City awaits the Conservatives

ICC staff are ready for Cameron & co.

The ICC and Symphony Hall

The ICC and Symphony Hall

Birmingham is gearing up for the forthcoming Conservative Party Conference – and visitors have been promised that the city will be ready for every eventuality.

It’s expected that around 13,500 delegates and other visitors will be attending the conference, taking place from 7th-10th October. It will be the third time the party have held their flagship event in the city since 2008 – cementing the city’s reputation as the top conference venue in the country.

Ian Taylor, commercial director of Marketing Birmingham, told us, “This is the ninth party conference held in Birmingham in the past five years and we are the only city to host all three major parties. The pressure is on us to deliver once more, but we are confident that we will succeed.”

The conference is expected to bring around £16.5 million worth of business into the city as part of a booming tourist and business trade which now sees Birmingham host 33.5 million visitors annually, providing around 60,000 jobs. Stephen Phillips, the Conservative party’s head of conferences, said of the ICC: “We’ve had great events here in the past and we’re looking forward to another. The ICC staff are welcoming and very professional, it’s in a good location and it’s easy to get to.”

The conference is just one of the 9,000 events staged by the ICC since it opened in April 1991 and which have brought an estimated £1.4 billion into the city over the past 21 years. This one, though, is a bit bigger than most. With 300 fringe events taking part in the ICC complex alone over four days, the logistics are enormous – 1,400 media will be covering event, and the ICC will be employing 600 staff. It’s reckoned that those just involved in catering will be covering a total of more than 7,500 km keeping visitors fed and watered.

The possibilities for anything going wrong are, of course, endless and responsibility for such a mammoth event could be the stuff of nightmares. However, Ian Hateley, senior logistics events manager at the ICC, is confident that everything will run smoothly after 18 months of planning for every eventuality. “We even have a back-up for the back-up,” he told us.  And should the sort of catastrophe occur which might cause this most unflappable of individuals to raise an eyebrow the ICC has a contingency which other venues lack. “We’ll simply move everything over the road to the National Indoor Arena – proved they haven’t got anything else on,” he joked.

Indeed, mention of the ICC’s sister venue brings up another problem; life in the city centre has to go on with minimum inconvenience to those visitors and residents with only a passing interest in politics. The ICC and Hyatt Hotel complex will form a security island during the conference but the NIA will be hosting concerts by Asian musician Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and heavy metal guitarist Slash while the conference is taking place. It adds to the headaches for staff at both venues, but as Ian said: “We have to ensure that everyone at both venues, whether Conservative delegates or gig goer at the NIA, enjoys themselves. They are all our customers.”

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