Published: 05 Aug 2021

Exhibitions return safely to the NEC

The UK’s leading exhibition venue, the NEC, safely welcomed two large-scale exhibitions and nearly 30,000 visitors to its halls last week.

Exhibition activity returned to the venue on Thursday 29 July with The Festival of Quilts and was followed a day later by the opening of the UK Games Expo, both running till Sunday 1 August. In hosting these events, the NEC implemented its Venue Protect framework, a series of measures that help ensure events are carefully risk assessed and staged as safely as possible for all attendees.

Europe’s leading patchwork and quilting event, The Festival of Quilts, attracted 11,000 visitors, who were able to enjoy over 400 workshops, academy classes and demonstrations by artists in a live studio environment, 450 hung competition quilts, The Janome Fine Art Textiles Award, exceptional galleries by leading textile artists, and more than 100 specialist craft retailers under one roof. Additional hall space, wider aisles, enhanced venue cleaning and ventilation, staggered entry times and capped visitor and exhibitor numbers; accompanied a range of further measures under the organiser’s ‘COVID Commitment’, aligned with NEC Venue Protect to ensure the event was safely operated.

Sarah Monk, Craft & Design Portfolio Director at Immediate Live, said: “These have been extremely challenging times for the events industry, and it was great to finally be back at the NEC doing what we do best. It is testament to the incredible support we received from the NEC, our visitors, exhibitors, The Quilters’ Guild, artists, makers and the quilting community that we have The Festival of Quilts open again and the response from all has been overwhelmingly positive. Immediate Live have made a major investment to enable the successful return and secure future for this much-loved event and implemented practical measures to keep everyone safe so they could enjoy a great day and a positive experience being back at the first live indoor event in 18 months. We know lots of event organisers will be looking at The Festival of Quilts as a benchmark for future events and we’re particularly proud of our staff who have meticulously planned and delivered a fantastic event.”

The 15th year of the UK Games Expo welcomed around 18,000 visitors and exhibitors from across the country and abroad. The event featured over 200 exhibitors bringing game demos, new releases, worldwide exclusives, special guests, artists and designers. Tournaments and cosplay competitions saw some excellent strategy and outfits and the Family Zone, specialising in games for children and families to play together, was even bigger this year. A huge Open Gaming area was open until midnight each day for those who couldn’t get enough of gaming. The much sought-after UK Games Expo Awards 2021 were also presented to both the Judges’ winners and the People’s choice awards. In similar fashion to The Festival of Quilts, a considered and well-communicated range of measures across the event ensured a safe experience for all attending.

Tony Hyams, Director of UK Games Expo, commented: “We are delighted to have returned to the NEC with our in-person event. Nothing compares to the power of face-to-face when hosting gaming events, as we have demonstrated over the three days. The Expo ran smoothly and safely, with the feedback all positive, but we couldn’t have achieved this without the amazing support of our customers, sponsors, exhibitors, volunteers, contractors and the venue teams. We look forward to seeing everyone for our 16th year from Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th June 2022.”

Janine Smith, Venue Sales Director of NEC Group Conventions & Exhibitions, further added: “It’s fantastic to see events breathing life into our venue again. Clearly, the pandemic has had a significant effect on the events industry but the return of these two sizeable exhibitions marks an exciting resurgence for our business and the sector as a whole. We will carry this momentum through to our next events and look forward to safely welcoming many more visitors, exhibitors, suppliers and partners over the coming months.”