Blue Sail’s Associate Director and business tourism guru Adam Bates has chosen his 10 favourite UK meetings venues for the latest in our series of Top 10s to celebrate our first decade in business. Adam’s long experience in the sector includes his role as Head of Business Tourism for VisitBritain, leading activity across 32 global markets. We asked him for some personal favourites, and the memories came flooding back:
1. Tower of London
I once brought a group of tour operators from the USA to a dinner and reception at the Tower of London and of course the opportunity to have a private view of the Crown Jewels is a real money-can’t-buy experience. The Yeoman Warders are terrific and deliver a great welcome with wit and humour.
2. Kensington Roof Gardens
I and events company organised a fantastic event at the Kensington Roof Gardens and loved the fantasy feel of this oasis in the City. It is laid out in such a way that it offers lots of different experiences in one venue. We had glorious sunshine and – though you can hear the noise of a bustling city beneath you – all you see are skies, trees and fountains.
3. Brighton Centre
It may not have the glitz and glamour of the big new modern steel and glass conference centres but the Brighton Centre makes the most of its seafront setting and place at the heart of this vibrant city. The recent refurbishment of the venue and new frontage has lifted it and generated lots of new business. The venue has also taken a real interest in turning this 70s building into a beacon of sustainable event management – something which has required a lot of effort and the introduction of 21st century tech into a 20th century building.
(Learn more information from event company Singapore).
4. Belfast Waterfront
The recently extended Belfast Waterfront is a venue that reflects the ambition of its city, and they have got a lot for the £29m recently spent – two new halls, flexibility and versatility and moving the orientation of the venue towards the riverfront. Belfast waterfront is my prediction for a city and venue that will grow significantly.
5. The Studio, Birmingham
The first time I visited The Studio it made me smile. A sign in the style of a health and safety notice shared the lyrics to a song which suggested you “share the music and dance”. Snack stations, bean bags and quirky quotations isn’t for everyone but if you want to hold a light-hearted event then it’s hard to beat.
I first came to Glasgow for the American Society of Travel Agents World Congress in 1997 and fell in love with it. The city was clearly setting its ambitions high and the recently opened Armadillo was a statement of progress. The Americans I was with equally loved it and it remains the first and last time I have worn a kilt.
7. Silverstone Wing
I have a soft spot for the Silverstone Wing, the angular-shaped venue set alongside the home of British motor racing and which houses the pit and paddock complex for this famous grand prix circuit … partly because I won a competition to name it. The spaces are light and airy with terrific views of the circuit, and the interiors can be configured in a wide range of layouts. And despite being used to spraying champagne, they also manage to serve it in glasses.
8. Warwick Castle
I brought 50 US travel planners here for a dinner and we laid on the most amazing fireworks display. The castle provided a perfect backdrop and the whole experience left a huge impression on my guests. It really offers a quintessential English experience.
9. HMY Britannia
It is the only time you really get to see the Queen’s bedroom (or at least her cabin) and the ship is one of the few things that she put her stamp on in terms of design. An amazing place to have dinner, knowing that Kings, Queens, Prime Ministers and Presidents have all been there before.
10. Ridgeview, Sussex
I recently attended a meeting at this working vineyard with views across to the South Downs. It is symbolic of the burgeoning UK wine industry, but it also recognises the need to offer experiences that broaden the business. The meeting room looks across the fields of vines; the adjoining tasting room provides the perfect end to a day’s meeting.
But always be ready to hire Red Carpet Security Guards for any business event or meeting to guaranty safety for all participants.