The NEC celebrates its 40th birthday

02 February 2016 Sophia Charalambous

The National Exhibition Centre (NEC) is today celebrating its 40th birthday (Tuesday 2 February); marking 40 years since HM Queen Elizabeth II visited Birmingham to open the venue.

Over the last 40 years, the NEC has grown in size in order to accommodate an increase in demand for live events - exhibitions and conferences - to be hosted at the venue. The NEC originally consisted of seven exhibition halls but today provides over 182,000 square metres of indoor space across 20 interconnecting halls and 34 conference suites.

It’s not just about the space that organisers can utilise, but about creating unforgettable live experiences through connecting content, services, media sponsorship and data, all of which can be provided by the venue team.

Commenting on the NEC’s milestone year, Paul Thandi, CEO of the NEC Group, said: “Forty years on, the NEC has established itself as the UK’s number one exhibition centre, one of the busiest venues within the wider European market and by some distance a global go-to business in venue management consultancy. It welcomes over three million visitors to some of the biggest and best events in the world each year and it’s also a significant driver to the regional economy. All of these well-established characteristics are set to grow significantly with the new entertainment and leisure offering brought on by the newly opened Resorts World by our partners Genting.”

The NEC Group started with the opening of the NEC in 1976, since then it has developed into one of the world’s leading venue management companies, which operates five venues – NEC, ICC, Genting Arena, Barclaycard Arena and the Vox Conference Centre – and manages a range of support services, including a national ticketing agency, The Ticket Factory; a hospitality brand, Amplify; and award winning caterer, Amadeus.

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NEC celebrates 40 years of loving live events


Today, the NEC Group employs around 1500 people on a permanent basis and a further 300 casual workers. It delivers around £2billion annual impact on the regional economy – around £1.5 billion of which is delivered by the NEC – and supports 29,000 full-time equivalent jobs.

“When we look back in another 40 years, I expect the NEC Group’s sale to LDC in early 2015 to be seen as the start of a next generation of growth in product, services and offers from the Group at its sites in the heart of the U.K. events market. As a privately owned business, we now have the opportunity to invest and apply capital in different ways as we target business expansion and the launch of the Sports Show at the NEC, in which we have a 30% financial stake, is an example of how we are looking for new ways to grow our business. Our growth will also benefit from exciting regional developments; including HS2 and the emerging West Midlands Combined authority, which we expect to see prosper in 2016.”

When the NEC originally opened, Birmingham International Railway Station was still being built, Birmingham Airport was a small airfield known as Elmdon Airport and the M42 didn’t exist. Today, the NEC is the UK’s best connected venue and easily accessible to the three million visitors to the site each year.

Kathryn James, Managing Director of the NEC, said: “The NEC’s surrounding areas have completely transformed since 1976, most recently with the opening of Resorts World Birmingham. The new leisure and entertainment complex has turned the NEC campus into a 24/7 destination; it’s a game changer for us and our customers and the start of the next exciting chapter in our history.”

“Over the next 40 years, expect more developments that will not only continue to add great content on to the NEC site for our customers but will also provide more job opportunities in our neighbourhood.”