Opportunity knocks

The recently launched Britain for Events campaign has put industry on the political agenda. Nick de Bois, chair, All Party Parliamentary Group for Events, launched the movement. Stand Out met the Conservative MP and asked what’s expected of industry

Stand Out is sitting within the confines of Portcullis House. I am meeting Nick de Bois, Conservative MP for Enfield North and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Events. In October, De Bois launched Britain for Events, giving the keynote address to assembled events industry professionals. The campaign, which runs until March 2012, plans to lobby Government and encourage MPs to get behind county events, exhibitions and festivals, which generate revenues for their constituents.

“This is a vitally important campaign in promoting the UK events industry,” comments de Bois, over coffee. “This is not just about coming cap in hand to Government, but about a collaborative effort to work together.”

De Bois describes himself as “an old-fashioned Conservative” and he’s no stranger to events. He worked as an exhibition project manager in 1984 before setting up his own exhibition, conference and event business, Rapiergroup. Today, he has no active role in the company and has resigned as a director, but events remain an interest so he’s the perfect candidate to lead the APPG. He believes that if you work in events then events flow through your blood and describes the diversity in events as “phenomenal.”

A new report recently highlighted opportunities for growth in the UK events industry, speculating that with the right support the industry could grow dramatically from its existing £36.1 billion to £42.2 billion in 2015 and £48.4 billion in 2020.

De Bois describes the All Party Parliamentary Group as a tool, and is keen to see the events industry prosper. But what does he hope the APPG will achieve?

“I want to be able to say that in six months we have solid commitment from a ministerial level and from MPs to support our international efforts to drive events business into the UK.

“I also think it’s good for MPs to understand how this industry trickles down into their constituencies and I want the Prime Minister and MPs to get behind inbound bids.”

The APPG for Events has submitted a wish list to Government – very little of it talks about money, that’s because it won’t get any, laughs de Bois. But it does outline a case for events and the economic benefit they bring.

“There’s no natural home for our industry and no real understanding of our industry,” he continues. “I presented a document to Government with the help of Michael Hirst, [chair, Business Visits and Events Partnership] and it explains this is us, this is what we do, this is what we can do and this is what we need Government, MPs and industry to do.”

He suggests that the events industry should support apprenticeships, as many of industry’s carpenters and set designers came up through the workshop. And, according to de Bois, it’s a perfect time for industry to approach Government and highlight our own efforts.

“I always thought that the events industry was at the lower end of the marketing mix, and it was regarded as an after thought, but we are driving forward within the business and live entertainment worlds. I want us to recognise the talent in our industry and professionalise the talent in our industry beyond where we are now.

“We are a creative industry. We’re brilliant at it but I get a little frustrated when we hide our light under a bushel.”

The Britain for Events campaign is looking for industry support – organisers, venues and suppliers, and no doubt the APPG for Events will work closely with the cause.

“We will do our bit here and will represent the industry to as many MPs as possible so we can be on the table when they are looking at fiscal measures and considering Government policies,” he continues.

“We have a platform from which we can say ‘hang on, there could be issues for this industry’ and we’ve never had that voice.

“I believe the APPG need to change the mindset of Government so they get us, understand us, are proud of us and help us. Our biggest obstacles are time and inertia and part of our battle will be to keep events in MPs minds, but we have a talking shop that can advocate change.

“This group isn’t the answer to all of our prayers but if industry thinks it’s worthwhile then it should support it.”

Events professionals, it’s over to you.