“Time for a change of venue” says convention boss

Organisers of the Yorkshire International Business Convention (YIBC) are “looking seriously” at moving next year’s event away from Harrogate, where it has been held for more than a decade.

The convention’s chief executive, Mike Firth, said this week they had been approached to move the prestigious convention to Leeds and were considering various locations in the city.

“We just think it’s time for a change,” he said on Wednesday.

“We need to spend some time now looking at the future of the convention and deciding what direction we need to go.”

This year’s event took place at the Harrogate International Centre and the Spa in Bridlington last Friday. Numbers in Harrogate, at 535, were down on previous years but the Bridlington venue was a sell-out, with 665 attending.

“Last week’s event (in Harrogate) had some great moments but it was difficult to get the right atmosphere in a venue that was always going to be half full, “ said Mr Firth.

He said the convention had always struggled to find a suitable location in Leeds so they were now looking at sites in the city where they might be able to erect a temporary building. With the convention’s plans for next year, he added, they were looking at an audience of at least 1,000.

He said the challenge with staging the event each year had been not only to have the right auditorium but also the right networking area and the right car parking - something he said was not available in the centre of Harrogate.

Mr Firth added that Harrogate had served the convention well. When it began 16 years ago, it was held in a giant marquee in the grounds of Harewood House before moving to the Yorkshire Event Centre in 2001, where it remained until this year, when it relocated to the Harrogate International Centre - saving organisers £30,000. He said the convention “wouldn’t rule out” a move back to the Yorkshire Event Centre but added: “I think there’s a natural home for it in Leeds and we would like to get the best location. But we have nothing fixed at the moment.”

Friday’s convention - which had the theme of ‘Winners’ and raised money for Henshaws - featured a keynote speech from World Wide Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

Sir Tim told the audience how he invented the World Wide Web in 1989 while working at the European Particle Physics Laboratory in Switzerland. His royalty-free invention went on to revolutionise the way the world communicates.

Other speakers at Friday’s convention included Ashes hero Andrew Strauss, former marine biologist and television presenter Monty Halls, self-made property investor and millionaire Caroline Marsh and Terry Hill, former chairman of Arup, the global engineering consultancy.