Tuesday, March 20

Stage: Centre Position

- July 3, 2012

Major on-going works are turning the Brighton Centre into the UK’s most attractive conference venue

For years the Brighton Centre has had the air of an unloved albatross roosting on Brighton’s seafront, in fact occupying prime position. And it has courted controversy, for a long time threatened with closure, demolition and redevelopment. But none of that came to pass, plans for a new conference centre have never materialised and the Brighton Centre has continued to host countless conferences, exhibitions and of course live entertainment.

Over its history most of the worlds greatest bands have performed there and it was famously the last place that Bing Crosby ever appeared live. Music, opera, dance, theatre and sports have all played their part in making the centre one of the country’s most popular venues, arena format but, compared to most, remarkably intimate.

In recent years though, it has looked tired, not surprising given the age of the building and the lack of interest shown in it for so long. Now it is re-emerging as a real contender. Local government investment has been made available and massive changes made. Some of the changes, like the new seating and the brand new glazed façade, are easy to see, but throughout the building there have been changes too. A new box office and cafe have breathed new life into the entrance area. Upstairs the restaurant has seen massive changes with the removal of the raised area and floor to ceiling window through which at last you can enjoy the fabulous view.

At the end of June the centre staged an event called the Ultimate Site Visit. It was aimed at conference and event organisers from across the UK and beyond and we were lucky enough to be invited along to see just how much work has been done. The event was brilliantly and innovatively staged with guests meeting in the foyer before being led to the main hall for an introductory speech. The room looked amazing, laid out conference style and fully lit. After the welcome, separate groups toured the building, going to places that few of us knew existed.

The investment has quite clearly been extraordinary, the team have revitalised areas that for years have been under-used, creating new suites of meeting and conference spaces, lounges and multi-purpose event venues.

They proved this to us by staging different things for us to see. First a saucy seaside installation complete with Dolly Rocket and Cherry Shakewell plus ice-cream. What a breath of fresh air to see that the council tourism department is embracing the fact the Brighton is Britain’s sexiest resort. This was balanced by a tour of more formal settings, press rooms, lounges and meeting spaces. But they were not shy of throwing in a spin ball, so in one room we came upon a life drawing class complete with live model.

In another space Marilyn Monroe welcomed us to a Las Vegas casino bar where a young Elvis sang for us and we sipped champagne.
There were a few speeches and presentations along the way, one on sustainability which the Brighton Centre seem to have really taken seriously with massive investment in being greener and statistics to show how effective those actions have been.

By lunchtime we were flagging, and they certainly did us proud with a spread of food that would have impressed the most serious of food lovers, all served in the restaurant that overlooks the beach. Chatting to an event organiser, we complained about the weather but remembered that moment when Neil Kinnock fell into the sea. Brighton can always raise a smile, she said, and it’s true.

The Brighton Centre has hosted every UK Prime Minister since it opened its doors, Caroline Lucas became the greenest MP there, and Maggie was not for turning there too.

It’s almost as if the Brighton Centre has adopted the same resolve. Adam Bates told me that the paint brushes never go away at the Brighton Centre and the result is starting to show. With more improvements scheduled and working with local businesses, like event planners Aeon Events and live event production specialists AVT Connect, who respectively staged and provided technical expertise and crews on so much of the tour, the Brighton Centre has a shiny new future to match its shiny new exterior. It was certainly impressive to see such a strong team presence all sharing in showing the outside world what a great asset the centre is for Brighton, and we should all be proud of that too.

The Brighton Centre
Box office 0844 847 1515

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