Exhibition World Issue 2 — 2019 - Page 17

Big Interview Private ownership under LDC, and now even more so with Blackstone, has given us the freedom and incentive to realise our latent potential. Blackstone have experience of the live events sector, as well as stellar property credentials. We have always retained a close relationship with both Birmingham and Solihull Councils, particularly on wider planned developments around our sites, including the Birmingham Airport expansion and around the planned High Speed 2 launch. Our types of venues around the world are economic regenerators for the regional and national economies of the countries they sit in. We have recently been chosen as the operating partner for the Bradford Odeon, an historic venue and we will be working with Bradford Live, a not-for-profit charitable trust formed in 2012, to find a long-term viable use for the building. As a highly commercial and creative private sector operator, with a clear understanding and appreciation of public sector drivers, we are uniquely placed to respond to opportunities such as this. What would you say to organisers considering Birmingham and the NEC for the first time? We’re able to offer an end-to-end experience - surpassing many of our rivals – which includes ticketing, ancillary services and award- winning catering. Our NEC campus has become a 24/7 destination, with shops, hotels, bars, restaurants and a casino. A recent partnership with Merlin Entertainments has also seen the launch of another attraction on the NEC campus - the global first Bear Grylls Adventure with its indoor skydiving, assault courses and swimming with sharks! The NEC site is within a three-hour drive of 75% of the UK’s population and post 2026, a high-speed rail station which will connect us to London in 38 minutes. Birmingham’s £500m Grand w w w.exhibitionworld.co.uk This kind of content becomes more than a customer attending an exhibition – it’s tapping into the mantra that anything is possible. Our research and insights team have aided many shows to expand their profiles. What of festivalisation and other trends to watch for? In recent years we have seen many other venues incorporate outdoor or festival type experiences into their offer. The ICC Wales has for example, incorporated its outdoor plaza into a space for events and teambuilding activities and our addition of the global first Bear Grylls Adventure at the NEC also taps into this additional teambuilding, sensory offer. We programme our campus to be the background to lakeside music concerts over the summer and our exhibition halls are interconnected with our 15,600-seater Resort World Arena, offering a unique proposition for events such as Horse of the Year Show and the Crufts dog show. “Private ownership has given us the freedom and incentive to realise our latent potential” Central Station opened a few years ago and the city centre has benefitted from a development plan across two decades launched in 2012 and which has acted as an umbrella for over £5bn worth of mix use, residential, quality hotel stock, and infrastructure developments. Birmingham boasts the most inward investment from overseas and UK businesses over any other UK region except for central London. Which organisers are showing creativity and innovation in driving their shows to new levels? Many of our smaller organisers have been able to work with us to grow their exhibitions and existing shows have upped their game in terms of the content offer. The Running Show, organised by Raccoon Events, is a particularly good example. This year they were able to bring their followers new experiences through access to inspiring speaker including Nikki Love, who ran 63 marathons in 63 days, and Rob Pope, who ran across the USA five times. How are you promoting new talent in the event management industry? I have personally championed the NEC Group’s relationship with students from our regional colleges and universities. Every year we promote Event Week Live, run in association with Birmingham City University, which aims to provide on-the-job learning. Five of the most engaged and promising students are chosen to take part in the NEC’s Elite mentor programme. We’re delighted to have recruited large numbers of local apprentices and I am also Chair of the Skills and Employment Board, a joint initiative between regional government and business to address the skills challenges across the region. The advice that I always give students is don’t listen and speak in equal measure – we’ve been given two ears and one mouth, so use them in that ratio! Issue 2 2019 17