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eventS base For people delivering events & festivals in Scotland Issue 8 / autumn 2017

Geoff Ellis what next for mr t in the park



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contents 5 FOREWORD Striking the right balance

The Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries is well placed to appeal to the events market


8 SPECIAL FOCUS: FIFE Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries Queensferry Crossing Fairmont St Andrews 16 CULTURE Hogmanay Glasgow Life Host Cities Andy Murray Live

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22 COVER STORY Geoff Ellis on T in the Park

EDITOR Kevin O’Sullivan 07834 404615

26 BUSINESS EVENTS Amanda Ferguson profile VisitScotland’s ‘LEGENDS’ campaign Dark Skies conference InnovateForum Judy Rae

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34 DELIVERY David Coletto DMCs

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41 Classifieds

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44 TECHNOLOGY Krowdthink

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Striking the right balance

s anyone who has ever been involved with putting on an event will tell you, the margins are almost always wafer thin and the benefits often don’t bear speaking about when compared to the risks. Unlike bricks and mortar business, outdoor events in particular are subject to the weather, not to mention the cruel winds of commerce and increasingly security, which now sadly forms part of the everyday event management process. Many event organisers are fortunate in Scotland to be supported in their activities by a beneficent state; EventScotland’s funding programmes sustain large, medium and small grassroots events across the country, without whom many would fail or do considerably less well. Next year’s themed year – Scotland’s Year of Young People 2018 – is an especially well-supported programme of activity which will see greater expenditure than those of recent years. All of that is to be welcomed, of course. However, as much help as the government can be to events, nothing quite makes up for the bureaucratic hoops that organisers must leap through in order to deliver them. No one will have failed to notice that Scotland’s largest outdoor music festival, T in the Park, was cancelled this year, and has been ruled out for 2018 as well. Run by DF Concerts for 23 years – under the

direction of Scotland’s preeminent music promoter Geoff Ellis – an event worth £15m to the national economy now has a very uncertain future thanks to a series of interventions from regulators, objectors and then regulators again. There is a long and complicated backstory to the sorry debacle that forced the UK’s longest-running music sponsorship programme off the rails, which we chronicle in these pages. But the overriding lesson seems to be, in this instance at least, that the snowball effect of unleashing what Ellis calls ‘full planning’ led to an unstoppable force of officialdom that simply could not be overcome. As a society, we are bound of course to protect our environment at all costs. But we also owe a duty to the many thousands of visitors who attend an event, the people they employ and the communities they enrich. Striking the right balance is never easy, but event organisers, especially those who create something from nothing, should be admired and supported for the activity they bring to the economy and the experience they bring to our lives. With the costs associated with putting on events on the rise, there has never been a better time to start a debate about which way the pendulum should swing. Kevin O’Sullivan, Editor Eventsbase | autumn 2017 | 5

briefing three venues redeveloped for corporate team-building market Despite the business travel downturn MICE inquiry numbers are up, according to VisitScotland

Business travel drop-off but MICE sector “booming”, say industry chiefs A sharp decline in business travel visits over the last six months does not reflect the “booming” level of activity in the Scottish MICE sector, industry chiefs have said. National statistics released this month showed a stark drop off in the number of ‘business travel’ visits from January to June this year – compared to 2016. The figures, compiled by the Office for National Statistics as part of international and domestic tourism surveys, showed a fall of 46.8% for business travellers coming to Scotland – from 1.094m to 582,000 year-on-year. Data also showed a large fall in business travel spend for the first half of the year in 2016 to 2017 – from £319m to £152m. VisitScotland – which has hailed the ‘spectacular growth’ levels in overall international

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tourism to the country with day trip and holiday market figures showing a rise in visitors by 9.3% and 4.6% respectively in the first six months of the year – said business travel had been affected for a “number of reasons”, including the growth in technology and economic uncertainty. A spokesperson said: “Business travel has been affected for a number of reasons. Firstly, in a digital age of teleconferencing, Skype and Facebook Live, many are finding that they simply don’t need to make longer distance trips out of the office. “Secondly, private sector businesses are being more cautious with their spending due to wider economic conditions. We have to be careful not to confuse ‘people who travel for business’ with ‘Business Tourism’, however, which is still a booming sector as Scotland continues to prove its worth on the world stage as a deliverer of major business events and conferences.” The spokesperson added: “Our inquiry numbers show that the Meeting Incentives Conferences and Events market in Scotland is growing year on year from UK and international event planners. Due to increase in airline connectivity and accessibility in the last few years, North America and Germany represent particularly high growth markets. Not only

does business tourism benefit Scotland economically – causing a ripple effect that touches every industry, business and community in the country, from laundry services to life sciences – hosting prestigious professional conferences boosts the reputation of the country in that field of expertise, which can lead to future inward investment.” Leading destination management companies (DMCs) in Scotland also said that the figures did not reflect their experience of the current market. Andrew Burnet, Managing Director of Andrew Burnet & Co, said: “Business Travel in my book is classed as individual or very small corporate groups with a specific need in the destination, generally hotel accommodation. “The imbalance could possibly be down to MICE groups displacing business individuals which is a positive thing if basing it on overall revenue generated by both segments.” Bill Thomson, Founder of fellow DMC Hello Scotland, agreed and made the the same distinction in the market. The headline international passenger survey statistics also capture a wide range of business travel purposes, including haulage, distribution and freight, which accounts for 25% of all business travel visits.

Three exclusive-use venues with stunning loch-side views have been launched under the Susan Reid Collection. Stuckytaymore, a sprawling 13-bedroom house overlooking Loch Tay in Perthshire, is available for hire for the corporate and private hire market as of July this year. Stuckgowan, a Grade-A listed building which dates from before 1820, is a nine-bedroom property overlooking Loch Lomond in the Trossachs National Park and Stuckdarach, a grade B listed building situated in the grounds of Stuckgowan has been restored from a derelict state into a ‘contemporary’ six-bed retreat. Susan Reid, who represents some of Scotland’s most stunning private houses, venues and castles for hire, said: “These are very special properties. “I love working for owners who put a personal touch into the redevelopment and decor of their properties and all three of these beautiful houses have been restored and fitted out to the highest possible standard. “They’ve been renovated throughout and feature jacuzzis in the garden; they’ve also got extensive grounds, which are ideal for activities, especially for the corporate team-building market.” The venues are owned by a private family with a background in the pharmaceuticals industry and have been purchased at various times since 2011.

‘perfect flatform’

Chris Foy joins VisitAberdeenshire Chris Foy has joined VisitAberdeenshire as the destination management organisation’s new chief executive. Foy, who was previously Head of Business Events at VisitBritain, took up his new position in August following the retirement of previous CEO Steve Harris. A keen cyclist, Foy joins the organisation at a critical juncture in the region’s development with the new £333m AECC due to open in 2019. The centre, funded by Aberdeen City Council, will be a key focus in attracting leisure and business tourism Foy said: “It’s going to have major impact on the visitor economy in Aberdeenshire; the capacity we now have to attract major business

events, conferences, concerts and activity is really going to raise the bar for the city and make a significant contribution to our visitor economy.” The facility is being built by Henry Boot Developments and its main arena will accommodate 12,500 people; it is anticipated that the

AECC will contribute an additional 4.5 million visitors and £113m of visitor spending to the Scottish economy. Foy brings over 25 years of tourism industry experience to the position, having also held positions at the former London Tourist Board, London Development Agency, and in the heritage attractions sector. Colin Crosby, VisitAberdeenshire chairman, said: “Chris brings a wealth of tourism experience to the role from both a strategic and operational focus, which is vital if VisitAberdeenshire is to continue to position the region as a top leisure and business tourism destination.”

VisitScotland has described meetings industry expo IMEX America as the ‘perfect platform’ for the launch of its new business events digital campaign. The international MICE industry trade show, which was held in Las Vegas a fortnight ago, was the venue for the launch of the innovation-inspired LEGENDS campaign. Richard Knights, Director of Marketing - The Americas, Business Events, said: “The appetite for information relating to Scotland and planning business events continues to be high, with continued investment in venues across all the regions of Scotland. Additionally, IMEX provided the perfect platform to officially launch LEGENDS, the focused Business Event digital media campaign.”

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special focus


The Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries: a perfect example of blending old and new

With its bright, airy spaces, the £12.4m Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries extension is more than meets the eye 8 | Eventsbase | autumn 2017

As well as housing a brand-new museum and community hub, the architectural gem is well placed to appeal to the events market By Kevin O’Sullivan


ith a past life in the weddings business she probably has a better instinct than most as to what makes an attractive venue. “In my head, every time I walk around the gallery there’s an image of an evening event with people in black tie, kilts, dresses,

with champagne and canapes,” says Kirsty Keay, Director of Corporate and Commercial Development at Fife Cultural Trust. We’re sitting having coffee on the restaurant terrace in the bright, airy surrounds of the brand new £12.4m extension to the Dunfermline Carnegie Library, a project which has been 10 years in the making and was finally launched to the public in May this year. Designed by Richard Murphy Architects - the firm that won the RIBA/Channel 4 House of the Year 2016 for the Murphy House at Hart Street in Edinburgh - the building is a perfect example of blending old and new. Lofty, open spaces offer wide angle views across a landscaped garden to Dunfermline Abbey and the old Abbot House,

whilst rust-coloured steel girders on the outside are a nod to the town’s industrial past. Although slap bang in the middle of the city’s Heritage Quarter, the building - which has already won four architectural awards in its own right - does not for one minute look out of place. I’m visiting out of curiosity; among a flurry of press releases sent to mark the occasion of what was without doubt an important moment in the regeneration story for Dunfermline and the Kingdom of Fife, there was a noticeable footnote about the new venue being made available for event hire. Fife Cultural Trust - an arm’s length charity set up to run the county council’s leisure and culture facilities - has responsibility for the marketing of its venues not only

for public consumption, but also for the corporate market. With the opening of the new Queensferry Crossing in August, the Kingdom has an opportunity to promote its venues and spaces to events organisers, who are ever keen to find new facilities to host meetings, receptions, conferences and celebrations. As we tour the building - guided ably by Simon Hobson, the facility manager, it quickly becomes clear that with both plenary-sized spaces and a series of smaller break-out rooms, Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries is perfectly positioned to tap into the events sector. It is a point not lost on Keay, who recognises the potential but stresses the need for a bit of time to allow the building to find its niche. She says: “We’re really conscious of the fact

that it’s a new building so there’s a balance you need to strike where you’re keen to capitalise on the fact that you’ve got a new building, and everyone’s interested in looking at you, but we also need to make sure for us that we would never want to over-promise and under-deliver.” She adds: “We want to make sure that the offer is absolutely right, that we understand our customers, and that we know what we can offer. We already have people using the building and we’re taking a much more partnership-based approach, so we’re working with people to build what they want and learning from that experience. And it all goes into refining the end product.” More widely, Fife Cultural Trust is looking to repurpose its offer to the events industry. As we speak, Keay

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special focus fife è

Keay says a new commercial manager is being brought in to specifically develop the events potential of the trust’s buildings. The trust has responsibility for a number of museum and heritage venues including Kirkcaldy Galleries; in addition, there are four theatre and community venues including Rothes Halls, the Adam Smith Theatre, The Lochgelly Centre and Carnegie Hall. Venue management has previously been run in partnership with the council but the responsibility is due come “in house” as of October, says Keay, with a catering manager working in tandem with the commercial manager to offer a more coordinated approach. As a charitable trust where all the proceeds are ploughed back into the running of services, Keay stresses also that the trust is able to keep its prices competitive. “If you talk about other venues like Rothes Halls, there are very few areas where you can get a conference centre of that size at that price we charge because we’re here to be accessible to communities, we’re not here to turn a profit of a corporate nature,” she says. But she says the business tourism market is one she is keen to develop, adding: “The larger venues we’d gear towards the conference market but the question for us is always ‘what’s our unique selling point?’ “The question is do you always

n History

want to have the same old meeting in the same old space or do you want to do something different, and move away from typical conferencestyle seating and do something bright and colourful? What we’re trying to remember is that some of the stuff that gets people engaged is not sitting around a table for two hours and talking things through. It’s a completely different approach - it’s space to move, being comfortable, it’s your surroundings, whether that’s how things look, how things feel. And that’s what we’re going to look at with our conference offer and our meeting rooms,” she says.

n Bridge opening Although open to the public from May, the facility was officially ‘launched’ in September to tie in with the opening of the new Queensferry Crossing. Local dignataries attended the opening ceremony - which featured notable Dunfermline celebrities who populate the museum’s ‘Wall of Fame’, including Scottish 70s hard rock band Nazareth. John Murray, Tourism Officer at Fife Council, said: “Tourism already supports approximately 11,000 jobs and there are many cultural hotspots for visitors to explore, including Falkland Palace, St Andrews and the new Dunfermline Carnegie Galleries and Library. The new bridge will enable Fife to build on existing opportunities, grow Fife’s cultural offering and attract visitors all year round.”

The new Queensferry Crossing. Photograph: John Murray, Tourism Officer, Fife council

10 | Eventsbase | autumn 2017

“We want to make sure that the offer is absolutely right, that we understand our customers, and that we know what we can offer” Kirsty Keay, Director of Corporate and Commercial Development, Fife Cultural Trust

He was considered the Bill Gates of his day and the wealth he built up during his lifetime is still providing legacies to Dunfermline. Andrew Carnegie, who was born in the city, amassed an extraordinary fortune and his pledge to give it all away is still benefiting the city almost a hundred years after his death. The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded Fife Council a grant of £2.8m towards the new museum, the council committed £8.6m and the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust contributed £1m. The project to extend the building was conceived 10 years ago and construction work began in December 2014. As a modern extension to a culturally rich heritage quarter, it has attracted both curiosity and some concern from locals. Keay says: “We had people queuing to return library books on the first day of opening because they were so pleased to be coming back into what they saw as their library. What was also lovely to see was the woman who signed the petition against the extension coming in and saying how wrong she was because she was so in love with the building. And they actually hadn’t touched her library. She could see it as it was and could also see what had gone around it.”


The Red Arrows formed the centrepiece of the celebrations for the opening of the new Queensferry Crossing. Picture courtesy of Chris Brand @TinSwinger (Twitter)

How exactly does one go about booking the Red Arrows? You just pick up the phone to the Squadron Leader, it turns out



ith their unmistakeable red, white and blue smoke contrails you know when the Red Arrows appear over the horizon that it signifies a special event. The RAF’s famous Aerobatics Team duly obliged last month, turning a menacing sky over the Forth into something altogether more colourful and exciting. Timed to perfection, the Hawk jets stooped and banked out of the clouds and onlookers gathered below – visibly concerned about the possible onset of rain – momentarily downed umbrellas and ponchos and enjoyed the high-water mark of the official opening of the new Queensferry Crossing, which completes the triumvirate of bridges linking Edinburgh to Fife. Although the skies did eventually open, the ribbon-cutting ceremony was performed by Her Majesty The




The Queensferry Crossing celebrations involved a ribbon cutting ceremony by Her Majesty the Queen and concert performances by the likes of KT Tunstall and King Creosote


Queen in time-honoured fashion and Unique Events – tasked with the planning and execution of a multi-faced event – breathed a sigh of relief. Sworn to secrecy, the Edinburgh events company had been meticulously planning the Royal occasion for several months (contracted by Transport Scotland) as the centrepiece event among a succession of ‘bridge celebrations’ taking place at the beginning of September. THE COVERAGE duly went worldwide and Al Thomson – who has put on countless high-profile public events, from Edinburgh’s Hogmanay to the opening of the Scottish Parliament - notched up another major event in a long career in the industry. Thomson, Director of Unique Events, says: “The only thing that didn’t go to plan was the weather and we had a fairly horrendous downpour afterwards. Coordinating the 3,500 people who were coming back and forth across the bridge is not without its challenges but fortunately it all went really, really smoothly, apart from the weather,

which is the nature of outdoor events in Scotland.” As for booking the Red Arrows, one might expect a special MOD telegram – or perhaps a direct patch into an equerry at Buckingham Palace itself. So, I’m surprised to learn it’s as simple as picking up the phone to the RAF airbase concerned and asking to speak with the Squadron Leader. “When we were putting together what the event would look like, the Red Arrows were top of the list and so then it’s obviously about contacting them and letting them know what the occasion is,” adds Thomson. “The question was, ‘how would the Red Arrows like to come and be part of this celebration?’ Once you inform them that it’s for Royal attendance, they are obviously at your beck and call to come and do that. They want to make sure that any Royal event has as much profile and status as they can give it, and nothing does that more than the Red Arrows flypast.” He added: “If you are looking for a more professional outfit, doing displays all over the country, as soon


as you tell the Red Arrows there’s an opportunity to fly over all three bridges across the Forth, they were as excited as we were about coming to do it. Although the weather wasn’t the kindest they were certainly able to do a full flypast, which was the shot we were looking for because we had a helicopter camera picking that up to make sure we were getting all three.” He said: “We were tasked with coordinating all of the broadcasts to make sure we had all the right permissions and exclusion zones for the Red Arrows, so it was just about joining all the dots together to make sure everyone was aware of the plans and making sure the timings for the ceremony, and the procession across the bridge, as well as the flypast, were all timed to perfection.” Although the world’s media focused on the aerial display – and pictures of the Queen, Prince Philip and the First Minister – there were many more elements that went into producing the event, including organising a waterborne flotilla, producing the event via Facebook Live (to an audience of 30,000

so far) organising a Royal Marine band, West Lothian Schools Pipe Band, a Royal Company of Archers, a music concert featuring KT Tunstall and King Creosote, and an event for 10,000 schoolchildren to walk the bridge the following day. And that was on top of a series of other events the company had been working on in tandem, including the Mary Queen of Scots festival in Kinross and a torchlight procession in Stirling night to mark the beginning of the Bloody Scotland crimewriters’ festival. “We have been beyond our eyeballs,” says Thomson, who is currently scoping out another forthcoming project, Illuminight, which will transform Dean Castle & Country Park in Kilmarnock into a fire and light spectacular from October 25 to November 19 – an event scheduled to celebrate the renovation and relaunch of the historic building and grounds. “We’ve had an amazingly busy 10 days,” adds Thomson. IT HAS been an up and down year for Unique, a characterisation Thomson accepts. The company,

which conceived the Hogmanay street party and ran it to international acclaim for 24 years, fell victim to the cruel winds of commerce earlier this year when the contract was awarded to rival firm Underbelly. They also suffered the cancellation of the popular nighttime sound and light show at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh after three years of staging the event – despite attracting 42,000 visitors for the month-long event last autumn – in favour of a festive light show put on by a London-based promoter. Despite the upheaval, Thomson is sanguine about the company’s prospects – Hogmanay was “very, very consuming”, he says, and a parting of the ways has given him pause for thought as to what kind of events Unique might get involved with in the future; I detect perhaps a lingering hint of regret in his voice, and perhaps some trepidation, but he sounds genuinely upbeat about a number of projects in the pipeline and being free to consider how changing events and festivals audiences might lead to that next creative spark. “Obviously, losing a 24-year reign

“When we were putting together what the event would look like, the Red Arrows were top of the list ” Al Thomson, Director, Unique Events

of Hogmanay was a real blow to Unique Events but as we would have hoped we have come back stronger with some amazing new projects, some great new annual projects that we’ve been able to deliver; the Queensferry Crossing was the first major event and that went amazingly well,” he says. He added: “We are about to produce our new illumination event in Kilmarnock – Dean Castle & Country Park – called Illuminight, which starts at the end of October,

and we’ve also just announced a new winter project with the charity Social Bite, which is called Sleep in the Park. This is another new interesting event for us to take on and it will hopefully be the largest sleepout that has ever been held; we’ve got some great acts lined up to help raise £4m to eradicate homelessness in Scotland. The variety of new things that we are taking on and looking ahead to projects over the next 12 months, things are looking fantastic for Unique Events.” And as for creating something that will capture the so-called ‘millennial’ events and festival goers – who are perhaps tiring of some of the outdoor music set pieces which appear to be dwindling in number every year – Thomson hints that there may be some opportunities for Unique as it moves to the next chapter in its story. He adds: “Actually, it’s given us the opportunity to go and look at a lot of new projects and to go and work in new areas of the country, and there’s some exciting stuff that we’re looking at for next year as well. The winter events, illumina-

tions, fire installations are all very popular at the moment; the summer festivals are changing, they’re evolving; even many of the big festivals are falling by the wayside as people look for different experiences. The festivals we all grew up with and loved, well, we’re all now grown up and have families and want to be able to do things with them. So, we’re definitely looking at some exciting new projects which caters for that market – that’s where I think the direction of events and festivals is going over the next 10 years.” And having put on the 50th anniversary of the Forth Road Bridge fireworks show in 2014, the Rail Bridge is the only remaining structure across the firth that Thomson can’t yet count as an event in his portfolio. It would be fitting if the famously girdered bridge was to be the focus of another celebration one day soon. “We’ve done two of the three bridges and we’ve got our sights on the delivery of something for the third bridge – I hope we can do that in the future and have the whole set,” he says.

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Fairmont St Andrews is aiming at the MICE market

Serving up luxury – and fun The revamp of Fairmont St Andrews, one of the jewels in the crown of the AccorHotels group, gives it fresh impetus in the business events market, says Director of Sales and Marketing Jane McGee By Kevin O’Sullivan


ane McGee is just about to jet off on a well-deserved sunshine break after ‘bedding in’ a multimillion revamp for Fairmont St Andrews, which has made for a busy summer. She’s been spearheading a drive to increase MICE market sales for the east coast Fife destination, which is ideally suited to the meetings industry. It is a very large hotel with multiple plenary and breakout spaces, and has wide halls and corridors

which caters well for exhibitions. But it is the redesign that has genuinely brought a sense of luxury and business traveller edge to the venue, which from its cliff-top perch commands some of the best sea views to be found anywhere in Scotland. “I’m delighted the refurbishment has happened and we are now up there with the big key five-star players in Scotland,” says McGee. “I really feel as though we have a product now that fits extremely well in the market. The feedback we have had from business users has been very positive: they feel it is much nicer and more intimate feel throughout the hotel, especially with the enhanced leisure facilities.” McGee is keen to use the hotel’s redesign as a hook to bring in more incentive reward trips to the venue; a special package has been put together for £249 per delegate which includes a full Scottish breakfast, meeting room hire, two course buffet lunch, a three-course dinner with coffee, all day coffee (for the

14 | Eventsbase | autumn 2017

highly caffeinated individual or ‘healthy option’, where required), a dedicated event manager, and a treasure hunt around St Andrews assisted by an app. It is the last entry on this list – in association with Maximillion Events, using GPS digital technology – which piques my interest. Fairmont St Andrews has recognised the increasing use of gamification in incentive and team-building activities which helps bolster the delegate experience and, of course, fun, whilst keeping the offer competitively priced. McGee says: “It’s great for groups and small parties. People are very busy and time poor so if you can put some options together for them, it has that lightbulb effect. It’s looking to bring a bit of fun and exploration into the visitor experience.” Also adding to the experience is Fairmont St Andrews’ focus on cuisine. When I speak to Jane, the hotel has just hosted an evening of Scottish gastronomy to celebrate the relaunch. The charity event was

attended by GMs from across the luxury hotel market in Scotland and featured Gary Maclean, the Masterchef Professionals champion. “Our own pastry chef Gerard is also a keen forager and picks a lot of ingredients from the local woods,” says McGee, emphasising the hotel’s own focus on sustainable produce, which has seen it develop its own growing garden for herbs and vegetables, and sourcing 75% of its food from Scottish producers. “We recognise that is what our consumers increasingly want from their stays,” she adds. “The food is part of the experience of Fairmont St Andrews.” She adds: “There is so much to shout about at the moment: I think with the opening of the new Queensferry Crossing and the V&A coming to Dundee, the timing for our redesign could not be better.” For details call 01334 837000 email Visit

WINNER OF THE EVENTIT 2016 BEST SMALL STAND AWARD EVENTS | DESIGN | STYLING | THEMING | HIRE | Glasgow: 01355 521325 | Edinburgh: 0131 516 5055 Eventsbase | autumn 2017 | 15



How to deliver a bucket-list event Martin Green plans on bringing a sense of theatre to the world’s most famous street party By Kevin O’Sullivan


hen Underbelly won the contract to produce Hogmanay earlier this year, the events company was quick to announce the hiring of Martin Green to oversee its creative direction. Green has an impeccable background as an executive producer for ‘mega events’: in 2012, he oversaw the London Olympics as Head of Ceremonies, and is currently eight months through a year-long stint as Chief Executive at Hull City of Culture 2017. Hogmanay, the annual street party that electrifies Edinburgh as the city counts down to the Bells, is one of the most recognisable New Year’s Eve parties anywhere in the world. And whilst there was controversy at the way in which incumbent producer Unique Events was stripped of the contract after 24 years of running the event, there was palpably a sense of excite-

ment this summer as Underbelly unveiled its plans - including Green - at the city’s Mansfield Traquair centre. I speak to Green as he is about to dive into a monthly production meeting which will shape an event worth reportedly £40m to the city’s economy. It’s an enormous responsibility. “It’s a bucket-list event, isn’t it,?” says Green. “It’s one of those things that you want to say you’ve been to. It’s traditionally one of the greatest street parties in the world and we want to continue to innovate that, to continue to give images of a fantastic Edinburgh that go around the world, and make a fantastic night out for the 60,000-odd people who join us and go away and feel they need to come back and tell their friends to come.” Green’s assessment of past Hogmanay events - which span the length of Princes Street - is that they had become a little disjointed. His aim this year is to create a “single, unified experience” using Edinburgh as a vast spatial canvass upon which interesting things can be done via performance, sound, lighting and video. Whilst careful not to give too much away, the sense is that this year’s event will be different, with theatricality at

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its core. Green, assisted by director and choreographer Struan Leslie, have undoubtedly been brought in as a heavy-hitting duo to deliver what Underbelly promises will be a ‘rebooted’ spectacle. “Our main preoccupation is with trying to create a unified event and a unified space and a unified experience. In the past it was a slightly bitty experience that sometimes you felt you were spending all evening waiting around for the fireworks; I think we want to make sure that from the moment the gates open that it is a great experience for the audience.” On a technical level, Green says he wants to utilise fibre optic technology to link the event together to “play content” more widely; he also seems keen on using the buildings, the floor and sky as the natural canvas that surrounds the street party. “Pragmatically, we started really looking at how can we make the whole sound work over the entire as it’s a vast site, so it comes together and works together; we’ve got screens right through the site so how can we bring them together? A lot of this is about looking at the assets and sweating them more, really. And of course, technology allows

“Our main preoccupation is with trying to create a unified event and a unified space and a unified experience” Martin Green, Underbelly

you to do that now; it’s much easier to link things together. It’s much easier to play content across a wide site and play audio, so we’re looking at all the fibre optic hook-ups. Once we’ve got that unified space backed up by the screen content, it’s almost like making a TV programme that’s just for that site to link up the whole thing and interact with the audience and bring other experi-

ences in, using sound in its individual spaces but every now and then bringing it together, because after all this is the world’s greatest street party. There’s a great stage, we can create a great sense of theatre and have a great party,” he says. One thing Green is categorically not going to change is the emphasis on fireworks. Titanium - who

he worked with on the London Olympics - will be firing the set at Hogmanay this year and Underbelly has already announced that the display will be extended from six to nine minutes in keeping with global competition. “I love fireworks, and I’m an absolute fan of fireworks and would never stop displaying [them]; it’s one of the most exciting things that

I’m so lucky to be involved in, and we work with some great people at Titanium,” he adds. “I think New Year’s Eve should be about more than that; it’s not about just waiting for midnight although there is a wonderful sense of theatre with the countdown, but I think if you’re inviting people into a space who are paying for their tickets for several hours, then give them

all kinds of different experiences. There’s a great stage, we can create a great sense of theatre and have a great party. The event goes on for an hour after the fireworks and you don’t want a sense of anti-climax, you want to keep everyone there, using the video and sound content and the light, using the theatrical content that you can put in the crowd and leave them wanting more.”

Eventsbase | autumn 2017 | 17


Move over violinists, singers and artists. The delegates and corporate guests are coming ... 18 | Eventsbase | autumn 2017

Some of Glasgow’s iconic cultural venues are perfect for conferences. We take a whistlestop tour to check them out By Kevin O’Sullivan


strike a bit of luck. It’s late September, the sun is shining and I’m about to go on a very brisk tour of some of Glasgow’s most iconic cultural venues. It’s not the first time I’ve been to Tramway on the south side of the Clyde – it’s a short hop by taxi from City Chambers on George Square where I meet my guide,

ies but they have seated capacities of up to 600 for the biggest space in T1, which has hosted events such as a Strictly Come Dancing gala dinner for Scottish Power; T4 has also played host to smaller local public-sector conferences. As is the case for all Glasgow Life venues the catering is provided in-house by Encore and there are engineers across the estate who can bring their AV, rigging and staging experience to bear. The Old Fruitmarket is perhaps the most visually stunning of the three venues; entering through the bright and airy Candelriggs bar (ideal for drinks receptions), the balcony with its original Victorian market advertising hoardings overlooking the floor and stage area below is breathtaking.

Glasgow Life is putting its best corporate foot forward with iconic cultural venues such as the Old Fruitmarket (main picture), Kelvingrove Bandstand (above) and Tramway (left) available for hire.

Gordon Boag, media officer at Glasgow Life. I was last in the building – the atmospheric former municipal tram shed – for the Turner Prize in 2015, where I covered the event in these pages. This time round, I get the full tour of its facilities, which are increasingly being used by the corporate business events market. It’s part of a strategic push to position cultural venues managed by Glasgow Life, which are based throughout the city, as destinations for conferences and meetings, from the very largest for 2,000 delegates at the Royal Concert Halls on Sauchiehall Street to the smaller, more intimate (and interesting) venues like Tramway. Next on the hit list this afternoon are the Old Fruitmarket and Kelvingrove Bandstand, although the latter is an almost exclusively performance-oriented venue (unless some events plan-

ners fancy taking a punt on good weather for an open-air meeting). The challenge for Glasgow Life is scheduling; all of its venues, ranging from swimming pools, stadia to concert halls, are occupied to a greater extent by very busy leisure and cultural programmes; athletes may be training, and orchestras tuning their violas. But Glasgow Life has identified certain availability sweet spots – especially over the summer months when many large association conferences have their meetings. At a time when arms-length council bodies are having to come up with creative ways to maximise their revenue streams, it makes good sense. As Karen Taylor, Events and Commercial Development Manager, explains: “We have a team now looking at the international conference market and we’re trying to develop the business levels, particularly the Royal Concert Hall

which is our biggest space. So, we’re targeting that venue going forward with a campaign which is due to start in January. Our message is we’ve got the capacity and we’ve got availability, especially over the summer. “A lot of medical conferences and association meetings take place over July and August outwith the academic timetable. That’s our main focus and we’re developing that just now.” Karen and Aileen Crawford, Head of Conventions at Glasgow Convention Bureau, which came into being as a result of Glasgow Life and Glasgow City Marketing Bureau merging, meet each month with an eye to developing the relationship between conventions and Glasgow’s Cultural Venues and further strengthening the integrated approach that would benefit both. Tramway itself offers some large spaces; T1, T2 and T4 may conjure up images of the Terminator mov-

It’s so easy in a city like Glasgow to host your annual conference or awards dinner in a utilitarian airless, windowless hotel, where delegates can have a drink and dance, before bedding down for the night all on site. But you have to ask why, when alternatives like this can be found, and with reasonable price tags. “The Fruitmarket really doesn’t have a corporate feel at all,” says Taylor. “And where better can you have a cabaret-style conference!? In the main, the space is used for banqueting and dinners; we can schedule around our performances for that corporate market as well. We can do theatre-style 600 downstairs and banqueting tables for up to 400.” The last stop on our tour is Kelvingrove Bandstand, where I am staggered to learn Nile Rogers performed last year and Tom Jones has made a personal request to return (the staff had to collect up various undergarments thrown on stage, but they’re willing to excuse the behaviour); it is a venue which offers music promoters something different, once again, in the city. A refurbished backstage area accommodates performers in comfort and the amphitheatre in the summer can hold up to 2,300 for all manner of events including cinema, spoken word and festival performances. We make it to all three venues across the city in what seems like record time; from what I’ve seen of them I’ll certainly be back, most likely for a meeting but hopefully for some soul funk.

Eventsbase | autumn 2017 | 19


Rising security costs a ‘major issue’ for organisers of high-impact events That’s the message from Paul Bush OBE, Director of Events at VisitScotland, ahead of the Host Cities conference in Glasgow next month By Kevin O’Sullivan


elivering high-impact events in the ‘current climate’ will be the dominant theme of this year’s Host Cities conference, which takes place in Glasgow next month. Generating economic and social impact whilst also managing security concerns will be among the main topics of discussion for international event organisers as they gather for the annual forum on November 27-28 at the Technology and Innovation Centre (TIC) in the city. The event is billed as ‘the largest international meeting of cities and sports, business and cultural events’ and this year features a range of top speakers, including Sir Craig Reedie CBE, IOC Member and President of the World Anti-Doping Agency. Paul Bush OBE, Director of Events at VisitScotland will also be among the guest speakers, as will David Grevemberg CBE, Chief Executive, Commonwealth Games Federation, and former Chief Executive of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Organising Committee. Bush said: “To ensure the best possible impact from major events in today’s climate, hosts must follow the event impacts model, which means generating economic growth, international and domestic profile as well as social and cultural benefits both through their immediate delivery as well as their subsequent legacy. It is no longer acceptable to put on an event without considering all of these areas. They must ensure impact by responding to customers’ needs and using the latest technology.” In terms of managing security risks to events, Bush adds: “It is an exciting but also a challenging time

Paul Bush: “Alongside the challenges there are also great opportunities”

for hosts of High Impact Events. The recent events in London, Manchester and the rest of the world have again brought security to the fore. He says: “The current security climate and the rising costs this brings, even withstanding the operational implications of heightened security procedures, is a major issue for events for all sizes, especially ones of High Impact that attract wide-spread attention and large

crowds, so the session on ‘Strategies for hosting safe and accessible events’ is especially pertinent. We know from the recent work we did with Police Scotland during Counter-terrorism Awareness Week how important this issue is to the industry.” He adds: “However, alongside the challenges there are also great opportunities. The rise in technology means that audiences engage

Speakers will also include the President & CEO, PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games

20 | Eventsbase | autumn 2017

with an event in a whole new and exciting way. The streaming of content, for example, allows event audiences to share their experience instantaneously with friends and family, making them part of the moment. “It also allows event operators to engage with audiences around the world not just those within the stadium or arena, meaning the impact of an event can be far greater than ever before. So the sessions on ‘How technology can enhance the live experience’ will be particularly apt for events adjusting to this new way of engagement and delivery. For High Impact Events in the current climate, dealing with these challenges while harnessing these new opportunities is vital and it’s great to see the conference programme reflecting these current issues.” Host Cities takes place at the TIC in Glasgow on November 28-29 - a day after EventScotland’s own National Events Conference at the same venue. Visit


Andy Murray Live will be coming to the SSE Hydro in Glasgow for its second charity fundraiser

Game, set and wine match One of the most appealing charity fund-raising events to be held in Scotland features Andy Murray, Roger Federer and a five-course gourmet meal with fine wines by Albert Roux By Kevin O’Sullivan


ir Andy Murray will take part in a charity fundraiser when he lines up to play long-time rival Roger Federer in the first ever match between the two on Scottish soil. Murray, two-times Wimbledon champion, will play the Swiss legend, who has won the grass court championships a staggering eight times, on

November 7 at the SSE Hydro. More than 10,000 fans snapped up tickets in under two hours when they went on sale in February as the Andy Murray Live event comes to Glasgow for its second year. The event will feature a mix of world-class tennis and some lighthearted entertainment. Following the singles match against Federer, Murray will be joined by brother Jamie to take on Tim Henman and Mansour Bahrami in a more relaxed doubles challenge. Once again, all proceeds from the event will be donated to charity. Funds this year will be shared equally between Unicef, the world’s leading children’s organisation, of which Murray is a UK Ambassador, and local Govan charity, Sunnysid3up. A spokesman for the organisers, 77 Management, Andy Murray’s management company, said: “Andy

wanted to create a legacy event in Scotland that would be an opportunity to benefit not only UNICEF, for which he is an ambassador, but also share the proceeds with a local charity in Glasgow, where he was born.” The spokesman added: “Last year’s event was the first time we organised Andy Murray Live and it was a fantastic success, raising £305,000 for charities. With the addition of an exclusive fundraising dinner the night before, we are looking to make it even bigger and better this year and hopefully double the amount raised.” The event is being produced by Andrew Wells, Event Director – who is working with Lagardère Sports to stage the event at the SSE Hydro. In addition to the exhibition match, the fundraising dinner the evening before will be set up next to the court for up to 250 diners, who will take part in an auction to raise

additional money for charity. Comedian Rob Brydon will MC that event, which also features a performance from pop star Will Young. A five-course meal with ‘matched wine’ is being provided by renowned French chef Albert Roux, who already has a culinary association with Murray through the Scottish star’s Cromlix Hotel in Dunblane, and the Maître d’ from Michel Roux’s Le Gavroche restaurant is also being drafted in. Murray said: “Last year was such a fantastic night and to raise over £300,000 for Unicef and Young People’s Futures in our first year was amazing. This year is going to be even bigger and better and I am so pleased to be able to bring Roger to play in Scotland for the first time – he will get a chance to see for himself just how enthusiastic Scottish fans are, and what a great venue The SSE Hydro is.”

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cover story


The Park keeper For 23 years Geoff Ellis ran T in the Park. The event put Scotland on the festival map and created a market which has transformed the country’s music scene – until it all came to a messy end last year. But you haven’t heard the last of him.

Geoff Ellis has already ruled out T in the Park for 2018, but will not say that it has gone for good

By Kevin O’Sullivan


t’s hard not to feel sympathy for Geoff Ellis. For 23 years, Scotland’s pre-eminent promoter organised the nation’s largest outdoor event, T in the Park. The music festival, which began from humble beginnings in Glasgow’s Strathclyde Country Park, before moving to Balado in Kinross, (where it spent most of its years happily drifting by on the cool vibes of era-defining music), came screeching to a spectacular halt last year, beset by a long and painful sequence of very public planning obstacles, a whiff of funding scandal and, tragically, two deaths

which overshadowed the already beleaguered event in 2016. You only have to Google T in the Park and “oil pipeline” or “ospreys” to see the forces ranged against Ellis and his company, DF Concerts. Officialdom came knocking at the door and it proved to much for the company to bear; despite putting up a noble fight the regulators drew their conclusions as to the safety and environmental viability of an event that annually saw 80,000 people harmlessly bopping along in a field to the likes of Courteneers. And that was that. I speak to Ellis after many months of trying. He’s been busy on his new ‘concept’ festival TRNSMT,

22 | Eventsbase | autumn 2017

which welcomed 120,000 revellers to a non-camping event on Glasgow Green in July; if I expected to catch Ellis in a downbeat mood regarding everything that’s gone before him, I am quickly proved wrong. He is positively upbeat about the prospects of hosting TRNSMT again next year, but does sound chastened from his experience of this year having to cancel what he proudly calls the UK’s ‘longest-running music sponsorship programme’ (the ‘t’ in T in the Park was, of course, Tennent’s). Ellis has already ruled out T in the Park for 2018, and I ask whether that’s it, for good. “I think what we

come back with will be something very different,” he says. “If you take two years out of the market and you go back in you probably want to refresh everything. That’s not to say we won’t be back with a camping festival; at some point we will be back with a camping festival but we’re not jumping up and down to do it in 2018. Whatever we do in the future I think we will probably aim it at an older market as well.” So, you had a good run, I inquire further? “We did and we created some brilliant life-affirming moments for people and I think we put Scotland on the map, musically,” he says. “If you remember there were only two

“It’s been the most trying time of my professional life, I think that’s true of everybody involved in the company as well”

festivals [Glastonbury and Reading] in the UK when we started T in the Park and almost everybody said we would fail.” He adds: “At that time there was no real outdoor [music event] there were a few outdoor concerts in Scotland but not many - it was because people didn’t want to take the risk. Prince had played, Michael Jackson had played, there’d been some big stadium shows but only ones that were slam dunks. “Everybody felt people in Scotland won’t go to an outdoor show if it’s raining; we showed that people would come out for it and not only that they will come and camp. We created a festival market

in Scotland and now there’s a lot of festivals.” He says: “You get people working in culture now for the last five or six years and they don’t know what the landscape was like back then. I’ve got staff who weren’t born when we did the first T in the Park so the landscape was Barrowlands, the SECC and King Tuts at that point, and the odd stadium show, but certainly not every summer. Now, you’ve got two, minimum, five maximum, stadium shows, you’ve got TRNSMT, Summer Sessions and a raft of smaller outdoor festivals. Some are 5,000 and some are 20,000. They all happened because T in the Park broke the mould;

we’re immensely proud of what we achieved and there’s a lot of love for the event.” I ask how bruising the whole affair has been. Balado was T in the Park’s home for 19 years and most of the objections over the years were largely behavioural-related, with the 16-18-year-old revellers, in particular, who treated the music as a backdrop to basically having a party. Then came the behemoth that was the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) in 2014, which deemed an oil pipeline passing underneath the site to be at risk of exploding, despite no previous recorded incidents (Ellis says the BP Forties Pipeline

also passes underneath Aberdeen airport runway and a school). A long legal wrangle ensued, forcing DF Concerts to eventually leave its home and find a new site – private land at Strathallan Estate in Perthshire; it was a huge blow to the company, which had bought some of the land at Balado and considered it to be ‘home’. Ellis doesn’t mince his words when it comes to the HSE; he is still furious with the organisation for having intervened in the way that it did. “It’s been the most trying time of my professional life,” he says. “I think that’s true of everybody involved in the company as well. The

Eventsbase | autumn 2017 | 23


cover story GEOFF ELLIS

The TRNSMT festival on Glasgow Green has given fresh impetus to DF Concerts and Ellis is positively upbeat about the prospects of hosting it again next year


people who I would blame – and who I do blame – is the HSE. “I’ve not met one person outside HSE who thought they were reasonable...the risk is infinitesimal that it could blow up; an independent report into the pipeline concluded that there was a likelihood of failure at one in 4.5 million years, so you are as likely to be eaten as a dinosaur - you’ve more chance of seeing Marc Bolan’s T-Rex.” No one could have foreseen – having fought and lost a very public battle with the regulator – that DF Concerts would soon find itself paralysed by another planning row. An objection was received about the potential danger of the event to a pair of nesting ospreys at Strathallan, which forced Ellis and his team to go to what he calls ‘full planning’. Where discretion may have been exercised by a local authority keen for a large event to take place in its area - with all the economic benefits that brings (T in the Park was worth around £15m in that regard) - there was no getting around EU legislation relating to the ospreys; it triggered a full planning decision which essentially had a snowball effect,

unleashing a vast array of environmental conditions that DF Concerts had to satisfy, including not only ospreys but local kingfishers, bats, the list went on. The term ‘red tape’ is clichéd but apposite, listening to Ellis recall some of the hurdles he had to get over to manage an already difficult transition to a new site. “We wouldn’t have gone to Strathallan if we had known that was going to be the case; having to go through full planning consent, if you’re a music festival, there’s no way you’d ever do that because you’re so scuppered,” says Ellis. “Ironically, most of the things we had to do because of full planning had nothing to do with the ospreys. We had to build a kingfisher habitat because some of the work we were doing to put a bridge in could have made that area of land unsuitable or unattractive to kingfishers; the landowner was saying where are these kingfisher, they don’t exist? But the planner said if the kingfisher wanted to nest there it couldn’t. You have to build a habitat somewhere else even though the kingfisher weren’t going to use that habitat.” He adds: “Another one was we

24 | Eventsbase | autumn 2017

were putting in foundations for a bridge and someone working for one of the bodies involved in the planning process found what they thought might have been a bat dropping. Work had to be suspended for two weeks whilst they went off to analyse this bat dropping to see what type of bat it was and whether it needed additional protection; two weeks later it came back and it was a caterpillar shell. It wasn’t even a bat dropping, meanwhile we lost two weeks of work and our costs went up. That was how petty some of the things we had to deal with.” Yet another arose when plan-

“There were no osprey better protected anywhere. They were monitored 24 hours a day”

ning officers stipulated that the bridges the company was putting in to cross water courses had to be of a certain height, to withstand what Ellis calls a “once in a 200year flood risk” and also to allow wildlife to pass under, leading to the company spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on the “most over-engineered bridges ever”. “I think a giraffe could have passed under a couple of them. We were like, ‘****** hell, we’re trying to put a pop festival on here’.” The Strathallan events in 2015 and 2016 were also beset by horrendous weather, which was further impacted by a boundary line planning rule which forbade drop-off transport to come within a mile-and-a-half of the site, meaning revellers were traipsing through the mud and the cold; the costs all the while were becoming “unsustainable”, leading to the eventual cancellation according to Ellis. The one thing he seems quite genuinely proud of - amid all the chaos - was an unexpected sideline in osprey monitoring, for which he had hired the world’s leading expert in the species. “There were no

osprey better protected anywhere,” he says. “They were monitored 24 hours a day - they were probably the most studied pair, arguably more studied than the ones at Boat of Garten; I’ve got logs which can tell you exactly what time the male osprey went to get fish, how long it took him, what time he went to the toilet, I could tell you if he was slightly constipated one day because he’d maybe got a little bit later to the food, it was literally that level of detail. The ospreys thrived; they raised two chicks on both occasions.” The whole debacle will perhaps one day be a study in itself, I think, of how not to regulate outdoor events and festivals. For Ellis, he seems unburdened by talking of his experiences and I suggest it might be quite cathartic for him to speak in front of his industry peers to share his frustrations with the wider world. He doesn’t appear to be a man who wants to be remembered as a moaner and a whinger with an axe to grind; he gave back £50,000 of public money following a controversial relocation ‘grant’ from the Scottish Government of

£150,000, for which there was a parliamentary inquisition (the culture secretary Fiona Hyslop was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing). He is keen to point out the planning wrangle ultimately cost DF Concerts a seven-figure sum, so the subsidy was negligible against the overall bottom line, which ended up red. Although a bruising affair, Ellis’s enthusiasm for outdoor festivals is undimmed, which is inspiring to hear. He says: “At the end of the day the fight to get through planning for 2015 was a long and arduous one and I never gave up and, I guess, has it made me not want to do things? It’s probably given me more fight but I’m probably more frustrated than I’ve ever been but I’ll not give up because I feel passionate about Scotland. “If I come up against challenges in Glasgow I keep pushing – because I know the city has an agenda to grow tourism and events. When I was on the board of the Marketing Bureau, I was involved in strategic planning for Glasgow - because I had that role where you’ve got to help push events and culture and everything, so actually I think if I give up what’s everybody else going to do? That’s not good leadership if you throw in the towel.” Ellis is well placed to comment on the industry and has good insight into how to strike the right balance between regulation and supporting the entrepreneurial spirit which creates events. In March, Brigadier David Allfrey, Producer & Chief Executive of The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, warned at EventIt - the Scottish events industry trade show - that

spiralling costs were creating a culture of ‘anti-growth’, which puts a real block on event organisers, especially in an industry where costs have always been high and margins low. Ellis says he agrees with him (the pair shared the unenviable position of facing perhaps the highest, and spiralling, police charging regimes in the country). He says: “Generally in Scotland within councils and government there’s a will to encourage events. For example, EventScotland is very proactive, and as a country our tourism approach is one of encouraging events, but it needs to go beyond the rhetoric and actually come down to the support. I think support is thought of in terms of, ‘Who do we give money to?’ and, ‘We can’t give money to anyone who’s making a profit.’ It’s sometimes the principle and that can be wrong because the value of art isn’t judged by whether somebody is making a profit by it or not. And we’re all here trying to create events; we’re using our own funds to create events, we’re taking risks to create events. I think a lot of the time people don’t understand what your real issues are.” We cover an awful lot of ground in our conversation but I’m keen to

“I’m probably more frustrated but I’ll not give up because I feel passionate about Scotland”

explore Ellis’s take on the so-called ‘millennial generation’; millennials are considered to be those born after 1980 (see page 34 for more) and who are apparently ‘disrupting’ the events and festivals sector with demands for different kinds of ‘experiences’ that were perhaps not on offer at events like T in the Park. With low-cost short haul flights to the continent - making events and festivals in sunnier climes more accessible - there is also a great deal more competition than in years gone by. When Ellis does come back with another camping event, which he assures me he will, he says it will in all likelihood be for over18s; as for the term ‘millennials’, he’s happy to steer clear of ‘familyfriendly’ events which he amusingly associates with ‘bouncy castles’, and sees the change in consumption more driven by choice than by any particular fad or foodie trend, or whatever. “With the last three or four years of T in the Park we were seeing people not coming back year-onyear whereas what used to happen, people did the surveys and said, ‘Yeah, I had a great time, I can’t wait to be back next year’. In the latter years the younger millennials say, ‘Yeah, I had a great time, but I won’t be coming back next year’. It’s not because they didn’t have a good time but because they’ve done it, they’ve ticked the box and they want to go somewhere else. “As a festival organiser that’s something you’ve got to learn quickly because it used to be about making sure people had a good time and wanted to come back next year. Now it’s more about getting a whole new audience.”

Eventsbase | autumn 2017 | 25



Bringing trophy conferences ‘over the line’ Joined-up thinking can help Scotland attract major business events, says Marketing Edinburgh’s new Head of Business Tourism By Kevin O’Sullivan


meet Amanda Ferguson not long after she has started her new role as Head of Business Tourism at Marketing Edinburgh. “Week five,” she says, as though mentally checking time on what is a very big step from an operational role at VisitScotland – where she was Senior Marketing Manager, UK & Europe – into a positon of leadership, and greater public profile. When it comes to bidding for MICE business for Edinburgh the buck essentially stops with her. But

at no time during the next half-anhour of our conversation does she appear daunted by the challenge – of trying to secure in the order of £97m in conference wins for the capital. “I’m thriving on the challenge,” she says. “It is what I expected, I knew it was going to be challenging but I’ve certainly got my feet under the desk and there’s no time to take a break and take stock of everything. You’ve just got to keep everything going at the same time as getting up to speed,” she says. She nurses a coffee as she reflects on the previous evening where she attended a dinner to celebrate the contribution of academic ‘ambassadors’ to the city, who over the last 21 years have helped bring in conferences worth £941m to the capital. Whilst she is keen to keep reinforcing the message among Edinburgh’s academics of the vital contribution they make – helping to influence their international peer groups to attract large association conferences to Edinburgh – she also wants to hitch her coat tails to the current meetings industry zeitgeist. That means developing links with business and creating, where pos-

26 | Eventsbase | autumn 2017

sible, corporate ambassadors to fulfil a similar role on the international stage. The so called ‘sector-specific’ approach relies on bringing in business events which match a city or nation’s key economic strengths. As we sit discussing the strategic developments of the meetings industry, she flashes a piece of paper with the key sectors she’s looking to target: Life Sciences, Technology, Creative Industries, Renewable Energy, Food & Drink and Financial Services. “Those are the big six that we’re focusing on,” she says. “Essentially, we’re looking at positioning the city and its centres of excellence for core sectors and focusing on that.” Ferguson has barely got through the door and although she clearly has the benefit of a strategic awareness inculcated at the national tourism agency, she is not about to radically overhaul the way things are done at Marketing Edinburgh. She pays tribute to her predecessor Lesley Williams, and the team she is now working with at the organisation. “It will be several months, if not 12 months, before I decide if I’m going to be strategically chang-

Amanda Ferguson has taken on the reins as Head of Business Tourism at Marketing Edinburgh

ing anything. I’m certainly not a game-changer in that sense where I come in and throw everything out with the bathwater. There’s a team operating very well as it is so let’s understand how they’re working, can we make some efficiencies, and then longer term look at what we’re doing,” she says. She is joining the organisation at a time where a new board has also been recently appointed, and an element of ‘fresh blood’ will bring commercial impetus to the development of a new five-year strategy in the autumn. At the same time, she will be spearheading a new digital marketing campaign - ‘Make it Edinburgh’ - on behalf of partner organisations (Edinburgh Airport, Edinburgh

Hotels Association, Surgeons’ Hall, EICC, ETAG, Scottish Enterprise with match funding from VisitScotland’s Growth Fund) who have all responded to the need to position Edinburgh’s economic strengths nationally and internationally. That campaign will target key trade and social media in a bid to boost Edinburgh’s profile for those key economic sectors. “The objective is to increase business inquiries in terms of conferences and MICE business coming into the city in the short to medium term, so 12 to 18 months,” says Ferguson. It’s also a subtle reminder that the city is open for business; just as London did in the after-

“there’s no time to take a break and take stock o everything. You’ve just got to keep everything going at the same time as getting up to speed” Amanda Ferguson

math of Brexit, Edinburgh is keen to dampen down market jitters by emphasising a ‘business as usual’ approach to what has been a turbulent time, politically and economically. “Across the group and the city, there was a concern about the political and economic uncertainty and it was felt among these key stakeholders that we needed to address that,” she says. She adds: “This is very much about taking action to counter any kind of negative perceptions.” The concern is more than just sentiment; the latest Marketing Edinburgh Ltd Annual Review 2016/2017 states that Convention Edinburgh has delivered an increase in economic impact in the last four years

by 10%. But, it notes: “2016/2017 has however been fraught with challenges that have resulted in an under achievement of target – c£80M*.” The report cites Brexit and IndyRef2, and the closure of the National Bid Fund in 2016 among the chief reasons for a lowering of expected revenues. Ferguson sees the winning of major ‘trophy conferences’ as one of the key drivers for raising the profile and activity in Edinburgh’s MICE market; joined-up thinking between the likes of VisitScotland, the convention bureaux, Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Government is also high on her agenda for helping to bring in those major events. She cites a discussion she had the

Eventsbase | autumn 2017 | 27


business events profile è

previous evening with an executive from The Data Lab - the government-funded data science innovation centre - which has established its own DataFest event in the city. It has already become an international event but for that particular sector Strata - which has Google and Intel as its global sponsors - is the biggest and most well-known on the international circuit. Ferguson says: “It’s really exciting to think that there could finally be joined-up thinking from a tourism perspective, showcasing sectors that flow through naturally into Scottish Enterprise and for government departments to understand that hosting these big conferences raises our profile and leads to more jobs. “The Data Lab is already engaging very closely with Scottish Enterprise and they’ve got a big agenda to push out roadshows across the country as part of DataFest. “That’s a great illustration; they’ve created that event themselves and it’s pulling in international audiences, especially from the North

American market. That’s pulling in key influencers, decision-makers and investors from across the world from that sector. But why not also have the ambition to bring something like Strata into Scotland?” She adds: “Each industry sector, be that genetics, big data, informatics and cell biology, they will all have

the big trophy conference that each industry goes to. It’s big high-profile, international events like these where joined-up thinking can lead to doors being opened and help bring them over the line.”

Convention Edinburgh hosted a dinner for its ‘gold standard’ academic Ambassador programme last month

*Estimated figure; full year’s figures yet to be published


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Whether you’re planning your special day, looking for a unique venue to entertain clients, want the ideal place for a meeting or seminar or large scale event – book Abbotsford! Award winning Abbotsford offers an excellent range of facilities, superb accommodation, food and hospitality and truly bespoke options from the quirky to the cultural or the classic. Plan your visit or book now on our website or call our friendly team to have an incredible event to be remembered.


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28 | Eventsbase | autumn 2017


The digital campaign will focus on Scotland’s reputation for innovation

Campaign casts light on innovation The country’s pioneering spirit and history of invention and ideas are being highlighted by VisitScotland By Kevin O’Sullivan


digital campaign focusing on Scotland’s worldwide reputation as the home of innovation has been launched by VisitScotland Business Events. The ‘Scotland. Where ideas become legend’ campaign will highlight Scotland’s academic credentials, pioneering spirit and history of innovation – in an attempt to encourage events organisers to consider Scotland as a destination for meetings and conferences. The campaign will underline the power of conferences and meetings to bring together ‘like-minded people to build networks, grow knowledge and encourage collaboration,’ according to the announcement by VisitScotland Business

Events; the campaign was launched to coincide with IMEX America – the global meetings industry expo – in Las Vegas, which took place earlier this month. Events create ideas that have the potential to change the world, the campaign will assert, and innovation and invention are the tangible results which stem from business events. Starting on 6 November, the online campaign will showcase Scotland’s connections with a wide variety of growth sectors by creating and sharing new and original content online from experts, influencers and industry leaders from across the country. The campaign will be promoted through the Twitter hashtag #ideasbecomelegend. Dr Alastair McInroy, Senior Programme Manager for Technology Scotland said: “As the representative body for Emerging & Enabling Technology organisations in Scotland, we welcome the opportunity to work with VisitScotland Business Events and the wider industry in such an innovative way. Business Events are instrumental to the

“Pioneering innovation is in Scotland’s soul. We have a legacy of invention, research and knowledge that continues to this day”

Rory Archibald

development of new ideas – they provide opportunity for collaboration and discussion, which in turn lead to new ideas and ways of working. They are crucial in Scotland remaining at the forefront of innovation and a leader in its field for sectors such as Technology.” Rory Archibald, Business Development Manager for VisitScotland Business Events, said: “Pioneering innovation is in Scotland’s soul. We have a legacy of invention, research and knowledge that continues to this day and is being secured for the future. “From the unique study of Dark Skies in Dumfries & Galloway to world-renowned Oceanic research in the Highlands & Islands, Scotland is home to leading pioneers from industries as diverse as engineering and robotics to computer gaming and medicine which are the exact stories the campaign will highlight to the world. “Quite simply, Scotland is a place where ideas come to life. Ideas enable change, events create ideas and Scotland is a place where ideas become legend.”

Eventsbase | autumn 2017 | 29


Dark matters in Galloway Stargazers gathered to debate the growing issue of light pollution as the first-ever European dark skies conference came to Scotland By Kevin O’Sullivan


cotland played host to the first-ever European dark skies conference last month as international experts in all things cosmic descended on Dumfries and Galloway. Delegates attended the Cally Palace Hotel in Gatehouse of Fleet for the three-day conference and took in some of the night views from the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory. Galloway Forest Park, in which it sits, was the first area in Europe to achieve dark sky park status. The conference welcomed astronomers, town planners, lighting specialists, environmentalists and academics who debated the benefits that dark sky status can bring. Much of the conference was devoted to the growing issue of light pollution, which can have significant effects on the ecosystem and humankind, but dwelt also on the importance of dark skies to tourism and rural economic development.

Organisers said: “As we become more urbanised and pollute ourselves with more and more light we are losing the ability to see the stars which informed the lives of our ancestors. Light pollution will be a major global issue for the 21st century. “We have only just begun to understand the decisive impact of the clarity of the sky on the conservation of biological diversity and ecosystems and the role of darkness on the health and wellbeing of humankind.” The conference was organised by Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere (GSAB), the International Dark Sky Association (IDSA) and Forest Enterprise Scotland (FES), which manages the Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park. VisitScotland Chairman John Thurso visited the Observatory

Lord Thurso toured the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory to coincide with the start of the conference

to coincide with the start of the conference. In his keynote address, Lord Thurso highlighted the success of the Dark Sky Park project that brings environmental, rural economy, tourism and health agendas together. He praised the success of the initiative that takes advantage of a free asset that, in particular, draws visitors to the region in the winter months.

30 | Eventsbase | autumn 2017

He said: “Scotland’s reputation as a quality destination relies on continued investment and innovation to ensure that current provision meets future demand. “Hosting Europe’s first ever Dark Sky Park conference is a fantastic opportunity to highlight the success of this collaborative project. Partnership and collaboration is at the heart of Scottish tourism and VisitScotland works with local industry to develop and deliver

innovative initiatives that grow the visitor economy.” Mark Gibson from the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory said: “We were delighted to welcome Lord Thurso for a tour of the Scottish Dark Sky Park Observatory. The European Dark Sky Place conference is an excellent opportunity to promote the success of the Dark Sky Park and share our knowledge and experience with a worldwide audience.”


Meetings industry professionals and academics attended the Innovate Forum at the Lighthouse in Glasgow

Panel event aims to stimulate interest in conferences among academics By Kevin O’Sullivan


ore than 50 meetings industry professionals gathered in Glasgow earlier this month for a panelled discussion about developing the national conference ambassador network. Leading academics joined VisitScotland and convention bureaux heads in a fireside chat about how to work together to boost the number of conferences coming to Scotland. The Q&A-style event, which took place in the Lighthouse in the city, was designed to promote VisitScotland’s INNOVATETHENATION programme – celebrating its first anniversary – which seeks to attract conference ‘ambassadors’ from the academic community to help position Scotland as a destination for conferences in key economic sectors. Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen convention bureaux all took part in the ‘INNOVATEFORUM’, along with representatives from their respective academic communities, with the discussion focusing on how both communities can stimulate a productive working environment to help attract large association confer-

ences to the country. Rory Archibald, Associations & Sectors at VisitScotland, said: “We engage with academics, we engage with local experts to create a community of Scottish ambassadors to help attract business events to Scotland – to strengthen our profile, to strengthen our knowledge, and to strengthen our communities. We are trying to find new ways to engage with traditional ambassadors but also to engage with new ambassadors who have perhaps never considered it before.” The event focused on what makes a good meeting from an academic perspective; most present agreed that there had to be ‘good science’ but also ‘good fun’ contained within a social programme. The ambassadors considered Scotland to be a high-quality destination for events with supportive convention bureaux which helped reduce the time and resource burden on academics to produce a conference bid. Facilities and infrastructure were also considered to be ‘first class’. From an academic perspective there were concerns from a UK context that it is sometimes easier to access major cities in England which could act as a deterrent for large associations hosting their

meetings north of the border. However, one of the most challenging issues facing conference bids was the perception from a European point of view over the implications of Brexit. Professor Richard Russell, a Consultant Paediatric Gastroenterologist at Glasgow’s Royal Hospital for Children, helped to secure the bid for the meeting of the European Society of Paediatric Gastroenterology 2019 (ESPGHAN). The event will welcome 4,500 delegates to the city, injecting £7.2 million to the local economy. However, he said Brexit was already starting to “cast a shadow” over the bidding process for other European association conferences that Scotland hopes to attract. He said: “I think it’s an issue. Having enjoyed everything that went into the bid for 2019, we have gone into another organisation to bring a European meeting of a similar size and that’s why they’re not coming; too much uncertainty. I think it is a real challenge for European things to come to Scotland or the UK with Brexit and the uncertainty that it brings.” However he added: “But it makes it much cheaper than before and I think we just have to promote the positive aspects of things while they happen but they don’t like

the uncertainty of Brexit; these conferences are happening two or three years in advance and it’s an uncertain environment and they don’t want to risk going into that environment. “I think it has a negative impact but I think we have to take a positive side to it and say if that’s the case you’re going to get more for your Euro coming to Scotland than you did two years ago. The economic uncertainty has honestly cast a shadow over the bids that we work on.”

n the panel

Neil Brownlee, Head of Business Events, VisitScotland Rory Archibald, Associations & Conferences, VisitScotland Aileen Crawford, Head of Conventions, Glasgow Convention Bureau Amanda Ferguson, Head of Business Tourism, Marketing Edinburgh Graeme Mackay, Ambassador Programme Executive, VisitAberdeenshire. Professor Richard Russell, Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow Dr Richard Reardon, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies Karen Wares, Scientific Programme Committee Coordinator, Infection Prevention Society

Eventsbase | autumn 2017 | 31


The Glasgow Science Centre has had a rebrand - and business events are at the heart of it The rebrand will galvanise the business events proposition at Glasgow Science Centre

Sat on the banks of the Clyde, the iconic building is a natural fit for STEM conferences, says Judy Rae, Head of Events By Kevin O’Sullivan


meet Judy Rae for coffee on a sunny morning in Edinburgh. It’s the fag end of festival season and the gentle hum of activity from people heading out of the Capital provides the backing track for our meeting.

Rae is a well-kent face on the national events scene in Scotland; she is Head of Events at Glasgow Science Centre but also chairs Business Tourism for Scotland, an industry influencers’ group which has been at the heart of shaping the Scottish Tourism Alliance’s TS2020 national strategy, first formulated in 2012 to grow visitor spend across Scotland by £1 billion, from £4.5 to £5.5 billion, by 2020 (of which business visits is a big part). In past lives she has also headed up the sales and convention teams at Greater Glasgow & Clyde Valley Convention Bureau and the Kingdom of Fife Convention Bureau. It’s safe to say she knows her way around a meeting. Rae’s current focus, though, is on the rebrand of the Glasgow Science Centre – which has a shiny

32 | Eventsbase | autumn 2017

new logo, website and branding. “We’ve been operating for 16 years as a visitor attraction and over that period the business model has changed for us as an organisation and also the way we engage our audience,” she says. “We wanted that to be reflected in the revamp, so for our website, it’s a complete rebrand behind everything that we do.” Officially, GSC says: “The business events industry is moving rapidly and GSC must ensure it remains at the forefront of venue choices in the Scottish scene. The new brand and communications have been thoughtfully conceived to support the creative, innovative and individually tailored approach taken when working with customers on each event.” Part of that has been to inject a bit of Scottish ingenuity into

the mix: the science behind the whisky and gin distillation process has been marketed to appeal to some team-building events coming into the centre, for example. “We’re looking at how science with a Scottish accent is integrated into business events because we need to show what differentiates us at the Science Centre,” adds Rae. “It has a bit of humour to it, which Glasgow is renowned for, but has a serious science affiliation as well.” In particular, Rae is keen to align the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) agenda more closely with GSC’s meetings strategy: it’s not the biggest venue by any means for the likes of association conferences, but it can fill that mid-tier gap in the market for local STEM-related businesses to host their meetings at the centre

Judy Rae, Head of Events, Glasgow Science Centre

Out with the old: the new logo, pictured right (the IMAX cinema has a capacity for 375) and it’s also perfectly positioned to cater for evening events such as drinks receptions and dinners. “We made a genuine strategic change to work mostly with or start engaging with the STEM agenda and the economic sectors in Glasgow,” says Rae. “And now probably 95% of all our business is life sciences, creative industries,

“We’re looking at how science with a Scottish accent is integrated into business events”

Judy Rae

which includes technology, and the key economic sectors that Glasgow is aligning with.” GSC works closely with the nearby Scottish Event Campus (SEC), which plays host to the larger association conferences; but many of the delegates in the science field are welcomed to GSC for social programme activities and piping people across the bridge has become a real selling point for the centre. It is also part of a collaborative approach between GSC, SEC and Glasgow Convention Bureau to bring in business events that align with the city’s economic strengths, particularly in the life sciences field. “The collaboration in Glasgow for business events is phenomenal, it genuinely is,” she adds. “But it’s not only meetings focused. We can offer team-building events around

the Powering the Future and Body Works events, or quizzes around the building for the millennials market - we do have to balance it carefully with our day visitors, because we are geared up for the education market, but there’s certainly room for growth.” When Rae is not developing the conference proposition for GSC, she is also Chair of the Business Tourism for Scotland industry steering group, which was born out of TS2020. The industry has changed much over the last five years, she says, but the message that business events are a tool for economic development is now starting to hit home with key agencies and government. “Up until 2012, there was never a strategic recognition of business tourism at government level,” she

says. “VisitScotland did their job, but having an asset group that was business tourism really focused minds. I think the industry now has established real credibility in the marketplace and also a different type of collaboration within Scotland and with Scottish Enterprise, to the extent that they have begun to change or integrate some of the things which the industry is saying are of importance to drive economic benefit for Scotland, for example the sector development activity that Scottish Enterprise and VisitScotland are working on. “That’s something that we as the industry group always saw as important and that we wanted to do, which was to say we know business events work, however how can we sweat the sector market in a way that we’ve never done before.”

Eventsbase | autumn 2017 | 33



Move over Baby Boomers, it’s the turn of the Millennials

“Authenticity is critical to powerful marketing to millennials”

Martin Green, Underbelly

With each generation comes a new set of tastes, cultural norms and demands. EventsBase editor Kevin O’Sullivan asks David Coletto, CEO of leading Canadian market research firm Abacus Data, about changing audiences for events KO: What do you think best defines a “millennial” and how are they changing the way events and festivals are being delivered? DC: I define millennials as anyone born between 1980 and 2000. Although it is unwise to lump millions of us into one group, assuming we all think and act the same (because we are, in fact, the most ethnically and culturally diverse generation in history), there are some things shared by most of us. For example, most of us were raised by baby boomers who were far more protective of us, coddled us, and instilled a sense of optimism and can-do-anything attitude we see manifested in our outlook. We are also the first generation of digital natives, growing up in a world of rapid technological change. We adopt and

adapt to new technology much faster than earlier generations and love being connected constantly. And so, these differences are bound to disrupt markets. Events and festivals are no exception. KO: You have said that generational change is ‘disrupting’ many markets – including events and festivals – but how much of that is socio-economic and cultural as opposed to just technology based? DC: Most of it is technological but it’s the cultural and socio-economic factors that have further accelerated generational differences and disruption. Certainly, the great recession was a major factor in many young peoples’ lives. The cost of living – whether it be housing, education, or transport – is a burden that impacts our disposable income. That’s true in Scotland, the UK, and with millennials in Canada and the United States. But the differences go beyond temporal events like a market crash or economic downturn. It’s also related to how we were raised. Many millennials experienced a very different upbringing then generations before them. Hierarchies in families were weakened, we were consulted regularly by our parents, teachers and other influencers in our lives.

34 | Eventsbase | autumn 2017

Most of us were told to go after our dreams and the self-esteem movement instilled a sense of optimism and collaborative spirit that is unique to our generation. All these factors are changing our priorities, shaping our decision making, and leading us to disrupt markets – both consumer, and yes, political. Ask Theresa May what millennial disruption really feels like. It can sting and surprise! But technology has created the greatest gap in generational behaviour. As digital natives, the way we get information, communicate, and make decisions is different. And our digitally saturated lives have created an intense desire for more sensory experiences. Our obsession with food, music, travel, and yes, events – is a response to a life that is so centred around mobile devices and digital technology. KO: The latest research has shown that people attend events to connect with others, experience something different, and share it via social media. How can events and festivals best hook into those motivations? DC: It’s all about the experience and the ability to share that experience. When marketing your events, ask yourself, are we showcasing the programme, the venue, and

the whole experience in a way that would make someone want to share it? If I attend this event, will it make someone else I know envy me? Social media has fed a natural desire for feedback that is particularly strong among millennials. Imagine you’re at this amazing music festival, listening to one of your favourite artists playing your favourite song. You pull out your smartphone and capture a short clip of the song and post it on Facebook. How quickly did you go back onto Facebook to see how many of your friends liked the post? I’d say you probably did that a few minutes after sharing. KO: How can events and festivals create brand loyalty when millennial consumers are perhaps

David Coletto will be speaking at EventScotland’s National Events Conference in November

less likely to be repeat visitors? DC: I think it’s a bit of a myth that millennials are not brand loyal. We are loyal to brands that continually delight us, make it easy for us to interact with them, and deliver unique, personal experiences. When those conditions change, however, we are not afraid to look for better alternatives. We are attracted to upstart brands and the newest trend (we all are to some extent) that have a compelling story and buzz. Every group has one or more influencers and many decisions are impacted by a referral or a review. Build a community of advocates, delight them with amazing experiences, and keep the programme fresh, unique, and real and you will have an easier time getting us

to come back time and again. But I will say, it’s so important to know your audience really well. That’s the first step in marketing and it still surprises me how many marketers assume they know their audience and come to the wrong conclusions. You’d be surprised how much you can learn when you ask us what we want and how your event or festival might attract and delight us. KO: What skills does a 21st century marketer need to connect with the millennial audience? DC: How about this? Deliver a compelling, authentic message built around a story that aligns your event or festival with my personal brand on a platform I use regularly. Phew, that’s a mouthful.

What I mean is that authenticity is critical to powerful marketing to millennials. That means your intentions need to be good, your message needs to be honest and real, and stories need to be central to the pitch. We live in the era of personal branding. Everything I share on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram says something about who I am. They are our personal store fronts and if you want us to come to your event or festival it has to align with the kind of person we want to be perceived to be. In other words, what does it say about me that I attend your event or festival? KO: Are the days of camping in a muddy field, drinking cheap lager, and watching a headline act from a

mile away officially over? DC: I hope not because those are the most authentic, memorable events. But I think you’ll find that the immense diversity within my generation will mean different people are looking for different experiences. Increasingly, we’re finding how important the quality of the food is at events. We want to experience not just the music or art, but the local influences of the place we’re visiting and food is a big part of that. This summer I took part in a bike event in Vermont, USA. It was called the Farm to Fork Fondo. Basically, it was a bunch of cyclists touring rural Vermont and stopping at farms to sample food made from products grown or raised on these farms. We became completely immersed in the local culture, we met farmers and chefs along the route, and we had an amazing experience along the way. This event merged my love of cycling with my love for food and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Stop into any higher end restaurant in Glasgow, Edinburgh, or London and you’ll likely see a lot of young faces at the tables. Most of them really can’t afford to eat at those restaurants and yet they splurge for the ‘experience’. At the end of the day, the events and festivals you plan bring people together. Sometimes we experience something new while at other times we experience something familiar or comforting. But we are always with people sharing that experience. Millennials aren’t that different from older generations on this basic premise. We all want to make memories we can share, remember, and look back on. We all want to be delighted, entertained, and feel a connection that is missing in our day to day lives. Events and festivals have such an opportunity to grow and evolve with this new, powerful, and potential disruptive consumer group. David Coletto is CEO of Abacus Data, a leading Canadian market research firm that specialises in understanding the impact of generational change on business and politics. He will be the keynote speaker at EventScotland’s National Events Conference on Monday 27 November at Strathclyde University’s Technology & Innovation Centre, Glasgow Follow David on Twitter at @ColettoD or send him a note at david@

Eventsbase | autumn 2017 | 35


Andrew Burnet, left, and Bill Thomson at The Balmoral in Edinburgh

From clients watching the sun rise in their underpants in the Hebrides, to driving around Scotland in a Bentley - the ‘pressures’ of looking after the high-end traveller 36 | Eventsbase | autumn 2017

EventsBase checks in to The Balmoral to catch up with Hello Scotland and Andrew Burnet & Co, who are celebrating a combined 36 years as destination management companies (DMCs) in the incentive travel industry Business roundtable featuring Bill Thomson, Founder, Hello Scotland; Andrew Burnet, Managing Director, Andrew Burnet & Co; Neil Brownlee, Head of Business Events, VisitScotland; and Kevin O’Sullivan, Editor, EventsBase. KO: Congratulations on celebrating 21 years (Bill) and 15 years (Andrew) respectively in business. What’s been your personal journey in the industry and how has incentive travel evolved in that time? AB: I came into the industry in 2002. I was very aware of hospitality and tourism but not as aware of the MICE market. I started off as a corporate event organiser and golf event organiser; my background was golf having worked at the Old Course Hotel in St Andrews, which was my last hotel job. I started off quite slowly - the odd meeting, dinner or golf day but the changes since then have been huge, especially the expectations in terms of turnaround time, with shorter lead times becoming more common. But the awareness of Scotland and the product we have as a destination around the world is immensely positive now. BT: I almost tripped into the industry; it wasn’t pre-meditated. I studied at physical education college and then went off to Australia and stumbled into sales, because there was a depression that hit that point in 1990. It was commission only selling insurance, but I had my first taste of the industry after I qualified for a two-week incentive. I didn’t know what an incentive was, I just thought it was a jolly to the

States. I went back into that industry here and through a referral from a friend ended up as a general manager of a small company of which one small part of what they offered was MICE-related. I started my own agency two years later in 1996 and that was when Hello Scotland was born. For us, the world has become a smaller place and with the aviation business is booming it’s now a multi-billion-pound industry. We’re competing on a world stage. We’re in an audition and you need to be at your best. KO: How much has the industry professionalised? AB: After 2008 and the crash, I

think a lot of people went to the wall then who weren’t set up correctly to professionally deliver what we did and continue to do. Within our peer group I think we are among the most professional people I have met. NB: This end of the market almost self-defines as professional because you are only going to work with people you trust to work with your client, ultimately, whether it’s a coach company or a gala dinner caterer, never mind the venue. It all comes down to relationships because incentives are reward trips, they are typically four or five star. It’s one of the most professional niches of the entire tourism industry.

KO: Is the industry becoming more joined-up? BT: Yes, 100%. They’re all wak-

ing up and smelling the coffee now and full credit to Principal. They’ve come on and taken the George Hotel and the Roxburghe; they’ve spent a fortune but not only that they’re raising their game in terms of the quality of the experience. NB: If you want a part of the MICE pie, this is what you need to do. It’s not a matter of us sending it to you. You need to commit to it long-term as a part of your marketing strategy. AB: A good case in point is Aberdeen which before the oil crash was corporate as the day is long. It didn’t know what MICE business was. Now their corporates have disappeared virtually overnight so they’re now interested in what we do, what we bring and they’re desperately trying to understand the incentive market.

KO: How have clients’ tastes changed? AB: There’s been a lot of debate about luxury recently. Is luxury a five-star room with a view, and a spa? Not really, that’s part of it, but it’s the experience and that’s what we can deliver - it’s bespoke, we’re there on-site, it’s different, it’s nontouristy and it has an experiential feel to it as well.

KO: Have the programming elements of an incentive trip therefore becoming more interesting and engaging?

KO: So, you have to be creative? BT: White wine and gin works for me. AB: It’s being creative with the brief of the client - we haven’t been as funky as I know Bill has been, but we did the launch of the Bentley Mulsanne about three years ago where they were bringing in media for weeks. They gave me a Bentley Continental GT for a month and I had to go and drive the routes that they wanted. It was tough! We had to produce a road book and publish it, it was a step-bystep guide - it was great, and really interesting and I learnt a lot more about the geography of Scotland as well. It was a successful trip. BT: Moments make it special. We

had Jaguar Land Rover last year; we did a stay-over on a remote Hebridean island. On the way out we took four ribs and met up with local scallop and langoustine fisherman; they were involved with pulling the

“Is luxury a fivestar room with a view, and a spa? Not really, that’s part of it, but it’s the experience and that’s what we can deliver - it’s bespoke, it’s different, it’s nontouristy and it has an experiential feel to it as well Andrew Burnet

produce out of the water, getting the lobsters. It was all prepared on a barbecue and we had a meal that night. I remember the next morning at six thirty looking across at the sun rising – we’d created the ability for them to have hot water in solar bowls and they were standing there in their underpants looking out at the most amazing of views you can imagine.

AB: It used to be a group of 50 to 60 going around in a group going around as a block, all doing the same thing. You could tell that 20 per cent were not interested, so we get asked now more and more to split the group, and can we have a choice of five or six different excursions or activities? There’s still a group aspect to it but clients are not as precious about doing everything together. It’s a challenge because it breaks the group up but it gives you licence to be a bit more creative.

KO: Where do you see the growth coming from in the international market? AB: For me, because I’m niche and small and not in the same room as these guys, I will stick to the markets that produce, which is France, Germany, the Low Countries, Scandinavia and North America; we’ve entered one new market in the last two years which is south and central America, in particular Mexico, Argentina and Brazil who have been very active in the incentive market and they totally understand what Scotland has to offer. China and India, I haven’t really jumped on that bandwagon. Everyone else is doing it, but I’ll just wait and see. BT: The Indian market doesn’t faze me but you have to go about it in a certain way; we have plans to do so but through local collaboration with a business partner based in Delhi who will be the conduit and make it easier to explain what we do. We went through a tendering process three years ago and it was an education as to how they work; there was a three or four-point negotiation process, which I wasn’t prepared for.

KO: What are the key challenges

Eventsbase | autumn 2017 | 37



managing what seems like a busy workload? AB: We are all busy, which is great. I’ve referred a lot as I would never turn business away from Scotland. There are 10 DMCs in Scotland and we all get on well and communicate with one another. We’re very small as well, I know my capabilities so I won’t try and do a 250 four-day programme. BT: We had six incentives in one weekend recently and that maxed us out so we do have to be careful, but it just somehow happens. There are a lot of variables you don’t have control over so you have to leave some things to chance. AB: But for political and economic reasons, Scotland is rocking at the moment. It can all change in two or three years with Brexit.

KO: Have you proactively sought to reassure clients over security or political concerns? BT: We did a bit more tongue in

cheek approach, probably more surrounding the referendum, saying Scotland is here, no matter what. We did social media around that. KO: What are the threats and opportunities around technology? AB: It’s good and bad; bad is probably a strong word but the slight negative is the access people have to check availability, to check what you’re offering and even talk to some of the suppliers directly at the same time as they are talking to you. But if they are still wanting the personal, bespoke and luxury end of the market that’s where we come in. We have the knowledge and relationship with suppliers that they couldn’t get through Google. The positive is the free marketing you can get through social media if people who are attending a programme you are running are tweeting, Facebooking or putting it on LinkedIn. BT: All of that and the fact that if we think about how we market what we do, it’s different these days. We need to embrace that and be dynamic

enough to move with the times, never forgetting that there’s a strong human element in what we do. Social media is perhaps not as good as the human touch. I think there’s going to be a combination to curate an approach using traditional methods of marketing and modern day digital methods. I think to combine both in a clever way to keep the attention and to keep identifying the needs of our customers is crucial to our success. KO: What are the activities for incentives that best encapsulate Scotland’s USP? Is it country sports, for example? AB: Country sports, fishing and shooting, are huge. We’ve got some great partners who can deliver that. But we’ve got so many elements that do form part of a really great programme - the scenery, the accommodation options - from private houses and castles to boutique venues. The higher end groups with the budget want to go for that. The food and the classic shortbread tin stuff, the pipers, the Loch Nesses and the whisky may be clichéd but are crucial to what we do and what

we are. But it’s how we can weave that into a programme and add on some of the additional stuff as well. BT: If you were to look into our overall pot of experiences or products in Scotland, you can go from one extreme such as living off the land after being dropped by boat or helicopter to staying in the lap of luxury here in the city at a beautiful hotel like the Balmoral, and eating Michelin-starred food. And there’s everything in between; I think the key to it is to identify the needs of your customers - whether it be individual needs for a small group that’s coming, whether it be a brand need, a product extension that fits; you’ve got to dig beneath the surface to identify and satisfy that need. For example, is the group just looking for a nice hotel and nice food or is it a sales group that used to be number one in the market and they’re now down to number four, so they’re looking for this experience to drive that back up. We need to know these things. I love those ones as it gives you something meaty to work with.

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38 | Eventsbase | Autumn 2017

07/09/2017 11:27 am


Brexit translates into upturn for interpreters Increase in number of events requiring interpretation from outside EU as business looks to new markets By Kevin O’Sullivan


onference interpretation services in Scotland have seen an unexpected upturn in activity as bookers begin to explore the ‘beyond Europe’ market for the hosting of business events, according to one AV supplier which specialises in simultaneous translation. Fife-based AV Department Ltd (AVD) has observed a marked increase in opportunities relating to events stemming from emerging markets such as China; trade bodies and associations, in particular, are exploring the hosting of meetings relating to markets

which might demand improved links in a post-Brexit environment. However, short-termism is also holding back some clients from investing in conferences due to the uncertainty of the UK-EU negotiations, warns Mark Kisby, Managing Director of the firm, which has its headquarters in Dalgety Bay. “Some clients are holding back on spending on corporate events to save money because of the uncertainty of Brexit and this has had an impact on the standard audio-visual side of hires,” he says. “We are more the value end of this market anyway in support of the specialist areas we work in but even so we have noticed a shift in this area.” He adds: “There has been an increase in the number of events requiring simultaneous interpretation as agencies and businesses start to look beyond Europe for trade and partnerships, particularly in China. The size of the events has changed too; smaller single language systems

are deployed as opposed to the larger EU meetings needing four languages or more as they have become more targeted to specific countries and topics.” That change in style and size of meeting has also led to a change in the equipment the company is investing in, as well as a change in the logistics relating to staff and vehicles needed to support smaller and more frequent meetings. AVD may also be the only simultaneous translation service provider left in the Scottish conference market after Integrated Language Services (ILS), based at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, shut up shop earlier this year. Recent surveys have indicated almost a third of EU students report that they are now less likely to want to study in the UK as a result of the Brexit vote on June 23 last year; this attitudinal change may have already manifested itself in the decision by ILS to withdraw from the market.

AVD worked closely with ILS to ensure its client base could still be served in the aftermath of the decision and Kisby remains optimistic about the prospects for interpretation services. He notes that the market is changing and it will be a case of ‘riding the wave’ of inquiries coming in from new areas whilst trying to mitigate the potential loss of EU business going forward. He adds: “In other areas business is good with continuing investment in new equipment. But basically, there is a lot of change going on and managing that change is a challenge in itself. We also expect this to be fairly short-lived peak in work and the trick will be to ride the wave while not leaving yourself over-exposed when the wave passes by. Hopefully by this time the larger association events will start to come back to the UK as a competitive exchange rate makes the destination attractive as they plan three to five years in advance. There is nothing like a change to attract them back to Scotland!”

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Introducing The Scottish Events Directory. The comprehensive classified guide to Venues and Suppliers in Scotland.

eventS base

For Meetings Incentives Conferences and Exhibitions. In every issue – the place to find the right venue or supplier for your event. Contact Hamish Miller hamish@ 0131 561 7344 For people delivering events & festivals in Scotland

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The Scottish Events Directory The Merchants House of Glasgow

Contact: Nancy Braid ( +44 141 221 8272 Email: Website: Our venue is available for hire for your private event, conference, or dinner. Maximum capacity 120. Smaller rooms available for receptions or break out rooms. We are one of the oldest social enterprises in Glasgow, steeped in history and tradition. Each time you hire our venue your income is exported back to the local communities in Glasgow and the West of Scotland.

Golden Jubilee Conference Hotel

Fairmont St Andrews

Contact: ( 01334 837000 Website: The recently renovated Fairmont St Andrews is a 220 bedroom luxury five-star resort with 30,000 square foot of flexible meeting and events space. The venue is available for exclusive use incorporating the stunning Atrium and conference centre. The resort sits in 520 acres of rolling landscape with views over the historic St Andrews.

Edinburgh Napier University

Surgeons’ Hall

Contact: Moira Walker ( 0131 527 3434 Email: Website: Surgeons’ Hall is the perfect conference destination, bringing together three of Edinburgh’s landmark venues and catering for up to 750 delegates. We have 13 meeting rooms varying in capacity from 2 to 60. Just let us know your requirements and we will allocate the appropriate rooms to your event.



( 0141 951 6006 Email: Website: Scotland’s Award Winning Venue of Excellence has 168 bedrooms and 15 versatile meeting spaces, including a 174-seat auditorium, cutting edge Innovation Centre, a dynamic Central Plaza networking space and a brand new Inspiration Space. Accommodating up to 250 delegates with complimentary Wifi throughout. Come for a showaround and meet our event planners.

Contact: Amy Shanks ( 0131 455 3711 Email: Website: Edinburgh Napier University is a multi-site venue with facilities suitable for hosting large conferences, board meetings, drinks receptions and weddings. With conference facilities for up to 400 delegates, with many flexible breakout spaces and menus to suit different budgets.

Contact: Gemma Macniven ( 0141 221 1030 Email: Website: Established in 1984, Ross Promotional continues to be a family run business. Our team is motivated by a huge pride in the company and focus on providing customers with the best possible products delivered in a fast, friendly and efficient way We supply a wide range of promotional products from giveaways, corporate gifts, uniforms and awards.

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EDUCATION ABPCO The ABPCO event at UWS was one of many UK-wide roadshows put together by the organisation to engage academics and students

ABPCO roundtable forges links between PCOs and academics 42 | Eventsbase | Autumn 2017

Student engagement also high on agenda at the University of West of Scotland By Kevin O’Sullivan


roundtable discussion on creating effective partnerships between professional conference organisers and higher education institutions was held this week at the University of West of Scotland. Around 20 industry figures gathered last month for an interactive session on the role of PCOs (Professional Conference Organisers) and how they can best work with universities and their in-house events teams to add value to academic association conferences. Facilitated by Aileen Crawford, Head of Conventions at Glasgow Convention Bureau, and organised by the Association of British Professional Conference Organis-

form of a paper trail, Prof. Mahoney and two members of staff from Glasgow Convention Bureau were allowed to go ahead. The event is now due to come to Glasgow in 2021 with an anticipated 4,500 delegates, which will bring an estimated £4m in economic impact to the city; UWS itself is expecting to host some of the associated events of the congress at its brand new Hamilton campus, due to open next year, but the main plenary sessions will take place at the SEC. Prof. Mahoney said it was a ‘huge opportunity’ for Paisley - which is pushing for a UK City of Culture bid in 2021 - and Glasgow as a whole, which he praised for its conference infrastructure and also the Convention Bureau team for their professionalism.

Professor Craig Mahoney told delegates how UWS and Glasgow Convention Bureau were successful in a bid for the Annual Congress of the European College of Sport Science (ECSS)

ers (ABPCO), the event was part of a series of UK-wide engagement roadshows to develop closer links with academics and also to assist event management students to gain a better understanding of the PCO role. Heather Lishman, Association Director at ABPCO, which is celebrating its 30th year, said: “We’re here to not only hopefully demonstrate the role of PCOs, and how they can add value to an academic conference, but also to show students the sort of skills they need, the basic fundamentals to become a professional conference organiser. “So, we decided to get the professionals together to discuss a topic and then in the afternoon open it up to the students to show how they can work together and give them the benefit of that professional insight.” She added: “It’s just to show the students how much of a business side there is to events management; we wanted to give students an insight into the world of business events and maybe show them there is an alternative to the social side - which is working with

multi-million pound budgets, collaboration with professionals, the understanding of what’s going on in the economy and what research is coming out of universities and how you work with different sectors. “As a professional conference organiser you’ve got to be in the middle of all that so you’ve got to have a broad economic understanding as well.” The opening session in the Court Room of the Brough Building on the

“We wanted to give students an insight into the world of business events and maybe show them there is an alternative to the social side”

university’s Paisley campus began with a presentation from Prof. Craig Mahoney, Principal & Vice Chancellor of UWS. He spoke clearly about the need to professionalise the conference organising process from a university’s perspective after UWS tried and failed to win the Annual Congress of the European College of Sport Science (ECSS) two years ago. Undaunted, Prof. Mahoney whose own academic discipline is sports science - decided to lead a fresh bid with the support of Glasgow Convention Bureau and the SEC and a follow-up attempt in front of a panel of international judges in Vienna last year saw UWS secure the event for Scotland for the first time, and only the second time for the UK as a whole. Prof. Mahoney - who took the unsual step for a Principal by personally taking part in the bid - said the submission had ‘blown away’ the judges despite the hiccup of having been told when they turned up for their presentation slot that they were ‘not expected that day’. After providing evidence in the

Speaking after the event, Campbell Arnott, International Business Development Manager at Glasgow Convention Bureau, who was part of the bid team, said: “What Professor Mahoney said was absolutely right. “They were genuinely blown away by the fact they had the Principal there, they’d never had that before and I think that showed the real desire from the university. He added: “This is also quite an exciting conference to have won; around 40% of the delegates are under 35 so it’s a really youthful, energetic conference and I think the vibrancy will really fit well with the experience of Glasgow.” Following the presentation by Prof. Mahoney, industry professionals discussed the use of PCOs in the organisation of conferences. Not all universities contract the services of professional PCOs, and use their own in-house teams of events staff, some of which are ABPCO members. However, the ABPCO members who took part in the discussion pointed to some of the skills areas where they are best positioned to add value to the process of organising an academic conference. Those included budgeting, compliance and, increasingly, digital marketing. The room took the view that a successful conference often depended on the interpersonal relationships struck between the academic - who may struggle to ‘let go’ of control what they perceive as ‘their conference’ - and the conference organiser, whether they be in-house or a PCO company.

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How do you turn a burden into an asset? It’s a question of trust. As GDPR approaches much of the debate has been about compliance and process. But trust is the missing word that we should all focus on for our events By Geoff Revill


e have all, hopefully, become aware of the new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and its impact on our industry, which will be felt from implementation date on May 25 next year. I have written extensively about the issue on for events professionals who want to explore the issues around GDPR in depth and how it will affect the work they do; this is very much an abbreviated version of those three articles. Most commentators put forth dire warnings of big fines or horrendous administrative overheads if you want to continue ‘business as usual’ post-GDPR. But this masks what the GDPR is really all about – a fun-

damental rebalancing of empowerment between the individual and business, with just one key objective – the regaining of people’s trust in digital services. So, it’s most certainly not about ‘business as usual’. The sooner we grasp this the sooner we can leverage what is a compliance burden and turn it into a business asset. Where is the evidence that trust is declining? Well, if the evidence of daily data breaches and their personal consequences is not enough, then perhaps studies by the UK ICO and the Mobile Ecosystem Forum will help you understand. The MEF study is especially interesting as it highlights the development of classes of users; reluctant sharers who engage but unwillingly, and the rise of the savvy consumer, who is learning how to avoid non-permissioned sharing and take control of ‘their’ digital data. It also highlights the techniques that are most likely to engender trust.

engage, exchange and share the value they can bring is a function of the trust they place in the event organisers and venue managers. When you use apps and websites, you collect personal data. Are your customers aware what data you collect? The GDPR calls for transparency. Do you empower your customers with control over ‘their’ data? The GDPR gives new rights to individuals; you have to offer and treat all personal data as if it belongs to the individual, not your business. Think of your business as a temporary custodian, privileged with the opportunity to use customer data. Are you prepared to accept a significant consequence if you fail to protect your customers’ data or use

So where does the GDPR objective of regaining trust most impact the events and hospitality sectors? Engagement. The extent to which individuals, new to an event or a venue, will

Krowdthink will be exhibiting at leading event technology industry show, Event Tech Live, on November 9 at the The Old Truman Brewery, London.

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it in ways they did not understand? The GDPR ratchets up the consequences significantly. These three things – Transparency, Control and Remedy - are the building blocks of trust. The GDPR legislates to deliver a rebalancing of these three powers between business and individual. So, a company that seeks to be open with its customers about the data it collects and entrusts customers with control over their data, will mitigate the need to accept a remedy if or when trust is lost. After all, we are less likely to penalise those whom we trust if they did the best by us but failed in any respect. The GDPR enforcement regime is taking a similar approach. If you try to be trustworthy but your approach falls short, the ICO (which enforces the GDPR in the UK) has made it clear heavy fines won’t be applied. There are only two things event and venue visitors are seeking; to consume knowledge or content in a more personal way than the Internet provides, and to network with the people that are there, with a varying balance between the two, depending on the event or venue type. Either way, they are seeking to engage with content or people and

“Nowhere will these new GDPR rights have more impact on engagement than in the event technology sector’”

most commonly both. When these two opportunities are maximised visitors will value the event/venue more and will come again. Nowhere will these new GDPR rights have more impact on engagement than in the event technology sector, whether that’s apps for visitors or IoT for venues. Enhancing engagement through tech is not necessarily about taking more data off your customers – this ‘know your customer attitude’ has driven a lack of trust from customers as ever more oblique techniques have been used. Visitors have become wiser to the games, and wiser in avoiding them, engendering a game of chase that is in fact a downwards spiral of trust and ‘honest’ engagement. Imagine an event or venue app that makes it clear it takes almost no data, asks permission every time it needs more to deliver a service, enables the individual to delete any part of their data at any time, is utterly transparent about the data it has and how it’s protected, and even allows their data to be taken away to a competitor if their service was not trustworthy enough. Is there any reason you’d not trust such a platform? Would you share more if it enhanced your discovery of who is there and what is happening in the venue/event right now? An app that embraces the GDPR as an asset will deliver all these values and accepts the remedies the GDPR allows the individual if it fails in the process. When you grant customers/visitors these rights, you start to reverse the downwards trend in trust in digital services, you’ll allow them to become more integral to your activities, and both the venue/event and individual start an upwards spiral of engagement, which in turn leads to an improved experience that increases the likelihood of return visits. Yes, the GDPR is a burden, but it’s one that the events and hospitality sectors should embrace because it is an investment in enhanced engagement opportunity. We just need to accept the trustworthiness burden as the building block for digitally enhanced engagements at our events and venues.

Geoff Revill, CEO, Krowdthink

Visit for extensive coverage of GDPR

Eventsbase | summer 2017 | 45

5 minutes with... John Keating General Manager at Fairmont St Andrews

A career spanning some of the top hotels and resorts in the world including The Ritz in London - has led John Keating to Fairmont St Andrews. With vast hospitality experience accumulated in China, Russia, Australia and Indonesia, the well-travelled GM is spearheading a transition at the St Andrews hotel and resort into a relentlessly customer-focused operation based on excellence and ‘emotional experience’, as well as a celebration of the region’s many culinary delights. Recent past: I’ve been fortunate to

work in some amazing hotels and resorts around the world from China, Russia, Australia and Indonesia, before joining Fairmont St Andrews in June 2015. I have just overseen the completion of a multi-million pound interior refurbishment programme as well as the launch of The Savoy Afternoon Tea and a gastronomic summer season of International Jazz Sunday Brunch. With the re-launch of our signature restaurant, St Andrews Bar & Grill, also during this time, it has been an exciting and busy period. The renovations have elevated the hotel and proudly celebrate the heritage of St Andrews, with a nod to golf, our coastal location and strong seafood ties that make this part of Scotland so special.

Before that: I was introduced to the industry by my uncle who was the Sommelier and Maître d’ at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin. I started as an apprentice when I was 16 and covered all the food & beverage side of the business. This was followed by a year in Geneva to improve my French and a Management Traineeship at the Ritz Hotel in London with a degree in Hospitality & Tourism from West London University. My early career was mainly focused on food & beverage, becoming the Ritz Hotels Maître d’ at the age of 25. After several senior restaurant and food & beverage positions in five-star hotels I became a general manager some 20 years ago. Industry: St Andrews is world-

meaningful experiences which incorporate living space design, smart technology and local experiences to a more price sensitive, ‘on demand’ generation which is the future. Fairmont is a globally recognised brand and gives the hotel market reach above and beyond the competition. The Accor acquisition of Fairmont last year will further expand this as the company is represented in over 100 countries with more than 1,000 hotels.

renowned for its golf, but the destination has so much more on offer for businesses to experience. The recent refurbishments and luxurious interiors are reflected in our purpose-built 15,000 square foot conference centre – these are large, flexible spaces but still intimate. Being within half-an-hour drive of Dundee airport and 90 minutes from Edinburgh is particularly appealing for corporate visitors, while our coastal location, among 520 acres, makes us extremely popular for incentive travel bookers looking for privacy at their event. Delegates benefit from being able to attend all activities on one site, from plenary break-outs to a full-blown conference, or gala dinner, we have it all. Now: Luxury brands need to be committed to enhancing their product, what was primarily a high-end market service and

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product industry is now about becoming an ‘emotional experience’. Service is key to our success and that begins from the moment someone books their event or stay. The customer journey is much more than the hours spent in the venue and that is where personal and online engagement is so important. For an area as naturally diverse as Fife, cuisine is another huge growth area. Guests want to experience something original and unique from the region and our chefs are passionate about utilising the local larder of fresh produce on our doorstep – this is something of a transition for the hospitality and events industry. Vision: St Andrews is known by

people for many different reasons but I’m especially keen to develop our reputation for meetings and incentives, as well as our gastronomic evolution and weddings business. Venues need to offer

Best moment: I was humbled to host and organise a charity Garden Party and lunch for St Margaret’s Hospice where Her Majesty the Queen attended during her Diamond Jubilee in 2012. It was an honour to meet and dine with Her Majesty as this was a very special event for a valued charity in Scotland. Is Scotland the perfect stage? Scotland’s hospitality and welcome is second-to-none, it’s one of the many reasons I moved here! Scotland is a growing hub for tech and design, this is not only reflected in our renovations, but we’re also seeing investment in nearby Dundee, where the impressive V&A is set to transform the local and wider area for cultural and business events. One of the things I wanted to achieve with the renovation was to highlight the depth of industry and innovation in Scotland, as well as the vibrant history of St Andrews. This is the year of history, heritage and archaeology – these are just three reasons businesses keep coming back.

EventIt 2018 SEC, glasgow 22 March 2018 The *Scottish* events show (be part of it) Knowledge Exchange / Networking / Supplier showcase / Event Tech / E Awards / / 0131 561 7345

Every time you host a meeting, big or wee, amazing things happen.

Ideas are exchanged. Knowledge is shared. Connections are forged. Sometimes a wee bit, sometimes a big bit.

That’s why we love what we do, and we’re on your doorstep. Yes we’ve got world-class venues and a superb riverside location in one of Europe’s most exciting cities. But more importantly, we’ve got the expertise, energy and passion to help your meeting make a difference. Pop in for a coffee anytime at SEC Centre, Scottish Event Campus. Talk to us on +44 (0)141 275 6212.

Profile for Canongate Communications

EventsBase autumn 17 - Issue 8  

EventsBase autumn 17 - Issue 8