By George Sirius, CEO, Eventsforce
This week I drove past the Earls Court Exhibition centre, a venue on death row now that London mayor Boris Johnson has sanctioned its demolition to make way for a redevelopment containing four villages and 7,500 homes.
Those backing the demolition, namely the site owners and Hammersmith and Fulham Council, are unequivocal in their insistence that this is a necessary move citing the high demand for housing in the borough and the fact that 12,000 new jobs will be created. Event organisations and professionals have been equally unequivocal in their condemnation of this move citing the damage it will do to the economically valuable UK events industry. The figures have been well publicised, with the Association of Event Organisers (AEO), amongst others, revealing that, “Earls Court attracts more than 2.5m visitors, 30,000 exhibiting companies and hundreds of events per year. Together with Olympia it supports £258m of expenditure in their boroughs and over £1.25bn in the London region …accounting for over 1,000 jobs in the boroughs and around 12,500 in London.
From a personal point of view, I have to admit that I will miss this venue. I have attended many successful events there and met lots of interesting and knowledgeable people. Earls Court has become almost symbolic for the UK events industry and whilst I can appreciate the need for new homes, I will be sad to see this venue go.
From the perspective of someone who feels passionately about promoting the success of the British events industry, I do have concerns as to the impact that this move will have. It remains to be seen if the reduction in exhibition capacity can be met by other venues such as ExCel London, or indeed if the industry itself sees alternative venues as suitable or desirable. Worryingly, this closure also comes at a time when other countries are investing in their exhibition and conference venues not closing them down. The Stuttgart New Exhibition Centre unveiled in 2007 is a prime example of this.
We can only wait to see what the short and long term effects of closing Earls Court will be, but whatever the outcome, I firmly believe that the UK events industry is strong enough to meet this challenge. We work in an industry full of highly skilled and motivated people, and although Earls Court may have hosted many successful events, the key to this success is the people behind them. The building may go, but these people remain and are well positioned to meet the challenges ahead.