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Annabel Hosken - Events Sales Coordinator, Victoria Racing Club

Annabel Hosken
'I think the excitement surrounding the carnival gets bigger every year, making working there a privilege as you are a part of such an iconic event in Melbourne.'

Annabel has worked for the Victoria Racing Club (VRC) for the past two years. As Events Sales Coordinator, one of the highlights of her job is being responsible for the Champions Marquee on Emirates Melbourne Cup Day.

While the Emirates Melbourne Cup is the focal point of the carnival – held on the first Tuesday in November – events start well in advance and continue after with favourites such as AAMI Derby Day on the first Saturday of November and Oaks Day on the Thursday following the Emirates Melbourne Cup.

What are your responsibilities during the Melbourne Cup Carnival?

I'm responsible for the running of the Champions Cocktail Marquee which is decorated with a themed setting to become a fabulous cocktail facility. The Marquee goes up for the four days of the Carnival and gets taken down at the end of the week.

What is the Champions Cocktail Marquee? What's special about it?

It is fully catered and the Marquee has television screens, betting facilities including TAB and a bookmaker, couches and lounge furniture, and a large private outdoor paved courtyard and reserved lawn stand seat.

Each marquee has its own private facilities so, unlike the general public, our guests don't have to line up for hours to go to the toilet!

Bookings are open to anyone, however those who attend are usually part of corporate groups.

How many Melbourne Cups have you worked at?

This year will be my third Emirates Melbourne Cup Carnival. The first year I was based in the call centre and took all enquires about anything from train times and lost tickets, to facilities and dress codes. Last year I was working in the Champions Marquee where I will be again this year. I think the excitement surrounding the carnival gets bigger every year, making working there a privilege as you are a part of such an iconic event in Melbourne.

How long does it take to prepare for the Melbourne Cup?

It's a year-long process. Our staff numbers actually double six months prior to the event. Each department takes on extra staff to assist with the greater workload. For example, in the membership department the team increases from approximately 11 to 19 full-time staff to handle all the additional requirements such as car parking and members events. The customer service department quadruples in staff to handle all enquiries and bookings.

What are the duties involved in getting the Marquee ready?

We have contractors and caterers who do a lot of the physical set up. Like everyone else working on this venue, I get to the track early on Emirates Melbourne Cup Day and make sure the place is clean, and that everyone has done their job and everything is ready to go.

Making sure everything goes well on the day is about attention to detail. The day before the race is equally as important. I make sure I check everything the day before. For example, the marquees are carpeted, but if they're not carpeted all the way to the edges, people trip. This is an occupational health and safety hazard that can be prevented with the pre-check the day before.

What do you like most and least about organising the Melbourne Cup?

It's a really enjoyable few days. Obviously it's quite exhausting, involves long hours on your feet and you might miss out on attending some events with your friends, but being so close to all the action during the whole carnival is definitely an experience you thrive on and is definitely worthwhile. I believe that the value of your experience is up to you and it's what you make of it. We have such a great team in Business Development and at the VRC so we all come together and make sure that it's not only an extremely successful carnival for the patrons but also one we enjoy.

My least favourite aspect is definitely the sore feet at the end of the day and then having to put another set of high heels on the following day!

Do you get to watch the race or are you too busy behind the scenes?

I'm based in the marquee but it's in a great position set amongst the lively trackside Elms precinct near the Winning Post, so it's possible to catch a glimpse of the race. And if you do miss a race, you are always informed by an excited marquee patron who wants to tell you about their great win, or how much they could've won if they listened to their fellow guest!

Do you keep up with the fashions on the field during race week or do you go to work dressed for comfort?

I always dress in complete race wear every day during the Carnival. As much fun as this is, it can be costly and time consuming to have the right look for each day.

I'm actually making all my fascinators this year and helping to dress friends and other staff members, but that's just something I'm doing of my own accord. This is something I really enjoy and look forward to expanding in the coming years. I'm hosting my own mini event at home to showcase my 2008 products, which is very exciting.

FYI A fascinator is a headpiece worn by women as an alternative to wearing a hat. It is usually made with feathers, beads or flowers and attached to the hair with a pin, clip or headband.

What are your tips for hot colours and styles this season?

I'm a big fan of burnt orange and a lot of the metallic colours that we're seeing in stores now. I've also seen a lot of purples and greens around but you definitely cannot go past the classic black and white for AAMI Derby Day. Also the chunky heels – they work best on soft grass   you do have to look at comfort as well as fashion!

Have you had any celebrity encounters?

My boyfriend was in the Marquee last year when Jennifer Hawkins was there – I think he was pretty impressed! At lunches leading up to the carnival I have come across other stars such as Delta Goodrem, Carson Kressley, Molly Meldrum and Tom Williams to name just a few. At last years Chairman's Dinner we had The Beach Boys perform.

What's the weirdest request you've had from a patron?

A couple of years ago, it was raining and we were handing out ponchos – a few people asked if we had ponchos that would match their outfits better.

What does your job involve after the Melbourne Cup festivities have finished?

After the Carnival, everyone fills out forms about the day. We spend time collating all that data in order to try to improve the carnival for next year.

Obviously after the race day, we're all back to work with the next function, which could be a wedding or a conference. We are very busy with Christmas functions and the ever-popular wedding market for which we now have a new marquee available.

How did you get into this line of work?

I worked on the 2006 Commonwealth Games. This was a terrific experience working on the operational side of a major event. I also worked on the Australian Open that same year. It was amazing to work at this event which is part of the grand slam tennis series. On top of this, during my studies I did a lot of volunteer work to help get a head start in this niche market.

I'm sure these experiences helped me to get the job at the VRC.

What qualifications do you have?

I have a Bachelor of Business majoring in Sport and Leisure Management but any qualification with event management or marketing would be helpful.

What do you like and dislike about your job generally?

I love that no two days are ever the same. The Event Centre in Flemington has grown so much over the last few years, which is very exciting. The latest major event added to the calendar has been music festivals such as the ever-successful Big Day Out, which was held in January 2007.

On the other hand, after October and before Christmas, I do a lot of financials and I spend a lot of time processing all the events, which can be tedious. The massive growth of the event centre has increased my workload and due to the increased variety of events sometimes reconciliation at month end can get repetitive and frustrating. But I have always loved a challenge so the busy times always end up being rewarding.

What does your job involve if you're organising a wedding or conference?

We have 25 venues that can be booked, so when we reach capacity it is definitely all hands on deck in regards to event management. My prime role is assisting the sales team, and sales and marketing manager with all aspects of the event centre. My tasks range from taking enquiries and compiling quotes, booking venues and managing the financials, and managing the website for upcoming events.

Any other perks of the job?

We actually have our own carnival as a reward for the staff after the Melbourne Cup Carnival is over. It's a one-day event – a thank you party – organised by the PA to the chairman of the VRC. It's nice to attend a function that we don't have to organise ourselves where we can celebrate without having to work. On occasions we also get to attend other special events such as the Spring Fashion Lunch and Oaks Club Lunch which last year featured Italian singer Patrizio Buanne.

Can you give us a tip for the Melbourne Cup?

I know Septimus is the favourite, and it's hard to see any locals beating him!

I do have a favourite horse, Zipping, who I have backed pretty much every start for the last three years. Although he hasn't won often, I can't resist in case he does win the time I don't bet on him! He came a close second at Cox Plate so is a good horse for a place as it is always up there but I'm a bit worried about the distance being slightly too long.

At the recent Breakfast with the Stars I heard that Efficient is a good outsider bet and I don't mind Mad Rush either.

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