Figures from the event suppliers and services sector reunited in person after a year’s hiatus at the ESSA annual conference and awards ceremony, held at Stadium MK on 2 December.
After an opening video message from the government’s Minister for Tourism, Nigel Huddleston, the day was filled with sessions offering guidance and encouragement on how to tackle current challenges faced by the events sector due to Covid-19.
In a session titled CTRL ALT DELETE, Vixen Labs CEO and co-founder James Poulter said the industry had some “serious un-learning to do” and suggested it “hit delete and start again” to build back better.
ESSA brought back its popular Solutions Room session where delegates discussed topics such as what the roadmap should look like for diversity and inclusion and how to work towards Net Zero.
This was followed by various breakout sessions, including one on recruitment, hosted by Expocast co-founders Natasha Layal and Mike Frost, as well as a wellbeing session hosted by James Capell-Abra of Stress Matters. The conference concluded with a talk by polar adventurer and three times Guinness World Record holder Victoria Humphries.
ESSA also invited students currently studying Design for Event, Exhibition and Performance at Lincoln School of Design to the conference, stressing that there has never been a more critical time to promote the sector and encourage the younger generations in.
ESSA chair Lou Kiwanuka said: “Against all the odds, there have been some astonishing achievements during the past 21 months. We’ve been thrown everything imaginable, but we have thrown back more. I have watched daily as Andrew Harrison [ESSA director] and his team absorbed the pain of our members and admired how they fought hard to find answers, solutions and connections to all member issues.
“The stress and strain has been universally felt across the sector but we have survived and are stronger for it. Moving forward, we need a different and stronger relationship with government, we need to reduce waste, embrace industry 4.0 and adapt to the rapid changes in society and technology. We at ESSA have clear objectives and are very ready to follow this through.”
ESSA director Andrew Harrison said: “Welcoming our members back to the annual conference and uniting in our experiences in a positive forum has been the very tonic we all needed. We have worked tirelessly to drive the association forward during the pandemic, at a time when our members needed us most.
“One overwhelming product of the pandemic is the emergence of a strong, like-minded community brimming with support, and which recognises that we are all in this together. Together we will emerge stronger. It’s a critical time to take stock, regroup, adapt and move forward. With no clear finish line in sight and with 21 months of pandemic experience behind us, the time is ripe to ask some tough questions to make futureproof changes for the benefit of all.”
See the winners of the ESSA Awards here.
Pictures by Hannah Isted at Baby Olive.