NEC kicks off 40th year celebrations

23 September 2015 Sophia Charalambous

The National Exhibition Centre (NEC) is turning 40 and has kicked off a year of celebrations with the official opening of the Piazza Garden

The outdoor space has been transformed to make it brighter and more fun. 

The Garden was opened at the 25th edition of Autumn Fair by organiser i2i Events. 

The NEC officially turns 40 in February 2016 and the opening of the Piazza Garden is just the start of a series of events that will run right through until August next year. 

Kathryn James, Managing Director of the NEC, said: “Since the NEC was opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1976, its success has resulted in a complete transformation of the venue and the surrounding areas, as well as a significant contribution to UK plc. As we approach our 40th year, there are even more exciting developments on the horizon that will positively impact the NEC and its stakeholders. The opening of Resorts World Birmingham will be a game changer for us, turning the NEC into a 24/7 destination and attracting an estimated three million additional visitors each year, on top of the existing three million visitors we currently welcome to our site.”

Spring Fair International, also organised by i2i events, was the first event to be held at the NEC in 1976 and remains the venue’s longest-running show and the largest trade exhibition in the UK. 

Commenting on the success of Autumn Fair, James said: “It’s a fantastic achievement for any exhibition to be going strong after 25 years and we are pleased to see that Autumn Fair is standing the test of time. It was only fitting that the team at i2i events, who are also celebrating a milestone event, were with us to help kick off our birthday celebrations.”

Louise Young, Divisional Director Retail, i2i Events Group, said: “Both Autumn Fair and the NEC have evolved to ensure that they remain relevant to their respective customers by understanding how markets change and how to facilitate the best experience when bringing exhibitors and visitors together - the opening of the NEC Piazza Garden is a great example of this. We very much look forward to working with the NEC over the next 25 years of Autumn Fair.”

The Piazza Garden is just one area of the NEC that has been transformed in order to ensure that the venue remains ‘fabulous at 40’, and it builds on creative brand activity that has taken place at the venue over the last three years.

Martin Clarke, Director of Marketing at the NEC, said: “At the NEC, we are always looking for new ways to enhance our visitors’ experience, so we have been listening to customer feedback and we’ve given the venue a ‘facelift’ in recent years as part of a phased brand project. The Piazza Garden is one of the first things our visitors see when they arrive at the NEC, so we wanted to bring it to life. The space now looks much brighter and more fun, really making the most of our outdoor space.”