Custard Factory Spaces co-director Simon Jones looks at the successes and shortfalls of the city’s event industry.
The event and exhibition industry is a major driving force in the British economy. Annually, the total revenue generated across the country from business tourism is approximately £22 billion, with £9.3 billion coming directly from United Kingdom-based events and exhibitions - an increase of more than 50 per cent over the past decade.
Bringing this closer to home, Birmingham is no exception with the creative industries making up a widely-reported nine per cent of the city’s GVA and the region’s major events generating around £300million in the past three years.
Birmingham is also fortunate to be extremely culturally strong, with a backbone of unengineered originality producing many of the reasons we are well-regarded as the second city.
From the days of Duran Duran at The Rum Runner (what you would now know as Bobby Browns) and Traffic at The Elbow Room, to Jamelia at Space 2 and Envy And Other Sins at The Barfly, this city has continued to give birth to, nurture and celebrate its ongoing fair share of musical artists, scenes and fashions.
When confronted by these facts, it is undeniable that both the economic impact and the cultural influence that the events industry has on Birmingham is not only important, but imperative to its success and survival.
However, working in the events industry is often a difficult and unsupported activity and the people behind our own civic industry have built these communities on hard work and insight.
Brum’s independent promoters strive to represent their own individual tastes and at the same time introduce new sounds and styles to a wider audience.
Alongside them, the larger venues and event organisers are significantly investing in the city and working across bigger arenas to build the foundations of this developing sector. Birmingham’s diverse consumer base helps to support such an eclectic and exciting event industry, but unfortunately that is only half the battle.
If we are going to really cement our place in this fiercely competitive arena and continue as a city to reap the widespread benefits of such a culture - for example, Birmingham’s Eastside-based music festival, Gigbeth, brings the wider city approximately £1million in indirect revenue surrounding the event - then a progressive partnership between the private and the public sectors must be established.
This means presenting everything as a whole, from highlighting the city’s transport infrastructure and accessibility to celebrating the commercial approaches and relevant experience of Birmingham’s jobbing promoters.
In order to attract the attention of the international and national tour operators, event organisers and big-billing artist management agencies, a cohesive collection of ambassadors from both the public and private sectors is an encouragingly solid platform from which to start.
Only as a united force will Birmingham be able to outshine other major British cities and secure the placement of the “major events”, large-scale productions and international exhibitions that are so important to a region’s prosperity.
Birmingham has so much to be proud of and so much to offer; it’s just a question of building a common agenda, one that understands the considerations of both the civic and the commercial arenas and presenting this unification in the correct international and national marketplaces.
The events industry has helped build Birmingham into what it is today, both financially and culturally and if we want to continue these city-wide achievements, then the public and private wheels that move us along have simply got to start turning together.
* Simon Jones is co-director of Custard Factory Spaces and managing director of The Factory Club.