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Manchester has become a leading UK destination for events, but how has it changed?

For hundreds of years Manchester has been one of the UK’s leading industrial cities. Today the cotton mills and Watt steam engines are replaced with modern industry: finance, IT and, of course, events.

Located in the heart of the Deansgate area is Manchester Central, a former railway station which now serves as a large exhibition and conference space. What makes Manchester a great destination for business events? “Manchester has long had a reputation of being a city where business prospers: a city where Rolls met Royce, where the first programmable computer was created, where graphene was discovered, and where the first professional football league was introduced,” says Shaun Hinds, CEO of Manchester Central.

“In 2018, Manchester Central hosted a record number of events, with event planners realising that Manchester provides much better value for money, without having to compromise on quality.

“A vibrant and easily accessible city centre, London stalwart brands such as the Ivy, D&D and Dishoom have all opened restaurants within the last 18 months and a further 1,200 hotel rooms will be opened in 2019. But despite all this growth, Manchester still, and always will, retain its famous northern warmth at its core,” adds Hinds.

Manchester’s infrastructure is under constant development, as tram and metro lines snake out away from the city centre and into the industrial suburbs.

One such area that is benefitting from this improved infrastructure is Trafford Park. The area, which is home to Manchester United FC’s stadium, has seen several hotels pop up in recent years, as well as re-purposed events venues like Victoria Warehouse.

EventCity, however, is the largest in the area. So how has the area around this large events complex changed, and what is there for delegates to do?

Simon Jones, sales director, EventCity, says: “EventCity is at the heart of TraffordCity, a wider development currently undergoing significant changes, including the expansion of the tram line by 2020 which is seeing a £350m investment, creating a fast and direct link into Manchester City Centre. 

“Delegates can enjoy a wide range of activities when visiting TraffordCity that are ideal for team building and winding down to follow a big business event. Within walking distance from the venue, visitors can hit the ski slopes at the Chill Factore or try indoor skydiving at iFly; also home to a unique adventure golf experience, Dino Falls, TraffordCity’s Beyond boasts a number of popular restaurants and bars.

“Directly across from EventCity, delegates will find one of the UK’s largest shopping centres, intu Trafford Centre. Offering a range of high-end and high street stores, Trafford Centre is home to a number of restaurants, a cinema and indoor mini golf,” added Jones.

As is obvious, the global fame and domestic success of both Manchester United and Manchester City football clubs means that sporting venues are a big draw for the city. But it’s not all football.

Emirates Old Trafford is one of the UK’s top cricket stadia, and as the sport’s popularity has increased, so too has its appeal for events and client demands.
So how have delegate needs changed?

Angela Hodson, head of sales at Emirates Old Trafford notes: “During the past five years, there has been a huge shift in wellbeing, which has become increasingly important to our clients. We introduced new, healthy and delicious lunch menus, to fuel the body and the mind, and stimulate delegates’ senses. This built on the introduction of our #EOTWellbeing campaign, designed to inspire and raise awareness about wellbeing at business events.

“Another trend is the need for quality AV equipment to support events and fast Wi-Fi, which is why we are introducing stadium wide Wi-Fi, to increase the speed and capability when there are thousands of visitors at the venue attending events and cricket. Additionally, we partner with MCL Create, an AV company, so clients can be assured that they receive the best technical capabilities and on-hand support throughout their event with an on-site technician. This provides organisers with the opportunity to ask any questions and receive expert advice on delivering AV for their event and helps to ensure that all technology ideas can become a reality.

“Clients are also expecting more for their money and their expectations have increased, partly due to the level of competition in Manchester, meaning venues are offering more to entice bookings. Organisers expect an all-encompassing and convenient venue, where all their needs can be accommodated. What makes Emirates Old Trafford so unique is the multi-purpose space we can offer, plus an on-site four-star Hilton Garden Inn hotel which boasts 150 bedrooms, and free on-site parking. We are perfect for residential and multi-day conferences and events.”

Case Study

In August 2018, Manchester Central played host to the annual Eddie Stobart Summer Ball, an evening full of glitz and glamour which raised over £250,000 for children’s charity When You Wish Upon A Star.

Attended by some of Manchester’s best-known faces, including stars from Coronation Street, the night was held in the venue’s iconic Central Hall, which was spectacularly transformed into a circus by event organisers Brown Bear Events. DJs, aerialists, jugglers and clowns all entertained the 650 guests during the evening which was hosted by Paddy McGuiness with Vernon Kay as DJ.

One of the biggest challenges faced was finding a way to deliver the client’s request that VIP tables, positioned on Eddie Stobart trailers, were raised up and down throughout the evening. Whilst this was something the team at Manchester Central had not done before, they were keen to make it work, and liaised with Brown Bear Events who designed and produced a spectacle that was talked about long after the event had finished. 

Handrails were fitted onto the sides of the trucks, custom treads were built for guests and staff to safely access the tables, and health and safety teams were consulted at all times.

In keeping with the circus theme, Manchester Central’s in-house kitchen team were tasked with bringing the ‘wow factor’ into the menu. After a consultation (and tasting session) with both Brown Bear Events and the client, the chefs set about devising bespoke dishes for the event. The fun circus brief was clear throughout, from bubble-gum cocktails to homemade popcorn and candy floss as midnight snacks.

Gina Brown, account director at Brown Bear Events, said: “There were high standards to be met with high profile clientele attending the event and Manchester Central exceeded them! Everyone who came to the ball thoroughly enjoyed themselves and complimented the venue and space - in particular, we’ve had tremendous feedback regarding the food and service on the evening, it really was excellent.”