7 of the best big event and exhibition spaces in the UK
17 October 2018
Discover a selection of exhibition, conferencing, meeting and event spaces to suit your size and needs.
National Conference Centre (NCC) at the National Motorcycle Museum
The 1000-strong collection of motorbikes may attract 250,000 visitors a year, but alongside Solihull's National Motorcycle Museum sits one of the UK's largest conference venues – the National Conference Centre (NCC).
The flexible 4,550m2 internal space has hosted public and private shows (including property and travel exhibitions), with 1,400 theatre-style capacity in each of the two main suites. There are 13 rooms in total. These can be configured for intimate meetings from two to 350 conference-style.
Birmingham has long been a destination for international exhibitions and the NCC couldn't be better placed – close to the M42 and with 700 free car-parking spaces, or five minutes by taxi to Birmingham International station and airport.
A landmark on the capital's exhibition and conferencing scene for almost 20 years, the recently expanded ExCel benefits from flexible space, a multitude of facilities, and transport links. It welcomes around 3.6 million visitors and 300 events each year, having hosted the British International Motor Show, BDIA Dental Showcase and IP Expo. It was the base for 2009's G20 summit and a 2012 London Olympics venue.
The main exhibition space features 87,328m2 of space (divided into north and south halls), which can be partitioned with movable walls. ICC London was added 10 years ago, with halls, suites and lounges, while CentrEd – a training and meeting facility with spaces for 20 to 400 delegates – debuted in 2016.
The 100-acre site boasts eight on-site hotels and 20 restaurants. It is close to City Airport and Canary Wharf, and is connected to London's transport network by two DLR stations. The new Elizabeth line will stop here in 2019, with 12-minute journey times to central London and onwards to Heathrow.
When the Titanic Hotel Liverpool opened at Stanley Dock in 2014 it marked a turning point in one of the UK's last major waterside regeneration projects. The Grade II listed red-brick former warehouse, built in 1855, sits on a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The atmospheric exhibition space known as the Rum Warehouse is adjoining. It has three multi-use and divisible rooms, and the ground floor accommodates 1,000 people theatre-style or an exhibition of 800 square metres. Transport links are excellent: five minutes from the city centre, on-site secure car parking, easy access to Liverpool Lime Street station and 20 minutes from the airport.
If you're wondering, the hotel name comes from Liverpool's association with the Titanic, whose owners, White Star Line, were based in the city.
The British holiday camp has come a long way since being parodied by television's Hi De Hi, but its ability to accommodate, exhibit and feed delegates means it's now a major force in eventing.
Butlins’ £70m investment in hotels, apartments and chalets illustrates the break from the past. Its three sites – Bognor Regis, Minehead and Skegness – have become a favourite among many businesses for meetings, events and, crucially, team building. The funfair, indoor waterpark and restaurants can be hired exclusively, as can all three sites at selected times of the year.
Having spent £175m on creating spaces across its resorts that are business friendly, Butlins is shouting about testimonials from companies as diverse as Argos to AstraZeneca, MG to New Look.
The Barbican Centre
The Barbican Centre is a performing arts and exhibition venue, contained within the Grade II listed, brutalist surrounds of a City of London estate of the same name.
In addition to the 1,950-seat Barbican Hall and 1,160-seat theatre, businesses can hire the 600-capacity Milton Court concert hall or a selection of smaller auditoriums and boardrooms for private parties. The glass-roofed Conservatory with its tropical planting is well suited for buffets, while the conference- and dining room-friendly Garden Room offers a window over the man-made lake.
From next year Barbican tube station will also be connected to the new Elizabeth line platforms at Moorgate, which is currently a short walk away.
Mere Court Hotel and Conference Centre
The four-star Mere Court Hotel and Conference Centre in Knutsford carefully balances the charm of its Arts and Crafts movement architecture with thoroughly modern facilities. Set among seven acres of beautiful gardens in the Cheshire countryside, it offers 10 private hire rooms within the main house and newly refurbished conference centre.
With capacity from two to 180, there's flexibility for events of all shapes and sizes – exhibitions, conferences, parties, training courses, awards dinners, interviews, board meetings and workshops.
Mere Court is close to the A50 and easily accessible from the M56 and M6. The nearest railway station is Knutsford on the local line between Manchester Piccadilly and Chester.
Harrogate Convention Centre
Exhibitions have been a mainstay of this spa town site for almost 200 years, with the British Medical Association hosted as long ago as 1884. When the 2,000-seat main auditorium opened in 1982 it had the honour of hosting that year's Eurovision Song Contest. Great Britain wasn't able to sequel Bucks Fizz's 1981 win, but the venue has certainly scored 'douze points' since with its extensive portfolio of spaces attracting 300,000 visitors a year.
The century-old Royal Hall underwent major refurbishment in 2008 and now provides a second venue for large conferences (capacity 978) and banquets (250-340). The opening of Studio One and Studio Two in 2011 brought modern, eco-friendly event spaces. There are smaller halls, two on-site hotels and over 1,200 parking bays.
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