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Virgin Trains on the east coast operates 44 trains on the main line between London and Edinburgh. With 3,250 employees covering routes totalling 936 miles, the company has a large and diverse workforce.


Virgin Trains approached Make Events for help to organise its first ever employee awards ceremony, the Red Hot Awards. The aim was to recognise achievement throughout the business, from sales directors to train drivers. Virgin Trains wanted the awards to become an annual event that employees would aspire to be part of, so death by PowerPoint was not an option! Winners were those who embodied Virgin Trains’ brand values and so the values formed the brief for the theme of the evening.

Just to make life interesting, we had four months to find a venue on the East Coast main line to host 400 guests, with overnight accommodation for 250.


The venue drives a lot of the decisions for an awards ceremony like this, so the proposal of the beautiful Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh was our starting point. Our buying power also meant that we were able to offer reduced rates that Virgin Trains weren’t able to access directly.

We then focused on wowing the guests from the moment they arrived. A poi performance artist lit up the Virgin Trains’ brand with LED lights on the street outside and guests were ushered inside by a living red carpet. The drinks reception was held in the ballroom, a space so impressive that we recommended budget was diverted away from décor to a memorable drinks service. A ballgowned performer circulated amongst the guests with champagne flutes hung from her dress and when top-ups were needed, two aerial artists dropped from the ceiling holding full bottles!

There was huge visual impact as guests entered the main dining room with hot red chair covers, tablecloths and napkins. Our on-site lighting technician created atmosphere with changing light displays, and a long AV screen on stage with full sound system ensured all 400 guests could see and hear everything that was going on. A live feed of guests up on the screen added entertainment, as did a crystal ball manipulator, girls circulating with pick ‘n mix sweets and LED photo frames for capturing all the smiles.

Make Events were also responsible for creating the awards presentation, which included station timetables to list the nominees for each award and animated graphics of trains arriving at a station to announce winners. Autocues were provided for the hosts to help keep nerves to a minimum.

The evening climaxed with a live band and DJ, keeping the dancefloor filled all night.


As hoped, the Red Hot Awards Ceremony received fantastic feedback from guests and has become a regular fixture in Virgin Trains’ calendar. Attendance has increased each year as teams actively work towards getting nominated and invited to the event.

“Everyone I dealt with at every stage was a real credit to Make Events.”