The Judging Panel

The external judging panel for the Hire Space Awards is a diverse mix of some of the event world’s most talented, innovative and experienced influencers.


Venue award categories

Abena Poku-Awuah  Managing Director, Legacy

Abena Poku-Awuah
Managing Director, Legacy

Abena is the Managing Director of Legacy, a sustainable events agency that organises events and special occasions whilst considering their enviormental impact, carbon footprint, and potential for positive social change. She also runs the Legacy Marketiplace, an online marketplace to help anyone organise an event using environmentally friendly suppliers. Events have the power to provoke original thinking, shape communitites and change lives. Yet they can take a heavy toll, generating waste and putting a strain on local resources such as water or energy. With her team, Abena is on a mission to show that sustainable events can be as fun and beautiful as any othe event, but without the environmental damage.

Jonathan Stock  Head of Events and Marketing, Portland

Jonathan Stock
Head of Events and Marketing, Portland

Jonathan leads Portland's Events and Marketing team overseeing delivery of Portland events in the UK and overseas. Prior to joining Portland, Jonathan was a Special Adviser to Prime Minister Theresa May, managing public and media engagements, devising and delivering events for UK and international audiences. His role involved organising countless visits across the world, including high profile bilateral visits and substantive trade missions. He has worked with venues across the UK and globally to deliver the Prime Minister’s programme and continues to work with teams in London and all over the world in support Portland’s own and its client events.

Laura Belardo  London & Events Editor, So You’re Getting Married

Laura Belardo
London & Events Editor, So You’re Getting Married

Laura Is the London & Events Editor for So You’re Getting Married, an award-winning wedding blog. She has 10 years of experience in the wedding industry, having previously worked as a Wedding Coordinator at a 5-star exclusive wedding venue. She can be seen and read on So You’re Getting Married, visiting and reviewing wedding venues all over the world as well as attending events throughout London. She is thrilled to be judging the category of ‘Best Wedding Venue’ at the Hire Space Awards 2019. You can find Laura over on Instagram @soyouregettingmarried.

Valerija Slavina  Events and Outreach Management EMEA, Moody’s Analytics

Valerija Slavina
Events and Outreach Management EMEA, Moody’s Analytics

Valerija is an experienced events specialist with in-depth B2B background having worked for start-up, venue and corporate environments. Throughout the last 7 years Valerija has organised different types of events in the UK and internationally. Her responsibilities include exceptional client service, content development, recruitment of speakers, development of new events formats, management of suppliers. Sectors and clients include finance, education, urban innovation, technology, pharmaceutical and transportation. Valerija has a first-class honours degree from a top UK university (University of Surrey). She speaks 4 languages and her interests include travelling and being active.

Virginia Figuero  Events Lead, Bupa

Virginia Figuero
Events Lead, Bupa

Virginia Figuero is a multi-award winning marketing professional who uses her platform to push for the visibility of female experts. She received a First Class Honours degree from the University of the Arts London in Creative Advertising Strategy, and began her events career. She worked at the University of London, before joining the venues Earls Court and Olympia London, where she learned the extensive planning required to handle some of London’s most high profile and demanding events. After that she built an events department at the Executive Education arm of the Financial Times, focusing on CEO and C-suite events. She now works for Bupa as an Events Lead where she is in charge of developing an events strategy and plan that promotes and champions all business lines. In 2018 she co-authored the chapter 'The life phases of a professional woman' in ‘Womenomics – Gender Diversity and the Rise of Female-Driven Growth Potential’.

Jessica Weaver  Head of Events, Teach First

Jessica Weaver
Head of Events, Teach First

Jess has working in events for over 13 years, cutting her teeth in commercial conference production. With extensive experience in all elements of inhouse conference development including sales and marketing as well as event management and content creation, she has worked for some of the UK’s leading membership bodies and charities including the Institution of Civil Engineers and Girlguiding, and currently heads up the Events Team at Teach First where she oversees a range of high profile training events including the annual five week residential experience for incoming participants on their teacher training programme. In 2019 the cohort was over 1750 in size.

Emma Hatt  Operations Director, Sleek Events

Emma Hatt
Operations Director, Sleek Events

Emma established her events career over 13 years ago, and has since managed some of the most prestigious venues and events in London. Emma has thrived within 5* Luxury Hotels, Historic Venues, creative spaces and hosted some of the most impressive and notable events in the industry calendar. Her success in managing sales and operations teams across multiple sites has led to her winning her latest position - heading up operations at award winning boutique events agency Sleek Events.

Cherelle Jospeh  Wedding & Event Planner, Perfectly Planned 4 You

Cherelle Jospeh
Wedding & Event Planner, Perfectly Planned 4 You

Cherelle Joseph, owner and creative director of Perfectly Planned 4 You. Cherelle’s mission is to create, plan and design unique weddings for non-traditional couples. She has always been credited for her extremely organised nature, excellent attention to detail and her know-how on throwing a good party. As a professional event and wedding planner based in the urban hub of Hackney, Cherelle always has her fingers on the pulse. Whether it is an innovative venue space or trend setting eateries, Cherelle is the wedding planners that is the first to know. Teamed with her love of travel, she been lucky enough to visit over 30 countries; enabling her to make valuable contacts. This has also led to a certification as a Destination Wedding Specialist.

Val Mattinson  CEO & Chief Planner, Benessamy Wedding & Event Planning

Val Mattinson
CEO & Chief Planner, Benessamy Wedding & Event Planning

Val Mattinson is the CEO and Chief Planner of multi award winning planning company, Benessamy Wedding & Event Planning. Having originally qualified as a solicitor and spending many years working in corporate affairs (which included organising corporate events, ministerial and royal visits), Val launched Benessamy in 2011. She was appointed as a Regional Ambassador for the UKAWP and is now an Elite Member. With over 15 years experience of planning events, Val enjoys planning beautiful weddings, parties and celebration events that are stylish and full of fun – across the UK and destination weddings in the Caribbean. She has strong working relationships with venue and supplier partners across the wedding industry. Her venue consultancy work has included location feasibility and review for private land owners, advice to owners of stately and historic houses and other existing venue owners looking for help to raise the profile and profitability of their venue and the planning and management of events designed to showcase the venue.

Elisabetta White  International Wedding Planner

Elisabetta White
International Wedding Planner

Elisabetta White started her journey into wedding planning back in 2012, focusing on the UK first, and then becoming known as an International Wedding Planner. She has planned weddings and shoots in bucket-list destinations, such as Tuscany, Venice and Puglia in Italy, the Red Sea and Switzerland, in dream venues like the famous La Badia of Orvieto and the iconic Masseria Moroseta, and has been featured countless times on international wedding blogs and magazines, such as Elle.com, Junebug Weddings, Rock My Wedding, Brides, and You & Your Wedding magazine. After years of offering her knowledge to support to destination wedding venues, Elisabetta’s packaged her knowledge of the international wedding planning landscape, as well as her experience in the communication and media industry, into consulting programs to empower and equip ambitious destination venues around the world with the knowledge and practical know-how they need to take the leap, refine their offering and be the best destination venue any international couple could ever wish for.

Amanda Thurlow  Member Engagement Manager, Association of Chartered Certified Accountants

Amanda Thurlow
Member Engagement Manager, Association of Chartered Certified Accountants

Amanda has over 10 years’ experience across the event industry from venue sales to event marketing to conference and exhibition organisation. As member engagement manager at ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) her role includes organising a variety of events and activities for members and stakeholders including CPD events, conferences and celebration dinners across the UK. Amanda is active on social media and regularly shares her event planning experiences on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and her blog. She has worked with Convention Bureaus to help showcase their destinations to her international event industry network and recently joined a panel of speakers at the Meetings Industry Association Destinations Summit talking about how CVB’s can maximise their use of social media. She has guest blogged for other websites, has been quoted in event industry press and has been interviewed by event industry brands, including the EventLAB podcast series. She previously hosted a knowledge session at EWL Club’s The Annual Exchange and also hosted a roundtable discussion at Association of Association Executives Member Engagement Conference. She is also on the judging panel for Meetings Industry Association’s miaList.

Lucy Povey  Head of Events, StepStone

Lucy Povey
Head of Events, StepStone

Lucy began her career working at one of Canada’s leading Wedding Planning companies based in Vancouver. Her path has been varied, organising a range of events from mass participation sports events and conferences to awards parties and fashion shows in the UK and overseas. Lucy spent many years working in event fundraising within the charitable sector as well as transforming the events and hires function at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith. This led to her work as a consultant within the arts, helping venues to become more commercially minded. Lucy is currently Head of Events and Internal Communications at StepStone UK, delivering international events across all brands within the group including Totaljobs, Caterer.com and Milkround to name a few. Lucy is passionate about employee engagement, inclusion and wellbeing in the workplace as well as sustainability.

James Hitchen  General Manager, Event Marketing Association (EMA)

James Hitchen
General Manager, Event Marketing Association (EMA)

James has been in the event and hospitality industry for over 15 years. Having previously run his own event agency for 9 years, James is now the GM of the Event Marketing Association, James has a wealth of experience in event communications, content, production, design and management. James joined the EMA in November 2017 and oversees the day to day running of the association which includes delivering the strategy, content, events and managing the membership with the support of the Council. As well as keeping busy with the Event Marketing Association James is a passionate mental health and wellbeing campaigner, speaker and consultant. He is also currently training as a therapist and life coach.

Mark Bannister  Head of Technical Production, George P. Johnson

Mark Bannister
Head of Technical Production, George P. Johnson

One of the founding members of the UK chapter of ILEA in 1998, Mark has over 20 years of experience in the events industry. Working both supplier and agency side has given him a well rounded experience with roles for the likes of Thorns furniture hire, Create caterers, and ExCeL London. Mark’s agency experience includes 7 years at Imagination as Senior Production Manager and his current role as Head of Technical Production for George P Johnson where he has been for the past 8 years. Mark is often responsible for selecting venues for a range of international events including Sibos - taking place at ExCeL later this year and Cisco Live - an event that attracted 16000 delegates to the Fira Barcelona this January.

Robert Dunsmore  Independent Creative Director, Past ILEA Board Member

Robert Dunsmore
Independent Creative Director, Past ILEA Board Member

Robert Dunsmore is a freelance Creative Director and Live events native – its all he works on. Events and experiences defined and shaped by their culture first – everything else is just infrastructure. He is a self-proclaimed ‘call guy’, his job is to change things. A creative leader and ideas professional from the experience and events sector called to identify and generate the ideas, write the proposals, lead the pitches and to deliver “one new thing” to every event – as that’s the first thing anyone will remember. He is also regularly published in the media, guest lectures and mentors via the UK university network and a long-term supporter of ILEA and one of the magnificent seven founders of the ICE AWARDS initiative. He believes “art” predicts the future and is currently as interested and involved with the metrics producing “blurred lines” of digital activation to grow live events – from “mad-man” to “math-man” as one commentator correctly observed.

Charley Taylor-Smith  Divisional Manager, Venues and Contract Catering, The Change Group

Charley Taylor-Smith
Divisional Manager, Venues and Contract Catering, The Change Group

Charley started her career in events freelancing with some of the top catering companies in London including Smart Group, Mustard, Moving Venue and Sodexo. This really gave her the wealth of experience in logistics, catering and management and helped Charley get her first full time role as Events Manager at The National Theatre, she then returned to Catering as Senior Events Manager at Eventist Group before being asked to return to The National Theatre as Head of Events and Commercial Business Development. After 4 successful years Charley took on a new challenge as Head of Sales and Marketing at The Gherkin for Searcys where she stayed for two and a half years. After this time, Charley was approved by the Change Group a top London recruitment company to come and set up and Events, Sales and Marketing Desk. She always thought about recruitment and so jumped at the opportunity and have never looked back. Charley now gets to recruit some of the best talent into the industry and work with some of the best venues, catering companies and events companies London has to offer.

event organiser award categories

Lowell Cabual  Head of Business Development, Yahire

Lowell Cabual
Head of Business Development, Yahire

An events specialist and business developer with over 15 years’ experience in events and hospitality, Lowell has an extensive industry network and sound understanding of the sector. He currently Heads up Business Development team at Yahire – an award-winning furniture and catering company that supplies 200+ events a week - and is responsible for managing many of their largest client accounts and nurturing new business relationships with a broad spectrum of events producers. Lowell has held senior roles at venues, hotels and agencies across London including: Hilton, Namco Bandai, Gouman Hotels, One Moorgate Place, Institute of Chartered Accountants and Classico Productions giving him a well-rounded background in the events space. Deserved winner of an ‘Events Hot 50’ award, Lowell has a genuine passion for the events industry and has previously held committee roles within ILEA and London City Selection. He is also regularly invited to join the judging panels of events industry awards.

Emily Kendall  Business Development Manager, Searcys

Emily Kendall
Business Development Manager, Searcys

Emily Kendall is the Business Development Manager for UK’s oldest event caterer Searcys. Overseeing the events development across the broad venue collection, Emily champions the development of long-standing client relationships, brand partnerships and venue activations. Starting her events career with Party Ingredients, Emily discovered many of London’s finest venues before moving to one of London’s most iconic buildings, The Gherkin. Emily’s strengths play well within Searcys growth strategy, national and international marketing.

Will Gonzaga  Head of Events, The Curtain Hotel & Members’ Club

Will Gonzaga
Head of Events, The Curtain Hotel & Members’ Club

Will’s events experience stretches back over 15 years and has taken him to some of the capital’s top hotels and venues including Ace Hotel, ZSL London Zoo, Museum of London and most recently The Curtain Hotel and Members’ Club, where he has been since April 2018 Will’s passion for events and hospitality started when he studied Tourism and Hospitality Management at Williams College. He has used his extensive experience in the field to lead the team on the hotel’s huge revamp of their ballroom space, now renamed The Burbage, and the ideal venue for weddings, corporate parties, gigs and much more. During his time at The Curtain, Will has enjoyed executing a range of memorable events for celebrities and prestigious brands including Burberry, Sony and Google to name a few. In his role as Head of Events, Will oversees a team of six people who are all equally passionate about producing standout creative events for their exclusive members and guests. Will’s vision is for the hotel to continue hosting memorable, interesting and unique events that can be devised in the range of spaces at The Curtain.

Olivia Parrott  Wedding and Private Events Sales & Marketing, RSA House

Olivia Parrott
Wedding and Private Events Sales & Marketing, RSA House

Olivia knew with her organisational skills, attention to detail and enthusiasm, that the exciting world of events was for her and she was ready to get stuck straight in! Olivia began her events journey with ITA Venues* (CH & CO) in August 2016 starting as an apprentice after successfully completing her A Levels. Whilst Olivia worked tirelessly for her clients she also worked one day a week on her apprenticeship, with the ambition to achieve level five, foundation degree in event management. Now, Olivia has worked her way up the CH & CO ladder and is based at one of London’s most iconic venues, RSA House working as an Executive in Sales and Marketing. Olivia has extensive experience and expertise in all areas of events, from Christmas parties, corporate events, private parties, charity events and weddings. Olivia recently won the 2018 “Unsung Hero Award”, this award recongises an employee that is instrumental to the day-to-day running of a venue. They always go above and beyond for their clients. Most importantly, they deserve to be recognised.