The National Exhibition Centre (NEC) and i2i Events Group have celebrated a joint milestone; 40 years since the Birmingham venue and its first show - Spring Fair, organised by i2i - were opened by HM Queen Elizabeth II.
During Spring Fair 2016, which took place from 7-11 February, key members of the i2i events team and the NEC met to toast the milestone and present each other with commemorative gifts.
Established in 1950, Spring Fair – the UK’s number one gift and home trade event – relocated to the NEC from Blackpool when the venue opened in 1976. Since then it has grown significantly and today is the NEC’s largest event in terms of space – utilising all 20 of its halls – making it the UK’s largest show. It welcomes over 64,000 visitors each year and more than 2.5million people have visited the show at the NEC since its opening.
Louise Young, Divisional Director Retail at i2i Events Group, which is responsible for both the Spring and Autumn Fairs, said: “Both Spring Fair and the NEC have evolved over the past 40 years in partnership to ensure that they remain relevant to their respective customers by understanding how markets change and how to facilitate the best experience when bringing exhibitors and visitors together. We look forward to continuing working with the NEC over the many years to come.”
Kathryn James, MD of the NEC, said: “The NEC officially turned 40 on 2 February, but we felt it was only right to celebrate at Spring Fair. The show has played such an important role in the NEC’s history; so much so, that due to increasing demand for space and visitors in the 90’s, we made the decision to build our newest halls – 17-20. It has been a fantastic and successful40 year relationship and we look forward to working with i2i events to continue hosting Spring Fair and some of its other shows in their brand portfolio.”
As part of the celebrations, Spring Fair and the NEC randomly surprised visitors and exhibitors with bottles of champagne as a thank you for their continued support.
The NEC also invited members of its pensioners club to visit Spring Fair and regale each other with memories of working at the NEC. Dennis Johnson, the NEC’s longest serving member of staff having worked at the NEC for 43 years, was also in attendance. He said:
“I have worked with some fantastic people and there is a real sense of camaraderie. I’ve just been really happy working here – it’s been a good job for me.”