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Arena Birmingham to become Utilita Arena Birmingham

Arena Birmingham is set to be renamed Utilita Arena Birmingham as a part of a naming-rights deal with UK energy supplier Utilita.

The 15,800-capacity city-centre venue, operated by NEC Group, was formerly known as Barclaycard Arena and has been called Arena Birmingham since 1 September 2017. It is one of two UK arenas managed by NEC Group, along with sister venue Resorts World Arena (formerly Genting Arena), located on the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) site.

Utilita customers will have access to exclusive presales for the arena’s shows, which have recently included Ariana Grande, Take That and Jack Whitehall, while the energy provider also becomes a partner to Resorts World Arena.

Utilita has a growing presence in the UK live business, having sponsored with a number of major music festivals in recent years, including Parklife, Trsnmt, Creamfields, V Festival, Bestival and Camp Bestival, as well as ASM Global’s Utilita Arena Newcastle.

“We’re looking forward to working with Utilita to get our audiences thinking about their environmental footprint”

“Within our venues we’re working hard to have optimum energy usage, and we consider the new Utilita partnership to be an extension of the NEC Group’s award-winning environmental and sustainability commitments,” says NEC Group CEO Paul Thandi CBE.

“The best partners are those who can add value to our visitors, and we’re looking forward to working with Utilita to get our audiences thinking about their environmental footprint.”

The venue will take up its new name on 15 April 2020.

NEC Group, based in Birmingham, UK, recently joined Oak View Group’s International Venue Alliance as its second member.

 


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Arena Birmingham debuts audio-described live show

NEC Group’s 15,800-capacity Arena Birmingham offered audio description to its visitors for the first time at the Marvel Universe Live shows on 5 to 8 December.

To provide the service, Arena Birmingham partnered with VocalEyes, a charity supporting blind and partially sighted people’s access to the arts. The implementation of audio description followed a request from a customer whose sons are visually impaired.

A team of describers, who view an early performance of the show and prepare a script, offered real-time narration via headsets, making the show more accessible to those with all levels of visual impairment.

“It meant so much to my family that we were able to enjoy Marvel Universe Live! with audio description,” comments Claire Eccles, the customer who requested audio description at the arena. “My sons are both severely visually impaired and love coming to live events, but it’s often hard for them to work out what’s going on. I try my best to explain but it’s difficult.”

“We believe that blind and partially sighted people should have the best opportunities to experience  the arts, and it’s great to work with a venue the size of Arena Birmingham to offer audio description”

Eccles adds that, “the smiles when they put the headsets on said it all. They can’t stop talking about the fantastic time they had – it made such a difference to their experience. I can only hope more local venues will follow suit.”

According to Emma Ball, operations manager at Arena Birmingham, both the venue and Resorts World Arena, “put a relentless focus on ensuring our world-class entertainment is as accessible as possible for our broad and varied audiences.”

The arenas have introduced British Sign Language interpreters to shows over the past year, with audio description being “the next logical step”.

“We believe that blind and partially sighted people should have the best possible opportunities to experience and enjoy both the arts and heritage, and it’s great to work with a venue the size of Arena Birmingham to offer audio description to even bigger audiences,” says Michael Kenyon from VocalEyes.

“They are the first arena to come on board with us and to be able to help bring a show of this scale to life is very exciting for us.”

NEC Group arenas also recently committed to rolling out teams of mental health first aiders across a number of shows.

 


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NEC Group arenas introduce mental health first-aiders

Following a successful trial, the UK’s NEC Group has committed to rolling out mental health first aid support across a number of shows at both its arenas, the 15,800-capacity Arena Birmingham and 15,700-cap. Resorts World Arena.

The mental health first-aiders (MHFAs), who are employees of both NEC Group and property company CBRE,are there to provide ‘practical mental health reassurance and support’ on show nights for both audiences and other employees, according to the Birmingham-based company. Their assistance can range from providing a non-judgmental listening ear to offering a space to relax or signposting to further support, it adds.

Support has so far been offered at Ariana Grande at Arena Birmingham and Little Mix at Resorts World Arena. NEC Group currently has 20 employees trained as mental health first-aiders, and plans to introduce the initiative more widely across a number of upcoming shows.

One customer who used the mental health service at Ariana Grande is quoted as saying: “We came to the Ariana concert last night – our first concert since the Manchester attack – and just wanted to thank everyone involved for making the experience so positive and restoring our children’s happy memories! It wasn’t without a few panic attacks and tears, but the mental health support in place was brilliant.

“We’ve put a real emphasis on making sure our employees’ mental health is looked after – and it’s just as important that we look after those visiting our venues”

“This visit was made so much easier by the reassurance of visible security, police presence and the mental health support on offer.”

Ellie Coombes, senior event manager at Arena Birmingham, says: “Mental wellbeing is hugely important to us at the NEC Group. Over recent months we’ve put a real emphasis on making sure our employees’ mental health is looked after – and it’s just as important that we look after those visiting our venues.

“We always hope everyone has a great time with us, but by partnering with CBRE, we’re there on hand to help if anyone needs it. We want our visitors to come and talk to us about their mental health and know that if they’re struggling, they don’t have to do it alone.”

Several new initiatives aiming to improve the industry’s mental health were announced in the run-up to World Mental Health Day 2019, which took place on 10 October.

 


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Noel Edwards rejoins TTF as commercial director

NEC Group’s the Ticket Factory has appointed Noel Edwards to the role of commercial director.

The hire brings Edwards, who began his career at the then NEC Box Office, back to the company after 15 years. In that time, Edwards has held roles at Songkick, ticketing platform Crowdsurge and event travel and ticketing company Kaboodle.

“I am truly thrilled to be back where it all started for me,” comments Edwards. “It feels very much like a case of returning home but naturally the business is completely unrecognisable to the one I joined as a customer service and sales representative back in 2002.

“I have some fantastic memories of my first spell with the business, including being nominated for [IQ’s] rising star New Bosses award by my peers. Helping to set up and rebrand to the Ticket Factory alongside some talented colleagues was also a highlight of my first stint, and it’s extremely satisfying to see how that brand is flourishing today.”

“I am truly thrilled to be back where it all started for me”

Richard Howle, director of ticketing at the Ticket Factory, adds: “In Noel we know we have appointed someone with vast experience in the ticketing and entertainment industries, with an already strong affinity and connection to both the Ticket Factory and NEC Group.

“It is a fantastic story to have Noel back in the fold and I’m delighted that he is joining us to help grow both our client base and wider commercial offering, shaping the Ticket Factory’s long-term strategy.”

The official box office for the NEC, Arena Birmingham and Resorts World Arena, the Ticket Factory sells around 2.5 million tickets annually and recently launched a brand-new website. According to the International Ticketing Yearbook 2019, the Ticket Factory is one of several successful independent ticketing companies operating in the “incredibly competitive” UK primary ticketing business.

See IQ’s New Bosses 2019, this year’s selection of the industry’s brightest talent under 30, here.

 


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Stabbing causes cancellation of BBC 1Xtra event

A BBC Radio 1Xtra Live event at Arena Birmingham (15,800-cap.) was halted on Saturday night (5 October) after rapper Krept, real name Casyo Johnson, was the victim of a knife attack backstage.

The victim, one half of the duo Krept and Konan, was not billed to perform at the event, which is hosted each year by urban radio station BBC 1Xtra.

Wizkid, Ms Banks and French Montana were among those due to perform at the NEC Group-owned arena on Saturday. The concert was halted shortly after a surprise performance from London rapper AJ Tracey.

Police issued a statement saying the rapper had “sustained a slash wound during an assault at around 10 p.m.” Onsite medical staff attended to the injury, with no hospital treatment needed. The rapper tweeted on Sunday confirming his safety.

“We are upset and saddened that something like this should happen to a guest at one of our events and we remain in close contact and continue to offer our full support”

“Following an isolated serious incident, we have had to stop 1Xtra Live in Birmingham. We are co-operating fully with the police to establish what has happened,” reads a statement from the BBC.

“We’re sorry to everyone who attended 1Xtra Live in Birmingham for the early finish; however, the health and safety of everyone involved is always our top priority. We are upset and saddened that something like this should happen to a guest at one of our events and we remain in close contact and continue to offer our full support.”

No arrests have been made in connection with the incident.

BBC Radio 1Xtra’s annual live event, which takes place in a different UK city each year, has seen performances by acts including Jorja Smith, Pusha T, Chance the Rapper, Stormzy, Stefflon Don, Craig David and Mary J Blige.

 


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Birmingham arenas launch anti-homophobia campaign

NEC Group-owned Arena Birmingham (15,800-cap.) and Resorts World Arena (15,685-cap.) have become the first in the UK to tackle homophobic acts through the ‘Ask for Clive’ campaign.

The campaign encourages venues to show solidarity against discriminatory behaviour. Posters on display let customers know that if they see any abuse of LGBTQ people they can report it to staff by “asking for Clive”.

Those affected can then access a safe space whilst the incident is investigated and the appropriate action is taken.

The campaign is named after the organiser of the annual Herts Pride event and advocate for sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust, Clive Duffey.

Similar code-word safety initiatives are already used within the live event space, including FKP Scorpio’s anti-harassment scheme Which way to Panama? and Ask for Angela, which is used by those experiencing sexual violence or feeling unsafe in venues across UK and the world.

“I am delighted to have two of the UK’s leading live entertainment venues on board in Resorts World Arena and Arena Birmingham,” says Ask for Clive founder Danny Clare.

“Ask for Clive’s message will now be seen by millions of live-event fans, which will play a big part towards eradicating unacceptable behaviour

“Ask for Clive’s message will now be seen by millions of live-event fans, which will play a big part towards the ultimate goal of eradicating unacceptable behaviour and building a visible support network for everyone in the wider community.”

Guy Dunstan, who was promoted to director of arenas at NEC Group in January, says assuring the safety of all guests is “important” to the venue operator.

“Ask For Clive is such an important initiative in the stand against homophobia and transphobia,” comments Dunstan. “We hope that we can encourage both other venues in Birmingham and other arenas across the UK to follow suit and take a stand too.”

The NEC Group was acquired by US private-equity giant the Blackstone Group in October 2018, in a deal believed to exceed £800 million.

The group’s portfolio includes Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre, the International Convention Centre and the Vox Conference Centre, as well as ticket agency the Ticket Factory.

 


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300k+ tune in to record-breaking UK esports event

More than 306,000 people tuned in to the UK’s largest esports tournament, ESL One Birmingham, which was held at Arena Birmingham from 31 May to 2 June, according to arena operator NEC Group.

The tournament surpassed the highest-ever viewership for an Dota 2 ESL One event.

As ESL One (a tournament organised by Electronic Sports League) returned to the UK for the second time, Arena Birmingham opened its doors to over 24,000 Dota 2 fans from across the world. The tournament was watched for more than 7.6 million hours online over the course of the weekend, and saw nearly 8m video views and just over 6m impressions on social media.

Team Secret, who now hold four ESL One titles, were victorious, and claimed their share of the US$300,000 prize pool.

The UK’s digital minister, Margot James MP, attended the event and met with players, teams and production crew.

Ian Congdon, head of venue sales at Arena Birmingham, comments: “We are thrilled to have hosted such a prestigious international event for the second year running.

“I am very excited about what the future brings for the UK esports scene”

“Arena Birmingham is one of the busiest and best equipped large-scale indoor venues in Europe, so it’s the ideal place to hold an event of this type which welcomes the most passionate of esports fans from across the globe.”

“Birmingham did it again for the second year running,” adds James Dean, CEO of ESL UK. “The crowd was electric, memes were rife, the dotes [Dota fans] were incredible and yet again records were set. It’s safe to say ESL One has found a true home in Birmingham.

“It was an honour to welcome Margot James to the event, [and] a very exciting demonstration to the entire UK esports industry of support and enthusiasm from [the British] government. I am very excited about what the future brings for the UK esports scene.”

Electronic Sports League (ESL), the world’s largest esports promoter, has strategic partnerships with several major music industry players, inckuding AEG, Vivendi/UMG and Australia’s TEG.

The esports (competitive videogaming) market is set to reach US$1 billion in value in 2020.

 


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Brian Cox smashes own ticket sales record

Professor Brian Cox has broken his own Guinness world record for the most tickets sold for a science show.

The British physicist secured his place in Guinness’s book of records in May 2017, after selling 8,787 tickets for a single show at the SSE Arena, Wembley, in London. He broke that record on 23 February 2019, when his Phil McIntyre Entertainments-promoted Universal: Adventures in Space and Time world tour visited Arena Birmingham, selling 11,433 tickets.

Craig Glenday, editor in chief of Guinness World Records, comments: “Brian has surpassed his previous record by an incredible amount and it really exemplifies the brilliant job that he does of making science accessible for all ages, something that we try each year to uphold in the Guinness World Records book.

“Brian does an amazing job of educating and inspiring children and adults alike, and his record is solid proof of these efforts.”

Due to popular demand, the show will return to NEC Group’s Arena Birmingham for an additional show on 21 September 2019. Tickets are priced from £40.75 from the Ticket Factory.

 


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NEC Group Arenas appoints new head of commercial

Andy Price has been appointed head of commercial at UK venue operator NEC Group Arenas.

Working across the 15,800-capacity Arena Birmingham and 16,000-seat Resorts World Arena (formerly Genting Arena), both in Birmingham, Price will focus on both growing existing revenues and generating new streams by identifying new products and business opportunities. He will also be responsible for developing and growing the arenas’ VIP hospitality business, Amplify.

Prior to joining the NEC Group, Price spent seven years as regional marketing director for radio brands Free Radio and Gem, where he also delivered live events such as Free Radio Live. Most recently, he worked as client services director at Alive, a creative communications agency.

“This role is a fantastic opportunity for me to work in two world-class venues that I’ve spent a lot of time in, both during my time at Free Radio and as a customer and lover of live events,” he comments.

“I’m looking forward to implementing the best practice I’ve seen across venues during my time in the industry”

“A huge amount of investment has gone into the arenas over the past few years and it’s a very exciting time to be joining the team. I’m looking forward to implementing the best practice I’ve seen across venues during my time in the industry to help the arenas to deliver a dynamic experience for the customer.”

Guy Dunstan, newly appointed director of arenas, adds: “Having worked with Andy for many years, I am delighted that he has joined the [NEC Group] Arenas team. He brings a wealth of experience in high-profile live events and has a proven track record of delivering new ideas which sets him in excellent stead for this position.

“He will have a critical role to play in driving our commercial success and growth, both through developing new revenue streams and by ensuring we deliver world-class experience to the thousands of eventgoers who walk through our doors every year.”

 


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NEC Group signs VR deal for arenas with MelodyVR

The NEC Group Arenas has formed a partnership with music virtual-reality (VR) company MelodyVR to offer virtual access to live events in its venues.

Concertgoers will be able to access a selection of past live events held at the Genting Arena (15,700-cap.) and Arena Birmingham (15,800-cap.) – both in Birmingham, UK – using VR technology, including performances from Royal Blood, the Script and UB40.

Over the coming months, MelodyVR will also live-stream concerts via VR in real time, and offer ‘virtual’ tickets to sold-out shows at the arenas.

Both will be available to purchase via the recently launched MelodyVR app, and promoted on selected event pages on the website of the Ticket Factory, the arenas’ official box office.

“Offering VR concerts to our customers gives them more opportunities to experience the live music they love”

Ian Congdon, head of venue sales at NEC Group Arenas, says: “VR is transforming the concert experience and shifting how fans can consume music, so it’s fantastic to partner with MelodyVR as pioneers in this field. Their usage of exciting features and technological capabilities means missing a must-see or sold-out show could become a thing of the past.

“Nothing can beat experiencing live music in a venue, but offering VR concerts to our customers gives them more opportunities to experience the live music they love and get closer to artists than ever before.”

“We are excited to be partnering with the NEC Group to deliver live and recorded VR experiences,” adds Steven Hancock, COO of MelodyVR. “Working with forward-thinking and progressive partners to make live music globally accessible via virtual reality are the foundations that MelodyVR was built on, [so] I’m very pleased that the NEC Group share that same passion for the future and we look forward to working together more closely.”

 


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