And its everything from book club to poker night, to performance comedy night, to cabaret, music diners studio, business-at-breakfast talks, all sorts of different things that might appeal to all these different industries. Under 30’s are our biggest growing segment of membership. They want a completely different sort of event to your 35 year old.
Different acoustics, different atmosphere, different lighting?
Yes that’s right…
The TV studios at The Hospital Club
So in a way, all the sprouting up of the other members clubs, is helping one another? Everyone is doing something different.
Yes that’s right. We haven’t seen the edge of their appetite yet. And I think we’re helped by our reputation. Its amazing how many people walk through out doors and say actually we didn’t even know this was here, it’s like an Aladdin’s cave!
Takes me to the next question: what is next for Hospital club and the owner, what is the next step?
Bedrooms. Russell is designing them and they have started building. We are hoping to have them finished by the end of the year and open in early 2015. There will be 15 new bedrooms – of different sizes; everything from small overnight crash pads to full-blown suits with adjoining doors, press junkets and balconies. We’re not turning in to a hotel – It enables people that aren’t actually members of the club or clients of the events company, to come and enjoy what we do. If you’re staying in one of the bedrooms, you can use the rest of the building. It gives us an opportunity to speak to the creative communities in Buenos Aries, Toronto, LA, New York and Cape Town, where we have reciprocal club relationships but now you can actually come and stay. Its really exciting! Longer term we’re looking to expand in London. We know London – it’s a thriving creative community. There are so many options as well from South East London: Peckham, New Cross…there are so many opportunities.
Thank you Anna!
You can take a look at what Hospital Club has to offer here