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Getting to know Penny Stratford
Meet Penny Stratford. Currently the Events Executive at Melbourne’s Luna Park, Penny has had a varied career path to date. Having worked in hospitality as a teenager, to doing a stint in London (as many of us do…), to being trained as a Chef, teaching and then working in some of Melbourne’s most unique venues. She has a soft spot for sentimental events and an enthusiasm for planning fun events. But like many event professionals, she is a stickler for preparation and planning…
Join us as we discover why Penny’s niece (and us) thinks she has the best job in the world…
Give us a snap shot of your career to date
Growing up in Melbourne I worked casually in hospitality as a teenager and whilst at university at venues such as Rod Laver Arena, The MCG, Victoria Park, Calder Park and Green Acres Golf Club.
After completing my Arts degree at Melbourne Uni, I knew I wanted to pursue it as a career so I undertook a Postgraduate Diploma in Business Management in Hospitality and Tourism. On completion, I spent some time in England working for a caterer who had the contract at the Cirencester Polo Club (The Royal Family were regular visitors) and did some very nice parties for the well to do!
After a break in my career to have my children I decided that I wanted to formalise my cooking skills. After completing my Certificate 3 in Commercial Cookery I worked as a chef for several years before obtaining a job at TAFE SA Mount Gambier lecturing in hospitality and cookery.
After eight years at TAFE SA, I returned to my hometown of Melbourne in 2013. At the time the Ballieu Government was slashing the TAFE funding and I knew that a job in lecturing was not going to be possible.
I saw a job advertised as an event sales manager at the Melbourne Zoo and applied. The company had just secured a new venue, The Centre Ivanhoe, a beautiful art deco building which coincidentally my parents used to go to attend dances in the 50’s. I worked on many a debutante ball, school formals, weddings and corporate events too.
Regretfully, after a couple of years the company went into receivership and the contract was taken over by another company.I saw the job advertised at Luna Park and the rest is history! I have been in my current role for three years now and love it. We have a fabulous team and I work on a very diverse number of events.
The most memorable event you have worked on and why?
My most memorable event was a wedding. Not a huge budget. An older couple. Both the bride and the groom had suffered tragedies and met each other over the internet. They wanted the day to be all about their guests having fun, particularly the children. It was a very relaxed and happy event. The groom wore shorts!
What did you ‘learn the hard way’ when planning an event?
To check the AV is working and compatible with the client’s computer in plenty of time for an event! Having learnt the hard way, I now always recommend the client comes in prior to the day and does a test run through.
What are three personality traits that are required to succeed in the events industry?
Organisation, attention to detail and a smile.
If you could share one piece of advice to those starting out in the industry what would it be?
My advice would be to check, double check and triple check all details. Develop good relationships with your team because they are the ones that have your back.
What song always gets you on the dance floor?
Finally by CeCe Peniston
How would your friends describe your job?
My niece thinks I have the best job in the world – I get to organise parties at an amusement park!
Words to live by?
Life is short, make the most of every minute
What is your biggest challenge at the moment?
Three 2000 pax events in one day, with short change over periods.
What do you prefer, cocktail party or sit-down dinner?
Cocktail parties are my favourite. You get to try lots of little bits of food and don’t get stuck talking to just the one person.
It’s event day – heels or flats?
Flats on event day are the only way to go
What’s your drink of choice at an event?
What is the craziest request you have ever had when planning an event?
Sourcing perfume to try and hide the scent of dog poo the bride had stepped in.
Favourite Party theme?
Why Carnivale, of course!
How do you unwind after a big event?
Drink several glasses of white wine
Went to the Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld several times when Dan Hunter was still the chef. I was also fortunate enough to take my students on a tour of the kitchen gardens there.
When entertaining at home what do you cook?
When entertaining at home it has to be easy. As much of the prep done beforehand so you don’t get stuck in the kitchen and can spend time with your guests.
What is your ideal holiday destination?
Visited Krabi in Thailand last year. Loved it and will return in 2018. Amazing food, scenery, culture and weather. And cheap!
Why do you love your job?
I love my job because I get to organise parties at an amusement park!