Return of events to SEC provides the ideal tonic (and gin)

SEC raises a glass to the return of events

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This weekend saw the return of exhibitions to the SEC as both Scotland’s Strongest Man and The Gin To My Tonic Show opened their doors to an enthusiastic public who responded in good number.

There was a beautiful irony in that GTMT was the last event to run at SEC (back in March 2020) before covid took hold, and they were the first ones back in the venue some 543 days later.

Angela Smith, Head of Business Development at the SEC said: “We were so excited to welcome the team back on-site particularly after such a challenging time for events. As always, they delivered a fantastic show with record sales. A great time was certainly had by all!”

The weekend of shows kicks off a series of 5 exhibitions that will run before the campus becomes dedicated to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26). The upcoming Can You Dance Live, Autumn Trade Fair and Crafts for Christmas are expected to attract over 15,000 visitors keen to re-engage with their beloved shows.

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Dan Thurlow, Director of Exhibitions at the SEC said: “Like all, we’ve missed hosting events because we’ve missed bringing people together. Seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces from build up through to busy open days has been heart-warming. It’s given everyone a lift to get back to doing what we love to do.

“COP26 will be massive, on many levels, and then we’re back to a busy run of events that take us through to our own Irn Bru Carnival over Christmas and New Year.

“The campus has never been closed, we changed purpose to support the NHS which has taken a massive effort from the venue team, but we’re delighted to be back hosting events. I’d like to thank all of our customers who have been so patient, flexible and determined. And now, we can’t wait to welcome you back to Glasgow.”

Like many venues, the SEC transitioned to NHS Louisa Jordan and served as a vaccination centre up until the end of June but is now back to hosting exhibitions, conferences and live music across the three venues (SEC Centre, SEC Armadillo and The SSE Hydro).

Q&A with Paul Hudson-Jones, Managing Director at The Gin To My Tonic Show

How has the business been keeping busy during the period with no events?

At the start of the pandemic ‘The Gin To My Tonic’ was solely an event business, so with a nationwide lockdown we were forced to adapt quickly. Over the last 18 months we’ve launched an online store, our own in-house range of gins, run numerous virtual gin tastings (and won an award for best virtual gin event) and opened a gin bar in our hometown. With events now back, we are busier than ever, but it’s taken been lots of hard work and perseverance to get this point. If it wasn’t for the pandemic, we may not have evolved in the way that we have, so despite the negative impacts on the business we also have to acknowledge the positives.

What did the team miss the most?

People! There is no replacing the feeling of a LIVE event and bouncing off the energy and excitement of your ticket holders and exhibitors. To see people returning to events is a wonderful feeling.

What did the team learn (about the sector, or themselves)?

We are a resilient bunch. Gin distillers turned to making hand sanitiser, venues transformed to support hospitals, and event organisers turned to virtual to provide a sense of community at a time when there was none. We were all forced to look at things a little differently over the last 18 months, so to get to this point now where life is starting to return to a ‘new normal’ should be applauded.

How will GTMT be different this time around?

This year was all about returning and returning safely. So, we adopted a new spaced-out layout, worked to safety capacity limits, educated our exhibitors on health and safety/ PPE, and worked closely with the venue to be COVID compliant. This year wasn’t about reinventing the wheel as the show was already well-received, rather restoring consumer confidence in attending events and we felt we achieved that.

As always, we had lots of distillers onsite with over 250+ varieties of gins, and other spirit categories including rum, vodka and whisky. It was so nice to welcome back familiar faces for a 2nd or even 3rd year, but also provide a platform to new and emerging distillers making their show debut.

Has gin played a part in your coping strategy?

Ha-ha…. I think we were all guilty of indulging in a cheeky afternoon beverage during lockdown, particularly when the sun was shining. The passion for us has always been learning about what makes each distillery unique, from their backstories, botanical make-ups, tasting notes and perfect serves. Lockdown gave us more time to brush up on our own gin knowledge, which also happened to include some gin sampling. One of the perks of the job!

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