Opening doors to further boost community engagement
Author: Shaun Hinds, CEO of Manchester Central.
At Manchester Central, we are proud to host events throughout the year which are for and in conjunction with the community that surrounds us. Those who live and work near to the building are integral to this bustling quarter of Manchester. They also play a positive role in welcoming visitors from far and wide, placing this city on a global stage even when they themselves may not be in attendance.
But much more than that, local people have seen the evolution of Manchester Central over the years which we hope gives them a sense of pride and real connection back to this historic venue which was once a major railway terminus. Most of what we do to attract and host largescale conventions and events is only possible because of the support we get from the wider community.
As part of our Central to our Future sustainability strategy, we have now committed to host an open house event every year, building on the success of our first one in 2019. This is a dedicated day which gives the spectrum of community members an opportunity to find out more about Manchester Central as an iconic venue and celebrate the various pivotal changes/milestones that have happened in any given year. Crucially, it’s a chance for people to ask questions, contribute thoughts, share their feedback, hear from a range of voices from across the region and engage with our staff and stakeholders. While we have an ongoing open dialogue with the community throughout the year, this event is hosted to further boost engagement and will help to shape our future strategy.
We hosted our most recent open house last week (21 July) and more than 200 people came through the doors. In conjunction with city partners, lots of activities were on offer, including:
- Manchester Mind sessions. An introduction to mindfulness and five ways to wellbeing - offering guests the opportunity to start their day ‘the right way’.
- Manchester: A Destination for Business. Hosted by Greater Manchester Chamber and featuring panel discussions about growth/collaboration and events/hospitality, this was organised to ensure the conversation about the importance of hospitality and events continues. It was attended by representatives from business sectors including recruitment, hospitality, legal, tech and charities.
- Live chef demonstration: Manchester Central chefs created a selection of dishes using locally sourced produce for all to taste. The session also included a talk about the provenance of the food by our Lancashire-based produce supplier, Wellocks.
- Elevate Exchange - Innovation: Exploring what it means to be an innovative business, this session was hosted by Elevate, a business development consultancy engaging with a range of business sectors.
Another key part of the day was a photography exhibition showcasing our journey through the eras of the venue. This highlighted four distinct timeframes: ‘Central station’, ‘the lost years’, GMEX and becoming Manchester Central. We shared our top ten moments from across the decades and asked attendees to share their memories with us too. From its days as a Victorian railway station, to a premier concert destination and then international convention centre and events venue, Manchester Central is steeped in history - a history that belongs to this city. To round off a busy day, our friends at Manchester Gin and the Spirit of Manchester Distillery hosted a networking session at Three Little Words, their bar and restaurant housed underneath the former railway arches.
Night Time Economy Advisor for Greater Manchester, Sacha Lord, was one of the speakers at open house. He said: “It’s a really important next few years for our city region. The way we live and work is changing and the focus is shifting away from the capital, which gives Manchester and the North an opportunity to become a home and attraction for both more businesses and more people.”
Manchester Central is an iconic part of the city and our rich heritage spans more than 140 years. It was fantastic to see so many people participate, and we can’t wait to host again next year. I’d encourage other venues to adopt a similar event in a calendar year; it’s so important that we nurture the symbiotic relationship between venues and our local communities if we, in turn, want to safeguard our industry for the future.