The High Peak Business Club is run by Edwina Currie, Novelist, Broadcaster, Economist and Parliamentarian. The club meets every month featuring high calibre speakers, and in November Shaun Hinds, CEO of Manchester Central, came to visit and share his journey.
Manchester Central started as a Central Rail station in 1880, but fast forward to the 1970s and the venue was an eyesore, an NCP car park with no investment and no future. Then the 10 Manchester councils took it over and turned it into GMEX which opened in 1986. It became Manchester Central in 2007, with seamless links to the Conference centre nearby and an auditorium for 800 people, all on one level so it is truly accessible.
So how is it staffed? That’s where the unique nature of such a venue shines through. Permanent full-time staff number only about 95, but up to 500 people can be called in to help set up and cater for a busy conference.
Shaun was also proud about the creation of the Nightingale Hospital; how the Army phoned the day before the first lockdown and three weeks later it was ready with 750 beds. It was the busiest Nightingale treating 450 patients during the year of its existence. He was asked further about security, given the current inquiry into the Manchester Arena bombing five years ago. Shaun said that he had immediately ordered a security review and there’s a difference: access to the Convention Centre is via a limited number of entry points where airport style security can be used, compared with a huge venue with multiple doors and exits. He welcomes the proposed “Protect Duty” legislation.
Shaun was asked about the costs of energy in such a vast venue – he was able to replace 19 legacy boilers with a single, more efficient one. But his bill has still tripled since 2020. “And with a building as large as ours, with a metal and glass roof, the potential to insulate is limited,” he added.
We returned to what makes a successful conference. “It’s the antithesis of Zoom,” he said. Thousands of people descend on the Centre for days of learning, training, networking and deal making. Some 600,000 – 700,000 business visitors come into Manchester in a typical year, spending 3-4 times what regular tourists spend, in the hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs. It’s been calculated that the value of the deals done at events in Manchester over a 5 year period pre Covid was in excess of £1.5 billion. One example from last May was the British Insurance Brokers’ Association, BIBA, where 20,000 insurance industry delegates congregated in Manchester. Typically half book for exhibitions, the rest are there because everyone else is, producing an estimated £4-5 million impact on the city during that one week.
When visitors have a great time both inside the Centre and in the city, they want to come again. Other venues are competing, but it’s that hinterland that makes the difference. And as far as Party Conferences are concerned, many cities are keen to attract them, but many lack Manchester’s unique infrastructure to provide the kind of experience delegates now expect.
More information about the High Peak Business club: highpeakbusinessclub co.uk
for Manchester Central: manchestercentral.co.uk