We all know the biggest venues in the UK, but there are plenty of other boutique spaces available to exhibition organisers. EN profiles a selection looking to punch above their weight.
ILEC conference centre
The ILEC Conference Centre in Earls Court re-opened in October following a £5m, four-month revamp. The facelift sees the London Suite Ballroom offer
1,260sqm of exhibition space. To further enhance its offering, ILEC now has an in-house AV production team available during the design phase of an event that
can offer event production, equipment hire, scenery building, video film production, presentation design and digital animation to clients.
“We have a technical manager onsite to advise with production and scenery design,” said press spokesman Nigel Couzens. “This would help if shell scheme needed to be built. We stripped the whole place out and now also have four types of lighting systems.”
ILEC opened in 1972 as London’s largest pillar-free event space. General manager Patrice Millot said the latest renovation was a result of customer feedback.
“This significant investment will ensure ILEC is positioned as one of the most desirable venues for exhibitions, conferences and meetings, sports events, fashion shows, award ceremonies and weddings across the entire capital,” he claimed. “We are confident our clients will benefit hugely from the refurbishment and will recognise many improvements have come directly as a result of their feedback.” Couzens noted a recent trend for conference bookings that have an accompanying exhibition.
“Recently we have seen a lot of social media and technology companies offering solutions using the facilities,” he continued.
Over the years, ILEC Conference Centre has hosted a wide range of events stretching from large conferences with 1,000 guests to exhibitions, beauty pageants, sports events and award ceremonies. Education, fashion, technology and new media as other sectors represented in its client mix, Couzens added. Its 5m high ceilings have even allowed tanks to rumble through for a corporate event. ILEC will continue to look for B2B rather than B2C exhibition business.
Old Spitalfields Market
Old Spitalfields Market in East London is positioning itself as an art-led exhibition venue, reflecting the characteristics of the market and the creative talents in the local area.
Events manager Ellie Barnatt told EN the venue has held several arts and crafts-themed and fashion-led exhibitions since the market site’s redevelopment two years ago.
“We also have a lot of design-led tenants in the market, which helps with the profile,” Barnatt said. In June, Old Spitalfields Market hosted Jewel
East, part of London Jewellery Week, and in September the Craft Council held its Origin Exhibition, run by Tent Exhibitions.
“We feel we are a natural fit for these kinds of exhibitions,” Barnatt said. “The hope is to get more business-to-business and consumer exhibitions in here. We have a great catchment area for art, design, fashion, lifestyle and gifts.”
One of the venue’s latest wins is a new launch show for the retail property sector. Completely Retail Marketplace, which will take place on 1 May 2012, will showcase shops to let across the UK from leading agents and landlords.
Spitalfields also holds regular free events including lunchtime concerts, festivals, tango classes and fashion shows. Barnatt admitted she’d like to have greater links with its retail presence.
“We are looking at cross-promoting with the many cafes and restaurants in Spitalfields and having special offers when an exhibition is running,” she continued. “We also want to introduce more networking and learning so we’re not simply a space to exhibit in.”
Incentives for organisers include reduced rates for shows from Monday to Wednesday. The venue is also looking to introduce paid-for Wi-Fi connectivity across its facilities.
EPIC Centre, The Lincolnshire Events Centre
The EPIC Centre is a recent addition to the UK’s exhibition landscape, opening in 2008. In its first three years the venue has played host to a range of exhibitions and doubles up as a meeting and events facility capable of hosting conferences, balls and seminars. It is also designed as an educational resource and state-of-the-art events centre for up to 1,900 people.
Exhibitions held to date include the East Midlands Expo: Make Climate Change Your Business, the Sustain Lincolnshire Moving Forward Conference and Exhibition and the Sustainable Living Exhibition within the Lincolnshire Show. The centre also regularly welcomes exhibitors for antiques shows, gift fairs, property, travel, craft fairs and seasonal events.
The venue is owned by the Lincolnshire Agricultural Society, which brings links with food producers both regionally and nationally.
“Areas we are keen to attract more business in for the future include medical exhibitions, TV, film, gaming and literary conventions, baby and toddler shows and business-to-business trade events,” the venue’s business development manager Jenny Elwick said.
The EPIC Centre is complemented by the Lincolnshire Events Centre’s established Exhibition Hall situated opposite, which offers a further 1,314sqm of indoor space. The venues are surrounded by 81 hectares of parkland, offering organisers the opportunity to provide complimentary parking, Elwick said.
A recent economic impact survey found the Lincolnshire Events Centre injects £44m into the national economy annually and attracts more than 215,000 visitors a year. Its annual County Show attracted 68,000 visitors alone in 2010.
The Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) will double its standalone exhibition space with the opening of the Lennox Suite multi-purpose hall in spring 2013.
In the meantime, the Cromdale Hall offers an area of 1,185sqm for exhibitions. A recent highlight was the two-day Tesco Wine Fair in the Cromdale Hall in October. The EICC fair was the only Scottish edition held in 2011.
The new Lennox Suite, set to be completed in 2013, will add an adjacent 1,590sqm featuring hall-wide moving floor technology to give exhibition designers the opportunity to combine both flat floor and raked theatre spaces in a fraction of the build time required in conventional halls, the venue claims. The unique moving floor system will cover almost the entire floor area, equivalent to three tennis courts, and will be capable of lifting raised areas by four-and-a-half metres. This is the equivalent of a double-decker bus.
“Global conferences are booked years in advance and follow a seasonal pattern, which allows us to offer our exhibition spaces on a standalone basis at certain times of the year,” said EICC’s exhibition space head of sales and marketing Louise Andrew. “Our city centre location often wins us boutique exhibition business over edge-of-town venues.”
Such has been the anticipation over the new suite that EICC has already taken bookings up to 2017. The EICC is owned by the City of Edinburgh Council and operates as an independent commercial venture. Since opening in 1995 it has welcomed more than 800,000 delegates through its doors for more than 2,100 events, generating £245m for the city.
Leeds Football Club
Leeds United Football Club opened its £3m Centenary Pavilion for events business last year. The 1,630sqm venue is situated in a standalone building across from the club’s Elland Road grounds.
The venue has staged Harvey Nichols first out-of store fashion show away from London. In September, organiser of the Conference and Hospitality Show,
Event Management 360, announced plans to move its exhibition to Leeds United Football Club in 2012. Next year’s edition will take place on 26 April. The property, financial and retail sectors, hair care, healthcare, FMCG, recruitment, weddings and construction suppliers also regularly host exhibitions at the stadium.
Work is continuing on the first phase of the multimillion pound East Stand redevelopment. A new floor has been created offering executive boxes and two modern, high specification event spaces. Further phases will see the construction of a hotel and nightclub onsite.
“Our flexible facilities ensure we can meet the needs of any industry sector,” claimed conference and events manager Helen Briden. “We pride ourselves on our level-headed approach and experience, helping to ensure the smooth running of the exhibition.
“Exhibition organisers expect quality and value for money at all times, especially now in this challenging economic climate. At Elland Road stadium we continually strive to offer exceptional facilities, food and customer service.” Other popular exhibition suites at the stadium are the Nicky Chapman Suite (532sqm) and the Bremner Suite (394sqm). The club offers free parking and is adjacent to the M621 motorway.