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Event UK promotes best of Britain outside the capital


Sep 23, 2009 | Blog

In the current economic climate, it might seem like two major events industry exhibitions going head to head would be a bad idea.

Event UK took place at the NEC in Birmingham from September 22nd to 23rd, while Square Meal was held at Old Billingsgate in London from September 23rd to 24th.

However, Duncan Reid, portfolio director at Event UK organisers Confex Group, insisted that the competition was no problem for the exhibition. We caught up with him on the first day of the show to find out how it was going.

"Day one has been a good show, we're quite happy with it," he said.

"From a visitor point of view things have been quite good. If you speak to any of the exhibitors, they're fairly happy with the quality as well."

Mr Reid said that he expected exhibitors would try to be present at both events, but added that the difference between the two shows meant they were not in direct competition.

"The Square Meal, it's heartland as it were - where it's strong - is basically the financial centre, and also in London, mainly around the City.

"For us, Event UK isn't really about London, that's what International Confex does and it's by far and the way the biggest and most successful show in the industry.

"Event UK is basically about serving the needs of UK regions, to really put their products on display, to show UK event organisers what venues they've got, what options there are if you don't want to do something in London or overseas."

According to Mr Reid, around 40 per cent of the events in the £22 billion industry take place outside of the capital.

"What this show does is addresses that need and gives the regions the opportunity to shine and it's at least twice the size of any other show outside London, so it's key for all of UK regions and the industry [representatives] who care about the UK and the nation, to get together," he added.

The show is in its second year under the current name, having been rebranded after it was formerly known as the National Venue Show in 2008. It also overlapped with Square Meal last year.

"If you look at the people who were up here today, there were some really key influential industry people walking around, doing business, doing meetings and going to see the venues and booking space, so the fact that Square Meal is on hasn't hurt us," Mr Reid said.

What has hurt the event, inevitably, is the recession, although Mr Reid asserted that the downturn has not had the damaging effect that it might have.

"As far as space sales go, we are a bit down, but in an industry that's about 40 or 20 per cent down, if we come in at ten per cent down, that's a success," he said.

"Generally, most shows reflect their industry and therefore most exhibitions are selling less space.

"Last year the show was about 5,000 metres and this year we've almost filled 5,000 metres, so the fact that we've sold so much space is really good, a testament to the power of this product," he added.

Mr Reid reported that there the exhibitors "had really pulled out all the stops" to put on a great show and suggested that there is an air of positivity around the events industry compared to this time last year.

The collapse of the Lehman Brothers company in the US occurred in September 2008 and according to Mr Reid, the events industry was "paralysed by fear" in the months that followed.

"Everyone was holding tight onto their budget and not really spending. Now, although people don't think we will reach the giddy heights of two years ago, everyone's quite optimistic about the future," he concluded.
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