Pam Sainsbury: Event Organiser Extraordinaire

Events Manager Pam Sainsbury manages events for four trade associations: the British Sandwich Association (BSA), the Pizza, Pasta & Italian Food Association (PAPA), The Café Society (Café Life Awards) and the Event Services Association (TESA). Over 12 months these include three awards dinners, 12 food competitions, the British Firework Championships in Plymouth, various committee meetings, trade exhibitions and AGMs. This is her day…


My day starts at my home in Whitecroft - a small village in the Forest of Dean - with my husband Pete and our two dogs. I am very fortunate to live in such a beautiful part of the country as we live literally in the Forest so it’s great to see the forest change throughout the seasons and see all the wildlife here. At 6am, there’s just enough time to get ready for work before my two grandsons Albert (2) and Harry (18months) arrive.


My daughters, Sarah and Nadia arrive with Albert and Harry before they head off to work. The boys are spending the morning with their granddad but first I have to entertain them while Pete walks the dogs. After several renditions of Humpty Dumpty and Postman Pat, it’s time to leave for work.


I arrive at work, after my drive through the Forest, avoiding the sheep that are free to roam the roads here. I joined the company in 2005. I previously ran my own pre-press company for 20 years, producing newspapers and magazines which involved a lot of late night working and living on adrenalin. I had just sold the business and thought I would look for a ‘nice quiet job’ so applied to work as a PA at the BSA. I’ve been working on the BSA’s awards now for ten years and I have seen the Sammies awards dinner and Sandwich Design competitions, in particular, change significantly in that time. Initially my role was to run the events with our MD, Jim Winship and in 2005 we held one Sandwich Design competition, with 12 contestants competing in four categories and the dinner and disco in the evening was attended by approximately 350 people. At present, the competition includes five regional heats, each with six categories and over 150 entrants. The dinner is attended by over 650 and includes live entertainment and a professional set.

The work in organising the awards involves hundreds of products to judge for 15 awards; menus to create; entertainment to source; production crews to liaise with; sponsorship to sell; magazine articles to write and websites to keep updated with awards information – my desk is never clear. I attribute this growth in the awards to the fact we have a very proactive committee on the BSA, who actively promote the BSA. They have also formed an awards sub-committee, who I work with, to improve the awards year on year. Also, the Sammies is now seen as the industry awards event for suppliers, manufacturers and retailers in the industry to network and also gain recognition for their efforts and hard work in the sandwich industry. At this time in the morning, I have the office to myself and it’s time to go through my emails, put them into some kind of order and review the menu options from the Lancaster London Hotel.

We’re holding a menu tasting on Thursday so we need to confirm our shortlisted options for the tasting. Urban Eat are sponsoring the wine this year and to join me in choosing the wines will be Isla Owen, from Adelie, together with Camilla Deane from the BSA Management Committee and William Harding the assistant Events Director at the Lancaster. Although this could be described as the best ‘perk’ of my job and tasting all the delicious dishes presented at the Lancaster is my idea of ‘food heaven’, this is a critical element of the whole event and one which involves a great deal of debate and deliberation. Choosing dinner for 650 food professionals is a daunting prospect and you know you are never going to please everyone.


Over the last 12 months we have recruited more people to into the Events team, to cope with the increase in workload. Gethin Evans, our PR manager and Sandra Bennett, the events and membership administrator are now well established in the team. Next week Caron Parry, assistant events manager and final addition, joins us, so there are a few last minute arrangements to make for Caron’s arrival. I liaise with Pete Ward, our IT manager to ensure all the computer equipment, emails and logins are set up. My technical knowledge is pretty limited so I am happy to leave this to the experts.

I make a few telephone calls to prospective awards entrants, email the relevant information and contact a few more marketing managers to discuss sponsorship of the Café Awards, whilst keeping an eye on the clock before my 10am meeting.


We are holding a meeting to look at membership. We’ve put together a plan to recruit new members and at this morning’s meeting we go through the details and our marketing plan to attract companies, from new startups to large corporates, into membership. Clearly a single plan is not enough to address the diverse range of requirements for our members and this is a very intensive meeting.


Tea is a vital ingredient in the smooth running of our office and during busy periods I often ‘forget’ to take my turn to make it. I try to make a good start to the week by making tea this morning, particularly as Gethin’s the only one in our office at the moment!

This year we’ve teamed up with couriers, Igloo, to deliver all the sponsors’ products, to the contestants for the Sandwich Design competition, in one delivery. I take this time to liaise with the sponsors to organise delivery of their products to Igloo and then create spreadsheets for each region with the delivery details for all contestants. This is an admin challenge for me but should make life easier for the sponsors and contestants.


I receive some good news – we have received confirmation of two sponsors for the Café Life awards and the one remaining award available for sponsorship in the Sammies, the Marketing Award, has now been sponsored by Igloo. A happy note on which to end a very busy morning! Just before I go to lunch I receive a call from Aldo Zilli – we’re working with Aldo again on the Café Life Awards 2015, which takes place in conjunction with the Lunch! Show on September 24th. I confirm with Aldo the details of the schedule for the competitions we are holding at Lunch! and also the presentation of the awards at the Grange Tower Bridge hotel in the evening.


Another chance to look at my emails and deal with things which have come through this morning. These few minutes before lunch mean that I can get rid of a few of the red flagged items in my inbox - there’s a lot of them!


Lunch. I am joined by my colleague Gina (from accounts) for our daily exercise along the River Wye, near Chepstow Castle. Today we take the steep walk alongside the castle. It is so steep we are unable to walkand talk at the same time and arrive at the top of the hill totally breathless. After all this hard work we are really hungry and decide to reward ourselves with a cup of coffee and a huge piece of cake – oh dear, better start the diet tomorrow!


Back at my desk and answering more emails which include table bookings for the dinner and quotations from venues for this year’s AGM, which we are holding, for the first time, in Birmingham, on October 14th. I look through the information and make a call to arrange a site visit.

Next, we have started to receive the addresses and entries from the Independent sandwich bars, bakery shops and cafes, throughout the UK, who are entering the Sammies. All these require a ‘mystery shopper’ judging visit and I collate them onto a spreadsheet for the judges. I make calls to my team of judges to discuss which areas they are available to cover and email the report sheets for them to complete.


After a welcome cup of tea from Gethin, it’s time to finalise the copy for the Café Life awards, for inclusion in the Café Culture magazine. This seems to take forever as I am constantly interrupted by the telephone. This is followed by a call to Comtec, our audio visual production company to discuss the set design, the details of the entertainment booked for the dinner and production schedule leading up to the awards.


I take the table booking forms to Gina for invoicing and pop in to speak to my colleague Kevin Minton regarding this year’s British Firework Championships which we are organizing on 18th and 19th August, on Plymouth Hoe. The event attracts over 60,000 people over two nights and we organize the firework teams, the fairground, catering units and hospitality nights and this will be my next event to work on. Last job of the day is to review the report from Sandra on the cafes and sandwich bars contacted for our awards and add them to the schedule for judging.


The end of the office day. I’m one of the first out today for a change. I’m off to Gloucester now, for an hour’s drive to a Board Meeting of a charity which I have been involved with for over 20 years. The charity is Carers Gloucestershire and I have been a trustee for 11 years making me one of the longest serving Directors on the Board. This is a brilliant charity providing advice an support to the many unpaid carers looking after people who are sick or disabled throughout Gloucestershire.


After avoiding the wild boar on the roads in the forest, I arrive home, kick off my shoes and Pete and I sit in front of the woodburner with our dinner and a glass of wine. It’s at this point I often wonder what happened to the ‘quiet little job’ I applied for 10 years ago….This position might not be what I originally envisaged but I can honestly say I have always enjoyed my job and have met so many interesting people and besides I am now thoroughly addicted to the adrenalin!