FEATURE The big reveal 36 Martin Clarke, marketing director at the NEC, talks EN through the venue’s £4.5m transformation I t’s an exciting time for Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre. Alongside an investment of more than £4m in digital displays across the campus, an all-new Bear Grylls Adventure attraction from Merlin Events and the small matter of its recent acquisition by private equity company Blackstone, the venue has also recently completed a £4.5m transformation of its exterior. The work, named Project Facelift, was unveiled at an event on 10 October that brought together organisers, partners and stakeholders for a taste of how the work will transform the site. Speaking at the Vox Conference Centre at the event, NEC Group MD Kathryn James told the assembled guests: “The NEC Group’s vision to be Europe’s leading business, live events and leisure destination company.” Project Facelift is comprised of a combination of colour panels, which add a splash of colour to the venue’s exterior, and 37 3D trapezoids, which can brighten up the dark autumn and winter months. The end result is striking, but journey to the finished product was far from smooth, says marketing director Martin Clarke. “We originally looked at physically cladding the building,” he tells EN. “We drew inspiration from all over the world. It needed to weather the elements and needed to keep its colour in the sun. We were fixed on doing something that was transformational. “But going down those routes you start November 2018 | exhibitionnews.co.uk looking at the cost and instead of the £4.5m you were looking at many multiples of that to do what we originally thought we wanted to do. We almost got to the point where we said, ‘is it possible to do what we actually want to do?’” And so the brief was simple: transform the arguably tired and ‘boxy’ exterior of the venue into something robust, weatherproof, eye-catching and iconic – and within budget. “Having just a flat stretched piece of panelling going over the front of the building wouldn’t give us what we wanted,” continues Clarke. “That’s where these trapezoids came in. They are just slightly different shapes and slightly different sizes and give that focal point and point of interest and discussion. “What you see today went through various incantations, then we thought, ‘let’s use the whole colour wheel’. Why don’t we show our whole colour palette, show the breadth of change? We wanted to surprise and delight and build anticipation for people when they come to the campus.” On the night of the launch event, AEO CEO Chris Skeith commented: “I travel round the world to see what other countries are doing to develop their exhibition spaces to bring international business and I think we’re up there and I think it’s brilliant to see.” Project Facelift is the latest in a spate of ambitious renovations and transformations across the UK’s venues, showing that the country is very much staying at the forefront of international events.