fbpx

PROFILE

MY SUBSCRIPTION

LOGOUT

x

The latest industry news to your inbox.

    

I'd like to hear about marketing opportunities

    

I accept IQ Magazine's Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

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.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

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.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

NEC Group joins OVG’s International Venue Alliance

Oak View Group (OVG) has welcomed the UK’s NEC Group to its newly formed International Venue Alliance, making the Birmingham-based venue operator the second founding member of the alliance, behind Silverstone Circuit.

The International Venue Alliance, which launched last week, is modelled on OVG’s US Arena and Stadium Alliance which comprises 28 arenas. OVG plans to make further announcements around the growth of its international alliance in the coming weeks.

The NEC Group’s membership in the alliance covers the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, along with the four other venues: the International Conference Centre (8,000-cap.), the Vox (900-cap.), Resorts World Arena (15,685-cap.) and Arena Birmingham (15,800-cap.). The partnership will focus on helping the NEC drive new commercial partnerships across the venues.

“It’s very exciting to have NEC on board,” says Sam Piccione, OVG’s international president. “We’ll be partnering with them as an extension to their talented sales team to find the right naming rights partner for the NEC and Arena Birmingham.

“We will also help them maximise new and unique commercial opportunities and additional revenue through driving content and leveraging our platform,” says Piccione, adding that the NEC, which was acquired by US private-equity firm the Blackstone Group in 2018, is a “first class organisation with strong leadership” that plays a “vital role” in hosting live events.

“The NEC Group really recognises the mutual benefits of the Venue Alliance and will be putting plans in place to work in true partnership from the start”

“As the Venue Alliance grows, we’ll continue to help our members in areas that are important to them and the overall business, which will extend to everything from ticketing and premium hospitality strategy, event scheduling, and unique sponsorship opportunities,” says Piccione.

NEC Group’s chairman of arenas and ticketing, Phil Mead, comments: “The NEC Group really recognises the mutual benefits of the Venue Alliance and will be putting plans in place to work in true partnership from the start.

“As a first step, we’re looking forward to dovetailing our NEC Group commercial team with the Venue Alliance team to extend the reach and resource applied to commercial rights sales. We are equally optimistic that further value will be added to our events programming through the Venue Alliance.”

The partnership is the latest in a series of developments for OVG, which launched its UK-based international division in March; announced its first European venue – the Santa Giulia arena in Milan in June; and confirmed its interest in building a major new concert venue in Manchester in August.

Oak View Group, a venue development, advisory and investment company was co-founded in 2015 by former AEG CEO Tim Leiweke and ex-Live Nation chairman Irving Azoff.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

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.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

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.”

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free digest of essential live music industry news, via email or Messenger.

Blackstone confirms NEC Group acquisition

The Blackstone Group, a US investment firm that manages around US$440bn worth of assets, has acquired the UK’s NEC Group in a deal reportedly worth more than £800 million.

Founded in 1976 and most recently owned by the private-equity arm of Lloyds Banking Group, NEC Group’s portfolio includes Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre, International Convention Centre, Genting Arena and Arena Birmingham, as well as ticket agency the Ticket Factory and caterer Amadeus.

It recently posted a strong set of results for the financial year ending 31 March 2018, its third since being acquired by LBC from Birmingham City Council.

Paul Thandi, NEC Group chief executive, comments: “Blackstone’s track record in scaling companies, sector knowledge and unrivalled real estate capabilities make them the ideal new partner for NEC Group to realise the next phase of our ambitious growth strategy.

“All of our teams and partners look forward to working closely with the world-class team as we embark on becoming the definitive name in events and exhibitions, while continuing to focus on innovations and new customer experience offerings for all our customer groups.”

Blackstone used its managed private-equity funds for the acquisition, which was first reported by Sky News late on Friday. Other Blackstone investments include Versace, Leica Camera, UK exhibition organiser Clarion and US copyright collection society Sesac.

“NEC Group is iconic and we are excited about our new partnership”

Some 7m people a year pass through the 611-acre NEC site, on which Thandi has previously spoken of wish to build “Disneyland in Birmingham”.

Attendance at the group’s two arenas, Genting Arena (soon to be renamed Resorts World Arena) and Arena Birmingham, grew 17% in 2017–18, to over 1.6m, bolstered by performances by Drake, Ed Sheeran, Lady Gaga, Mickey Flanagan, John Bishop, Disney on Ice and Strictly Come Dancing.

Rival arena operator SMG is similarly private equity-owned, having been bought by a $5.7bn fund managed by Canadian firm Onex Corporation last December.

“Under the leadership of Paul Thandi, a best-in-class management team and the support of LDC, the NEC has transformed its main site into a leading leisure, entertainment and business destination, which continues to benefit from a diverse customer base,” says Lionel Assant, European head of private equity at Blackstone.

“We have tremendous respect for what has been achieved. NEC Group is iconic and we are excited about our new partnership as we look to leverage our firm’s capabilities in support of the team.”

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Genting Arena to become Resorts World Arena

The UK’s NEC Group has announced the rebranding of Genting Arena to Resorts World Arena, aligning its branding with the shopping and entertainment centre opposite the venue.

Genting UK, a subsidiary of Kuala Lumpur-based Genting Group, has held the title sponsorship of the 15,700-capacity venue since January 2015, and will continue to do so under the new name. Resorts World Birmingham opened three years ago.

The new name is effective from 3 December 2018.

Phil Mead, managing director of NEC Group Arenas, comments: “The alignment of the Resorts World brand to our world-class arena will serve both parties well in maximising branding opportunities. Resorts World Birmingham was the first piece of the group’s leisure strategy to transform the NEC campus into a 24-hour leisure and entertainment destination, and has helped us to increase campus footfall, reaching 7.5 million in 2018.

“It makes sense to align the two venues under one brand”

“As a top destination on many touring routes, the arena has recently played host to global artists such as Iron Maiden, Paul Weller, Britney Spears and Kylie Minogue and has invested in excess of £3m in its facilities since partnering with Genting UK, enhancing the customer experience both front and back of house. This, teamed with the outstanding outlet shopping, leisure and a wide range of bars and restaurants for our visitors over the road at Resorts World Birmingham makes this an extremely cohesive partnership that’s helping to make our ambitious campus plans reality.”

“Resorts World Birmingham will celebrate its third birthday this October, and since we opened we have established ourselves as a major destination for leisure and entertainment experiences,” adds Ian Bennett, operations director for Resorts World Birmingham.

“Visitors to the arena are increasingly using Resorts World to add to their visit whether as a pre-event venue or to extend their experience post-show. Therefore, it makes sense to align the two venues under one brand. We are delighted to continue our relationship with the arena and the NEC Group with this exciting new brand development.”

Attendance at Birmingham-based NEC Group’s two arenas – Genting Arena and the 15,800-cap. Arena Birmingham – grew 17%, to over 1.6m, in 2017–18, bolstered by performers and shows including Drake, Ed Sheeran, Lady Gaga, Mickey Flanagan, John Bishop, Disney on Ice and Strictly Come Dancing.

 

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

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.”

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

NEC Group hires arena sales manager

Ben Sharman has joined NEC Group Arenas as venue sales manager.

Sharman – whose background in commercial marketing has seen him work on naming-rights agreements for both NEC arenas (the 16,000-cap. Genting Arena and 15,800-cap. Arena Birmingham, formerly Barclaycard Arena), as well as for Aston Villa Football Club and British Athletics – is tasked both with working with the arenas’ existing client base and bringing new business and event concepts to market.

Sharman comments: “This is a fantastic opportunity to take what I’ve learnt in my three years with the [NEC] Group, and support the arena venue sales team to drive sales and deliver the best service possible. I’m eager to join such an established and unique team that can offer the full package – not just event space, but a wealth of additional services through other NEC Group brands including ticket sales via The Ticket Factory, Amplify hospitality and in-house marketing support.”

“I’m eager to join such an established and unique team that can offer the full package”

“Ben will be a great addition to the team,” adds NEC Group Arenas head of sales Ian Congdon. “He’s already had exposure to the arenas industry in his previous group role, and I have no doubt that his enthusiasm and ambition will shine through in the quality of business he will deliver to our venues.

“I’m delighted we are expanding our team to support the successful management of two arena venues in one city. Our ability to do this relies on the strength of Birmingham’s market, with demand from both ticket buyers and promoters at an all-time high. As a team, we strive to exceed the expectations of our arenas’ clientele, so we hope this positive business trend continues throughout 2018 and beyond.”

Birmingham-based NEC Group, whose other venues are the National Exhibition Centre (NEC), International Convention Centre (ICC) and Vox Conference Centre, grew turnover 17.9% and profits 58% in a successful 2016–17.

 


Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.