With events set to make a triumphant (and COVID secure) return in 2021, we wanted to see how even the industry really is and reveal the ‘events capitals’ of the UK.

The new ranking is based on the number of large event facilities in the city1, successful Business Event Growth funding applications2, the number of major events held in the location3, percentage of corporates and associations which chose the location for events4 and finally the total number of events related jobs available5 in the area.

Unsurprisingly, with a whopping 60 large event facilities1 across the city, London takes the top spot across all metrics but is closely followed by Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow. The top ten locations in the UK for events as revealed by the new study are:

1. London

2. Manchester

3. Birmingham

4. Glasgow

5. Bristol

6. Liverpool

7. Edinburgh

8. Leeds

9. Belfast

10. Brighton

Large Event Facilities

Starting with the total number of large event facilities in each location, London leads the way by a significant amount with 60 facilities1 compared to Edinburgh and Manchester, which have 13 large event facilities1. Glasgow is not too far behind with 121 and Birmingham comes in fourth with 111.

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AYRE managing director, Chris Ayre says it’s the discrepancy between the number of large event facilities which is holding back towns and cities north of London: “Obviously London is the capital city and many businesses have their head offices there, but the Northern Powerhouse in digital and tech business is rising in cities such as Leeds and Manchester.

“It’s still disappointing to see that outside of London, there is a long way to go in terms of building large events facilities to meet the events’ need. Local councils and the Government need to place more investment in these conference centres and arenas outside of London so that these locations can effectively compete with the capital and host big scale events.”

Successful events growth applicants

Next, we delved into successful applicants for The Business Events Growth Programme funding between 2016 and 2019. The Business Events Growth Programme forms part of the Government’s commitment to building the business events sector.

Since its launch in 2016, the programme has supported 40 events and bids across the UK with more than £700,000 awarded. Of these 40 events, London was home to a quarter (ten events)2 with Liverpool, Glasgow and Manchester all successfully hosting the next highest number of applicants (four each)2.

Bristol and Aberdeen have seen three successful applications and Belfast, Brighton and Newcastle have both had two each2. Hull, Farnborough, Sheffield Edinburgh, Plymouth and Birmingham have also had one successful application each, with Leeds not featuring on the list at all2!

Chris Ayre added:

“This insight again reflects that the lack of facilities and trust in destinations north of London means that businesses and event spaces in the capital are receiving more funding than their northern counterparts. Moving forward, more needs to be done to split the funding and grants available for business events evenly. This will help the sector grow beyond London.”

Annual major events

Looking at the number of major events being held in each location on an annual basis, unsurprisingly, London tops the list again. Each year, the capital hosts 143 including the World Aviation Festival and the World Travel Market.

Glasgow comes in second with nine3 events held annually in the city including the World Biomaterials Congress. Birmingham follows with four3 annual events including Crufts and the Euro Bus Expo.

Our insight also revealed that Belfast hosts two3 major annual events and Coventry, Farnborough, Manchester, Newport, and Southampton all hosting one each3. Sadly, Leeds again did not make the list as it is yet to become the annual destination for a ‘major’ event.

Businesses opting for each location

We also reviewed The British Meetings & Events Industry Surveyto reveal the percentage of corporates and associations which chose UK destinations for their events.

Again, London topped the list with 77% of associates and 71% of associations opting to run their events in the capital4. Birmingham (28% corporates, 31% associations) and Manchester (27% corporates, 29%  associations) had the next highest percentages opting to run events in the area4.

Looking at Leeds, the city was the chosen destination of 16% of corporates and 19% of associations events, placing higher than Liverpool, Newcastle, Brighton and Nottingham.

Events related jobs

The final metric reviewed in the new ranking is the number of ‘events related’ jobs in the area. We used Adzuna.co.uk to gather the insight and can reveal that London currently has the highest number of ‘events related’ vacancies, followed by Manchester and Bristol.

The top ten locations in the UK with the most ‘events related jobs’ are:

1. London (12,801)

2. Manchester (2,137)

3. Bristol (916)

4. Birmingham (841)

5. Reading (529)

6. Nottingham (498)

7. Gloucester (436)

8. Liverpool (415)

9. Newcastle (399)

10. Leeds (387)

So what now

Whilst we are happy to see some northern cities like Leeds and Manchester in the top ten ‘events capitals’ of the UK, we would like to see more done to increase the event’s offerings in these locations.

Looking at Leeds, the city only has three large event facilities at this time, meaning no major business events are held in the city. We’d love to see our home town and other northern destinations higher up the list in the not so distant future, but this will require more backing and ultimately funding.

There is a huge appetite for not only business events but major consumer events outside of London, and plenty of skilled workers who are eager to showcase their talents.