SECTOR GUIDE: SCOTTISH/NORTHERN VENUES - Call of the north

The recent launch of EventScotland to promote business tourism has encouraged event organisers to take a fresh look at the region's facilities, writes Clive Walker.

Scottish and northern venues are hosting a raft of high-profile events in 2003, reflecting the enthusiasm of organisers for the area's state-of-the-art facilities and buoyant economy.

Topping the bill is the tenth MTV Music Europe Awards at Western Harbour, Leith near Edinburgh in November. Leith Harbour also played host to the recent International Festival of the Sea, organised by Festival Management (Event, June).

Premier destination

Scotland is strengthening its case as a premier event destination with the March launch of EventScotland - a joint venture between the Scottish government and tourist authority VisitScotland.

"EventScotland is bringing financial assistance, marketing expertise and long-term coordination between venues to ensure the nation remains a vibrant place to stage events," says EventScotland advisory board member and Exhibition Venues Association chairman Mike Closier.

VisitBritain agrees and says the new organisation gives Scotland extra marketing muscle in the international arena. "It's making Scotland internationally competitive and attracting the type of event that previously has not visited the UK," says VisitBritain business tourism acting head Jeremy Brinkworth.

It is too early to measure the impact of EventScotland, but many venue managers including Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) business development manager Tim Banfield have high hopes. He says: "EventScotland should create an environment that will boost the regional economy and give ven-ues more credibility abroad."

The SECC is beginning a series of improvements this summer including a £750,000 upgrade of Hall Four and a £1.5m investment in catering facilities at the venue by catering partner Leiths.

Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre has just completed an £18m overhaul that included the refurbishment of Boyd Orr Hall and the addition of two 565 sq m suites (Event, June). "Many of the larger halls now have acoustic divides allowing separate events to take place simultaneously," says AECC managing director Clarke Milloy.

Edinburgh's Royal Highland Centre (RHC) officially opened its £3.5m Highland Hall, measuring 8,400 sq m, in time for the Scottish venue's annual flagship event, the Royal Highland Show, which ran from 19-22 June.

Integral role

RHC manager Grant Knight hopes EventScotland will ensure the venue plays an integral role in future international events. "The organisation needs to work on our behalf to integrate Scotland's rural and urban facilities and generate greater spin-off benefits for everyone," he says.

This view is shared by Sir Jack Stewart-Clark, owner of Dundas Castle near Edinburgh, who advocates stronger partnerships among Scottish venues. Stewart-Clark is confident the body will boost the castle's latest addition, an off-road driving course, which is being relaunched in September.

Dundas Castle has also invested in a grand marquee that can hold up to 1,500 guests. It recently housed B&Q's annual corporate summer party.

The National Museums of Scotland (NMS), which comprises six venues including the Royal Museum and National War Museum of Scotland, has enticed exhibitions from London, such as computer history and gaming culture show Game On, which transferred from the Barbican.

Down in Manchester, the G-Mex Centre and Manchester International Convention Centre played host to the Slice Events-organised Nike Freestyle Face Off show from 10-11 May.

And in Belfast, King's Hall has staged a diverse range of events including rollerskating at last month's Special Olympics. King's Hall commercial director Philip Rees says: "Shorter lead times and quicker removals means there is more space to let. Exhibitions are a finite market so there's a growing need to diversify."

Infrastructure developments are also coming along apace at venues in the north of England including Ripley Castle, where work will soon start on converting its coach house into two event and banqueting suites.

Scheduled to open in May 2004, the main suite will seat 120 delegates while a smaller venue will provide meeting and banqueting facilities for 50.

Yorkshire Event Centre in Harrogate recently opened a dedicated events and sales office, and the resurfacing of five miles of internal roads is in full swing. New events for 2003 include the Yorkshire Independent Grocers Association annual trade fair, which was held in February.

Asked to sum up business in the north of England, Yorkshire Event Centre manager Heather Parry said: "In a word, robust. Sales are back on target after the Iraq conflict and we expect this trend to continue."

SECTOR GUIDE SCOTTISH/NORTHERN VENUES

VENUE: Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre

INDOOR EVENT SPACE (sq m): 14,000

OUTDOOR EVENT SPACE (hectares): 2

NO OF HALLS: 8

BANQUETING CAPACITY: 2,000

BIGGEST EVENT IN 2003: Offshore Europe 2003

CONTACT: Brian Horsburgh 01224 824824

WEBSITE: www.aecc.co.uk

VENUE: Aintree Conference and Banqueting Centre

INDOOR EVENT SPACE (sq m): 1,000

OUTDOOR EVENT SPACE (hectares): 12.5

NO OF HALLS: 1

BANQUETING CAPACITY: 350

BIGGEST EVENT IN 2003: Customs and Excise Exhibition

CONTACT: Katie Kendrick 0151 522 2922

WEBSITE: www.aintree.co.uk

VENUE: Assembly Rooms Edinburgh

INDOOR EVENT SPACE (sq m): 935

OUTDOOR EVENT SPACE (hectares): None

NO OF HALLS: 4

BANQUETING CAPACITY: 920

BIGGEST EVENT IN 2003: International Science Festival

CONTACT: Tom Gray 0131 220 4348

WEBSITE: www.assemblyroomsedinburgh.co.uk

VENUE: Belfast Waterfront Hall Conference and Concert Centre

INDOOR EVENT SPACE (sq m): 2,600

OUTDOOR EVENT SPACE (hectares): None

NO OF HALLS: 5

BANQUETING CAPACITY: 1,550

BIGGEST EVENT IN 2003: European Cystic Fibrosis Conference

CONTACT: Andrew Kyle 028 9033 4400

WEBSITE: www.waterfront.co.uk

VENUE: Crieff Hydro, Perthshire

INDOOR EVENT SPACE (sq m): 1,058

OUTDOOR EVENT SPACE (hectares): 372

NO OF HALLS: 3

BANQUETING CAPACITY: 450

BIGGEST EVENT IN 2003: Best Western annual conference

CONTACT: Alison Dalton 01764 655555

WEBSITE: www.crieffhydro.com

VENUE: Dundas Castle, Edinburgh

INDOOR EVENT SPACE (sq m): Varies

OUTDOOR EVENT SPACE (hectares): 0.036

NO OF HALLS: 9

BANQUETING CAPACITY: 250

BIGGEST EVENT IN 2003: Glenvarigill Motor Group

CONTACT: Karen Richards 0131 319 2039

WEBSITE: www.dundascastle.co.uk

VENUE: Easterbrook Hall, The Crichton, Dumfries

INDOOR EVENT SPACE (sq m): 644

OUTDOOR EVENT SPACE (hectares): 34

NO OF HALLS: 1

BANQUETING CAPACITY: 300

BIGGEST EVENT IN 2003: Border Visions Conference

CONTACT: Joanne Mair 01387 247544

WEBSITE: www.crichton.co.uk

VENUE: Edinburgh International Conference Centre

INDOOR EVENT SPACE (sq m): 2,313

OUTDOOR EVENT SPACE (hectares): 0.2

NO OF HALLS: 2

BANQUETING CAPACITY: 830

BIGGEST EVENT IN 2003: IT Telecoms Conference

CONTACT: Lesley Stephens 0131 300 3000

WEBSITE: www.eicc.co.uk

VENUE: G-Mex/MICC, Manchester

INDOOR EVENT SPACE (sq m): 12,000

OUTDOOR EVENT SPACE (hectares): None

NO OF HALLS: 3

BANQUETING CAPACITY: 800

BIGGEST EVENT IN 2003: Holiday and Travel Show

CONTACT: David Mallard 0161 834 2700

WEBSITE: www.g-mex.co.uk

VENUE: Harrogate International Centre

INDOOR EVENT SPACE (sq m): 16,500

OUTDOOR EVENT SPACE (hectares): None

NO OF HALLS: 8

BANQUETING CAPACITY: 1,600

BIGGEST EVENT IN 2003: Home & Gift

CONTACT: John Wood 01423 500500

WEBSITE: www.harrogateinternationalcentre.co.uk

VENUE: King's Hall Exhibition and Conference Centre, Belfast

INDOOR EVENT SPACE (sq m): 9,000

OUTDOOR EVENT SPACE (hectares): 14

NO OF HALLS: 4

BANQUETING CAPACITY: 2,400

BIGGEST EVENT IN 2003: Balmoral Show

CONTACT: Lucy Fraser 028 9066 5225

WEBSITE: www.kingshall.co.uk

VENUE: Manchester Conference Centre

INDOOR EVENT SPACE (sq m): 14,000

OUTDOOR EVENT SPACE (hectares): None

NO OF HALLS: 2

BANQUETING CAPACITY: 600

BIGGEST EVENT IN 2003: Mind Sports Olympiad

CONTACT: Sarah Evans 0161 200 4100

WEBSITE: www.meeting.co.uk

VENUE: National Museums of Scotland

INDOOR EVENT SPACE (sq m): 1,600

OUTDOOR EVENT SPACE (hectares): None

NO OF HALLS: 3

BANQUETING CAPACITY: 650

BIGGEST EVENT IN 2003: SEAT car launch gala dinner

CONTACT: Carolyn Wildy 0131 247 4113

WEBSITE: www.nms.ac.uk

VENUE: Ripley Castle, North Yorkshire

INDOOR EVENT SPACE (sq m): 62

OUTDOOR EVENT SPACE (hectares): 40.5

NO OF HALLS: 7

BANQUETING CAPACITY: 132

BIGGEST EVENT IN 2003: Night at the Proms

CONTACT: Chloe Drummond 01423 770152

WEBSITE: www.ripleycastle.co.uk

VENUE: Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh

INDOOR EVENT SPACE (sq m): 18,000

OUTDOOR EVENT SPACE (hectares): 50

NO OF HALLS: 4

BANQUETING CAPACITY: 8,000

BIGGEST EVENT IN 2003: Royal Highland Show

CONTACT: Grant Knight 0131 335 6200

WEBSITE: www.rhass.org.uk

VENUE: Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, Glasgow

INDOOR EVENT SPACE (sq m): 22,355

OUTDOOR EVENT SPACE (hectares): None

NO OF HALLS: 5

BANQUETING CAPACITY: 6,000

BIGGEST EVENT IN 2003: Ideal Home Show Scotland

CONTACT: Tim Banfield 0141 275 6271

WEBSITE: www.secc.co.uk

VENUE: Hallam FM Arena (formerly Sheffield Arena)

INDOOR EVENT SPACE (sq m): 3,496

OUTDOOR EVENT SPACE (hectares): None

NO OF HALLS: 1

BANQUETING CAPACITY: N/A

BIGGEST EVENT IN 2003: British Open Show Jumping

CONTACT: David Vickers 0114 256 2002

WEBSITE: www.hallamfmarena.co.uk

VENUE: Telewest Arena, Newcastle

INDOOR EVENT SPACE (sq m): 3,960

OUTDOOR EVENT SPACE (hectares): None

NO OF HALLS: 2

BANQUETING CAPACITY: 1,500

BIGGEST EVENT IN 2003: Westlife concert

CONTACT: Ailsa Oliver 0191 260 5000

WEBSITE: www.telewestarena.co.uk

VENUE: University of Leeds

INDOOR EVENT SPACE (sq m): 2,000

OUTDOOR EVENT SPACE (hectares): None

NO OF HALLS: 3

BANQUETING CAPACITY: 700

BIGGEST EVENT IN 2003: World Aikido Championships

CONTACT: Beverley Kenny 0113 233 6100

WEBSITE: www.leeds.ac.uk/conference

VENUE: The York Exhibition Conference and Banqueting Centre at York

Racecourse

INDOOR EVENT SPACE (sq m): Varies

OUTDOOR EVENT SPACE (hectares): None

NO OF HALLS: 7

BANQUETING CAPACITY: 1,000

BIGGEST EVENT IN 2003: Lord Mayor's dinner

CONTACT: Nick Fazackerley 01904 638971

WEBSITE: www.yorkracecourse.co.uk

VENUE: Yorkshire Event Centre

INDOOR EVENT SPACE (sq m): 5,372

OUTDOOR EVENT SPACE (hectares): 36

NO OF HALLS: 2

BANQUETING CAPACITY: 3,000

BIGGEST EVENT IN 2003: Great Yorkshire Show

CONTACT: Irene Zdziebka 01423 544544

WEBSITE: www.eventcentre.co.uk

For more information on companies in this sector see Event The Directory

available at www.eventmagazine.co.uk


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