Tower Hill: How The PA Show Autumn is all set for a show at Old Billingsgate

New venue for the October 17, 2023, edition allows event to grow following its debut in Canary Wharf

The PA Show Autumn is set to return following a debut event in Canary Wharf

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The PA Show Autumn is back in east London with a new location and an expanded programme of attractions, training sessions and networking.

Following an event that was so popular it tested the capacity of the East Wintergarden in Canary Wharf last year, organiser Mash Media has moved things a little further upstream along the Thames to the vaulted brick arches of Old Billingsgate’s lower ground floor.

Conceived as a more intimate, boutique edition of The PA Show at Excel, the feel is intended to be deliberately festive and seasonal as Christmas approaches. 

The new venue allows for growth and greater capacity

It’s somewhere for personal, executive and virtual assistants as well as office managers to meet suppliers and each other in warm comfortable surroundings.

“We’re really happy with the new location,” said Lisa Farnfield, sales director at Mash and the woman responsible for organising the show.

“It has a direct connection to Canary Wharf via the DLR to Bank and is easy to get to from the West End, the City and the South Bank too. 

“It fits really well with our audience in those locations but it also gives us greater capacity. The event last year was brilliant – it was rammed – but this gives us room to grow, with more exhibitors and more space for our two show theatres.”

The PA Show Autumn 2023 is set to take place at Old Billingsgate

In similar fashion to The Excel event, the boutique version is also very much focused on providing visitors with accredited continuing professional development (CPD) sessions.

“The new venue means we can have bigger theatres so more people can participate, as we were completely at capacity in Canary Wharf,” said Lisa.

“We have a fantastic programme of speakers running sessions on both key skills and personal development.”

Training on offer includes the likes of The Officials’ Lauren Bradley on next generation tech, Inspireful’s Hayley Watts on motivating yourself and others around you and Smile Box’s Donna Fisher on wellbeing in the workplace. 

“Last year showed a one-day experience was something assistants can fit into their busy schedules – attend a session and then meet the exhibitors,” said Lisa.

“With the location, they can easily come for half a day, a full day or the whole experience with networking and drinks at the end. 

“We’ll also be running speed networking sessions – one in the morning and one in the afternoon with 10 companies taking part in each.

“Those will be supported by M&S Corporate Gifts, with chocolate and wine tasting from Lindt and Ridgeview to enjoy. 

“We want the people who come to feel connected.

PAs, EAs and VAs will be able to meet a varied range of suppliers and businesses

“An assistant’s role can be isolated and many are very busy, so networking and finding suppliers can be a challenge day-to-day. Here they can find it all in one place. 

“We’ve got a lovely mix of exhibitors attending, including lots of new companies, so there will be plenty that people haven’t seen before.”

Sponsored by South Western Railway’s Business Direct platform, the show’s exhibitors include the likes of Fairgame, The Savoy, Qatar Airways, Virgin Experience Days, The Groucho Club, PA Life magazine, Harvey Nichols and many more.

“It will be a very relaxed environment with hotels, venues, hospitality, corporate gifting companies and travel supplies all represented,” said Lisa. 

“We’ll also be operating our PA Passport, where visitors collect stamps from exhibitors to receive a fantastic goody bag and be entered into our fabulous prize draw.

“We’re looking forward to a buzzing event – the demand is really strong and it’s a great time of year to bring people together in the run-up to the festive season.

“We want people to come down, meet each other and explore at their own speed.”

The PA Show Autumn is set to take place on October 17, 2023, at Old Billingsgate near Monument station from 10am-6pm with networking drinks until 7.30pm. 

Free passes to the show are available to PAs, EAs, VAs and office managers or those in similar roles.

The next edition of The PA Show will run at Excel in Royal Docks from February 28-29, 2024.

Mash Media sales director Lisa Farnfield is in charge of the event

WHAT’S ON – Theatre sessions at the 2023 show

Personal Development Theatre

  • Difficult conversations for EAs – 10.30am
  • The “WFH-battle” is on: Employee vs Employer. Who is right? – 11.20am
  • Motivating yourself and others – 12.10pm
  • The project mindset – 1pm
  • Your best is yet to come – 1.50pm
  • Assisting yourself to mental resilience – 2.40pm
  • The tactical triangle: 
  • Three perspectives from a strategic partnership – leader, chief of staff and executive assistant – 3.30pm
  • Talking anxiety – how to forge ahead! – 4.20pm
  • Be seen, be heard – create a credible, powerful voice – 5.10pm 

Key Skills Theatre

  • Do your minutes actually achieve anything? – 10.30am
  • Navigating an increasingly complex sustainability landscape – 11.20am
  • Unlock the power of ChatGPT – 12.10pm
  • Wellbeing in the workplace – 1pm
  • Skills to differentiate yourself and progress your career – 1.50pm
  • Growing your professional network on LinkedIn – 2.40pm
  • How to excel at corporate gifting and Christmas party organising – 3.30pm
  • How to stand out amongst the crowd – 4.20pm
  • Your career’s make-or-break moment: Emerging tech defining next-gen assistants – 5.10pm 
The show takes place on the venue’s lower ground floor under brick vaulted ceilings

Read more: Sign up for the Santa Stair Climb at One Canada Square

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Tower Hill: How the Tower Of London is set to fill its moat with a wildflower meadow

Transformation will be open to the public with access to the plants via pathways or a giant slide

A Yeoman Warder enjoys the flowers during a trial for Superbloom in 2021
A Yeoman Warder enjoys the flowers during a trial for Superbloom in 2021

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They say never work with children or animals, but what about plants? It is an equally anxious experience according to Rhiannon Goddard, project director of Superbloom at the Tower Of London’s moat

The project will see the space, created in the 13th century to keep people out of the Tower, welcome visitors later this year.

The moat is being transformed into a wildflower meadow to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and a team of 100 people have been working since November to preserve the architecture of the site and prepare it for new wildlife.

The sowing of 20 million seeds is now underway and due to be completed in mid-April. Rhiannon said it would then be a waiting game to see if they bloom as planned.

“You have no idea what’s happening beneath the earth and just have to wait and pray that Mother Nature does her thing,” said the 46-year-old, who is head of public engagement projects at Historic Royal Palaces (HRP).

The aim is to create a vibrant sea of flowers, including ​​poppies, sunflowers, gypsophila, cornflowers and cosmos, which will evolve from June to September and attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies and seed-eating birds.

The public will be able to enter the moat via a giant slide or walkway and experience the garden up close throughout the summer. 

It is the first stage of a permanent transformation of the space into a new landscape aimed at attracting wildlife and creating a permanent Jubilee legacy.

Historic Royal Palaces head of public engagement Rhiannon Goddard
Historic Royal Palaces head of public engagement Rhiannon Goddard

“We are really excited about that because the Tower isn’t a biodiverse space at the moment,” said Rhiannon.

“We really want to be able to create something that is quite special in the heart of the city that everyone will be able to enjoy.

“We are hoping to attract lots of bees, bumblebees, butterflies and hoverflies because they are all pollinators.

“During last summer’s trial beds, we were amazed to see how many arrived just for a tiny little plot.

“So we really hope to up the biodiversity from that really low-value grassland we had before to a high-value habitat.”

Planning for the project started three years ago with landscape architects Grant Associates, with Professor Nigel Dunnett from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Landscape Architecture brought in to create the special seed mixes.

But a lot of work had to be done before they could be sown.

“The moat is a really historic place and has only been grassed over since 1845,” said Rhiannon.

“There is a lot of archaeology there so as custodians of this wonderful place we had to be really mindful of what had happened in the past.

“There used to be a more grand entrance in the west called Lion Towers, which is just ruins now and a lot of the foundations are under the moat.

“There was another tower in the north that got bombed in the Second World War and the foundations are under that as well.”

Soil delivered to the Tower, ready for Superbloom
Soil delivered to the Tower, ready for Superbloom

Items such as a lion’s skull and the skeletons of a Medieval woman and child have previously been found at the Tower and archaeological trial pits were dug to make sure nothing unexpected would be disturbed.

“There are lots of things that we have unearthed in the moat over the years and we know there’s a lot more,” said Rhiannon.

“This time we have found lots of medieval coins, which will go into our collection and possibly be displayed in the future.

“We also put in 2.4 km of new drainage as part of this project and wherever we have dug we have had archaeologists watching every move in case something was uncovered.

“Obviously I didn’t want to find anything amazing down there because it would have really delayed us.”

Once digging was completed, 10,000 metric tonnes of subsoil and topsoil was brought in to create the best conditions possible for the seeds.

“I have never learned so much about the composition of soil,” said the Stratford resident.

“It’s absolutely astounding to me the lengths you can go to to make sure your blooms will come up perfectly, by controlling the nitrogen levels and fertility of the soil.

“They actually have to be quite low for these sorts of hardy annuals.”

The soil, recycled from a sand and gravel quarry near Sevenoaks in Kent, was carefully mixed with compost and finely grained before being transported to the tower.

“The logistics of getting that amount of soil into the moat and making sure it all came in a timely fashion has been the biggest challenge,” said Rhinannon.

A special conveyor belt was constructed so it could be loaded at a compound on Tower Hill and then tipped onto dumper trucks waiting below.

It was then spread across the 14,000 sq metre moat to create a terrain designed to have movement and flow.

An artist's impression of the slide into the moat
An artist’s impression of the slide into the moat

The space was then divided into grids so the seeds from Sheffield-based social enterprise Green Estate could be sown over three weeks from the end of March.

“We have had to think hard about that too,” said Rhiannon. “We don’t want to start at one end and finish at the other, because we want it all to bloom simultaneously.

“It is designed to look nice in June, right through to September, so the garden will gradually get higher and higher and always look fresh.

“It will be very colourful and change quite dramatically as the season goes on, with different waves of flowers coming through. There will be something new to look at every couple of weeks.”

The flowers are expected to start blooming by the end of May, just before the Jubilee celebrations on June 2-5. Rhiannon said she would be on tenterhooks until then.

“We have temporary irrigation on standby in case we have a very dry spring, but hopefully the seeds should just do their thing,” she said. 

“I think I’m going to become quite obsessed with the weather forecast over the next few months and we will all have our fingers crossed hoping it is kind to us.

“I can’t wait to stand down there and see some flowers rather than just the soil because it will be such a relief that we have managed to pull it off.”

It is the biggest project the Stratford resident has worked on for HRP and includes the rebuilding of a permanent ramp at the start of the moat to make it fully accessible to wheelchair users. 

There will also be quiet mornings for families with autistic children as well as visually described tours.

All visitors will be able to move amongst the flowers on a compacted gravel pathway with volunteers on hand to answer questions, with a plant identifier app being developed for the event.

Tickets will have timed slots with a maximum of 750 people allowed down to the garden every 30 minutes.

Rhiannon said: “The moat is surprisingly large once you get down there, but we are working with local businesses and transport to make sure it is a really lovely experience and not overcrowded. 

“We want everyone to enjoy the tranquillity and beauty of the garden.”

Adult tickets for Superbloom start at £12 and do not include entry to the Tower.

Pathways laid out as Superbloom works continue
Pathways laid out as Superbloom works continue

Read more: Faraday Prep School offers supported place to Year 2 or 3 pupil

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