We chat to Manchester Central CEO Shaun Hinds about his recent win at the Northern Leadership Awards and his involvement in organisations across the events industry.
Shaun Hinds, CEO of Manchester Central, one of the UK’s largest event venues, has been named the Top 50 City Region Leader for Greater Manchester, in recognition of his commitment to the Greater Manchester business community and the impact the venue has had in boosting the recovery of the region. Shaun was surprised to have won the award:
“It was an incredible surprise, but all of a sudden there was a great sense of pride as well. I run a very important venue here in Manchester, but in the big scheme of the business community we’re only a relatively small cog. For a long time, I’ve felt that we’re a bigger cog than people realise.”
With so many events-based businesses crumbling because of the pandemic, Shaun had his work cut out keeping Manchester Central afloat: “It involved great skill on my part,” he joked. “In all seriousness though, it was a number of factors that helped us get through. First and foremost, we had a strong business anyway. Pre-COVID we had record year after record year, so we did have cash reserves. Secondly, we’re actually owned by the local authority, so we’ve got very supportive shareholders. Thirdly, when events were allowed to be put on again, we jumped into that straight away, while still adhering to the laws and restrictions in place.”
The venue is now seeing demand return to pre-COVID levels and even surpassing that number: “Right now for this year, I would actually say we are ahead of pre-pandemic demand levels. March to July 2022 have been the busiest months we’ve ever had in our history. While there’s certainly a few challenges ahead, I’m very encouraged by what we’re seeing. And I think in the next few years the events we’re holding will be bigger, better, and more appealing to a wider audience.
Shaun is also involved in various industry bodies, as the Vice-Chair of AEV and also a board member of the EIA: “The AEV is the Association of Event Venues, which contains some of the leading business and events venues in the UK. All of the ones you’d expect: Olympia, ExCel, ACC Liverpool, and the SEC up in Glasgow, to name a few. We act as a body to coordinate our message to the authorities and government. I’m the Vice-Chair and part of my input into that is really crafting the messages that we feed up into government about the support that we need. I was quite vocal early on in the pandemic about the work that we needed to do to ensure that we could recover properly. We went through a period of realising that voice with government was nowhere near where it needs to be.
“The Events Industry Alliance (the EIA) is a group of similar organisations: the venues, the organisers, and the supply chain of the events industry. That all feeds up into the EIA. We act as a single voice for the entirety of the events industry. What has become really clear is that the industry is a very broad church. Overall, it’s worth 70 billion to the UK economy, but it comes from a variety of different sources. During the pandemic it became clear that a business conference involved very different delivery to an awards banquet or a concert. While we were talking about the events industry as a whole actually there was a nuance between how different bodies and sorts of events could recover. It was too complicated for the media and government to get their heads around. We had to work hard to explain the different categories of events and explain how the industry effects the economy, jobs, and livelihoods. We spent a lot of time trying to get that message across, and there’s still work to do.”