“There’s a lot of potential here,” says Dean Rees, business development manager at the East of England Arena and Events Centre (EEAEC). “It’s an easy win for me as someone working at the venue.”
Rees adds that the interesting thing about this venue is that it’s a blank canvas. “We’re starting out on our own journey.”
Formally known as the East of England Showground, the venue has historically been associated with farming events, but it keen to emphasise the variety of events it is capable of hosting.
The venue is part of the commercial arm of the East of England Agricultural Society, created when a group of local farmers decided to form a charity.
Much of the EEAEC’s profit is either reinvested in the venue or given to the charity, which runs several events throughout the year, including Kid’s Country, an event providing local children with hands-on food and farming experience.
Indoor and outdoor venue
With a 9,000sqm exhibition hall and a massive 250 acres of outdoor space, plus a refurbished conference facility, the EEAEC is eager to move beyond farming to a more diverse range of events, exhibitions and conferences.
Rees, whose background includes time working for Reed Exhibitions in the Middle East, is particularly keen to attract business for large B2B exhibition organisers.
“There are certain sectors that will work particularly well in this area,” he explains. “Sectors that are drivers of the local economy, like manufacturing, food & drink, IT and digital and creative.”
The East of England has become a thriving tech hub due to the proximity of Cambridge University and the high prices of living and working in nearby London. The capital is only 50 minutes from the venue by train, and Rees hopes a new partnership with Virgin Trains, plus another with local hotels, will help organisers see the EEAEC as a logical and practical alternative to London-based venues.
“What I wanted to do is make sure that we had a complete package that we could go to the market with,” he tells EN. “Since I’ve been here that’s what I’ve been working on.”
Another draw is the venue’s recently announced partnership with NEC Group-owned caterer Amadeus.
“We’ve been working really closely with Amadeus,” continues Rees. “It’s about making sure they understand what we’re doing and how they can tap into that.
“For an exhibition, for example, we can create a hub or cafeteria to give visitors an opportunity for networking. I’ve asked them to always be involved from the beginning. In fact, when we do show rounds they will come around with the client.”
Rees hopes that the rebrand to the East of England Arena and Events Centre will mark a sea change in the how the EEAEC is perceived by the events industry, and that factors such as the logistical ease of bringing shows to the venue and the range of new partnerships will help convince exhibition organisers to take the leap.
There are already signs that the move is paying off; the venue has now secured AIM accreditation from the Meetings Industry Association following a visit from an independent panel of industry assessors looking at factors such as customer service, quality of facilities and best practice standards.
As for Rees the future of the venue is promising. “We’re confident that we can go to the market and say, ‘this is the service level you will get’,” he concludes. “We’ve upgraded the spaces, this is the quality of the space, and we’d like your business.”