Director of Unique Venues of Great Britain, Mathew Jayne, explains how the North’s more unusual venues can make events more memorable.
The question of what makes an events venue unique is one I commonly get asked across the industry. While the dictionary definition of the word unique is often my general go-to reply, I’ll instead dive into some more detail for the sake of sharing my passion for unique venues and making the conversation more engaging for fellow North-based event professionals.
For me, a venue truly becomes unique when it can offer something different or alternative for its clients. During a recent gathering at a Northern venue, a colleague asked me: “How could this venue be unique? Surely this is just a hotel.” We happened to be standing in Old Trafford’s Hotel Football, which features an incredible function space on the 9th floor complete with panoramic views towards Manchester, a retractable roof, and an astroturfed floor. Planners who choose this venue can also create football-based team building activities with their clients, while hosting a summer drinks reception under the open roof. The tremendous setting, football- centric theme, and refreshing approach to business by offering memorable experiences made my response to the question simple: “How is this not unique?”
Any added value which a unique venue can possibly offer for its delegates is also an important factor in enhancing the entire event. As the most visited art gallery outside of London, Liverpool’s Tate Gallery is a perfect analogy of this; once a main meeting is over, planners can open the drinks reception to the venue’s iconic gallery spaces and foyer, where delegates can experience the impressive exhibitions on display while networking. The wide-open space here encourages delegates to mix and mingle, with the art on the walls opening up plenty of talking points. Galleries in general also happen to be low maintenance, so a perfect option for planners to organise fundraisers and galas.
I also previously worked with Vinopolis in London’s Borough Market, which is unfortunately closed now. Tucked away under mesmerising Victorian railway arches, the venue was described as a premier wine tasting visitor attraction. Delegates could spend an entire event sitting astride a Vespa, while watching video montages of Italy’s finest wine regions as they taste their way through a menu of rare vintages. By working its event spaces to their full advantage and creating a unique environment for clients, the venue allowed delegates to walk away from an experience rather than a generic event, and left planners inspired in creative ways to shape their future meetings.
Sometimes, a unique venue holder can combine extra resources and facilities with the venue’s most alternative spaces to bring smaller meetings to life. A corporate client of mine was once seeking a way to communicate their core values during a meeting in The Lowry arts centre in Salford Quays. Moving the delegates away from the venue’s generic meeting rooms, we hosted the meeting at the theatre’s learning and engagement studio spaces, which are all designed to inspire young people unlocking their creative potential in the arts sector.
We then introduced the team to one of our partnering training programmes, which delivers engaging and humorous workshops built around dramatic performances.
The event strategy resulted in all delegates performing to each other on stage during a fun and interactive afternoon, with the client leaving the venue energised and ready for new challenges ahead. By understanding the specific needs of a client, unique venue holders can combine the best use of their dynamic spaces with the bespoke resources available to support all requirements, going above and beyond to boost the event experience for all involved.
The list of diverse examples of unique venues going the extra mile in supporting planners and delegates goes on. Manchester Met University utilises its numerous conference and meeting spaces with a wealth of academic and research resources, providing unique learning facilities relevant to the client’s industry. The university lecturers who facilitate meetings at this venue greatly enhance its events when delegates can interact and engage with some the North’s brightest minds and leading researchers.
Further north, Edinburgh Castle offers planners a stunning location to host banqueting events while treating delegates like royalty with exclusive tours of the venue’s historic spaces, filling the event’s content with the best of Scottish culture. The beautiful interiors and exteriors of the venue also guarantee some fantastic event photography, which will help planners with post-event delegate engagement, reports, and publicity.
Meanwhile pushing the creative and artistic boundaries for events, warehouses such as The Haberdashery in Glasgow and photo studios including Birmingham’s Atlantis give organisers a huge blank canvas of space for events where suppliers can also thrive. The clean, pared-down architecture of warehouses provides a simple and uncluttered space, creating a casual vibe where delegates be kept at ease during the entire event.
In a time where event professionals have been starved of the opportunity to be together, delegates now need more than ever to experience creative, engaging, and exciting meetings. Unique venues across the North can provide just that, and I for one remain a firm advocate!