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Old space, new tricks

by EN

Tobacco Dock targets design, lifestyle and technology events.

It’s not surprising that one of London’s leading exhibition venues is targeting lifestyle, technology and design events. The venue is incredibly cool and quirky and creates a natural and deeply historic backdrop for brands to shine through and attract the right sort of visitors. Equally, Tobacco Dock sits in London’s creative and tech square mile, just a short walk from Shoreditch and the city making it incredibly convenient for buyers to get to. In addition, the venue has a myriad of versatile spaces, formerly retail units that lend themselves well to brand breakouts and feature areas.

Samsung chose to use the venue to attract tech buyers to launch its newest phone by creating a powerful event experience for visitors. The venue has also attracted brands including; Alteryx Inspire Europe, Borderless Live and Guinness Six Nations Rugby Launch.

The venue has had considerable success in the lifestyle sector, showcasing leading events like Taste, Meatopia, Bike Shed, London Craft Beer Festival, EGX Rezzed, FutureFest and BBC Introducing Live.


Taste of London moved to the venue because the organiser felt the winter edition at their previous large-scale venue felt too much like a trade show rather than a consumer festival, and it was simply too expensive to add personality to the space. Their organiser ‘loves being able to use the spaces in different and exciting ways’. For example, the central bandstands become enormous fire pits, the Great Gallery holds pop-up restaurants, and workshops take place in the barrel-ceilinged Vaults spaces.

Tobacco Dock still has many of its original features – York stone flooring, original timber beams, cast iron stanchions. Barrel-ceilinged, exposed brick vaults spaces, lantern roofed atria add height and space.

Originally built in 1812 as a warehouse to store luxury commodities from the New World such as wine and tobacco, the venue is expected to hold over 300 events in 2020 across its 16,000sqm and 57 spaces. Interestingly 65 per cent of their clients are FTSE 100 and 120 are Fortune 500.


Despite its historical significance, it boasts an impressive technical infrastructure. It has immense WiFi capacity that can support up to 8,000 devices simultaneously ensuring there are no connectivity issues. It’s also got two fibre-optic data connections of up to 3Gb bandwidth so there’s always backup if one of the feeds fails.

While Tobacco Dock can play host to events for up to 10,000 visitors, its unique layout means that they can create bespoke layouts for each event, using different areas ensuring events feel compact and busy.

The Great Gallery is one of the largest capacity single events spaces in London, holding more than 1,500 guests for an awards dinner.


Commercial director, Jonathan Read, explains: “It has been a privilege to bring a moribund building of such historic importance back to life and regenerate it into one of the most sought-after venues for events of all scales in London. I believe it is catalyst for the best in live experience design. We will continue to invest in improvements to deliver the best possible customer experience and to maintain our position as the go-to venue for creative events in the greatest city in the world.”

Read explains that what makes Tobacco Dock unusual is that, because it is so flexible, it acts as a natural incubator for events. Bike Shed, London Halal Food Festival and London Craft Beer Festival all moved to Tobacco Dock because they had outgrown their previous venues and wanted an on-brand space in which they could expand their events over multiple years. In London Craft Beer’s first year (2018), they took out just the Vaults, in 2019 they expanded to fill the entire venue. 

MD, Patrick Donovan, is excited about the next phase in its development: “Tobacco Dock is as unique as the events it hosts and we’ll continue to improve and safeguard this extraordinary building to secure its future as one of the great spaces to hold an event in the UK. In addition to the improvements to the venue, a great source of pride is building our brilliant team and becoming an employer of choice in the events industry.”

The venue is continuing to develop the interior spaces and its winter pavilion connecting the two largest spaces is surprisingly warm in the middle of the winter thanks to an extensive, on-demand heating system. They’re also escalating their green credentials, marking their commitment by building an impressive living wall to create a strong entrance to the venue.

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