Current Affairs

It’s the People Who Will Drive Recovery

22nd March 2021

As we look back on the past twelve months, it’s hard to believe everything that has happened. New presidencies, global protests and a pandemic – to name but a few. This period has taken its toll on the event industry but, as we speak to the Scottish Event Campus’ Director of Operations, Mark Laidlaw, we recognize that it is the people of the industry who will drive its recovery.

Words Lindsay Ackers

Since the beginning of the outbreak the Scottish Event Campus (SEC), along with several other venues around the world, was called upon to support the country’s health services as it fought COVID-19. Venues and their operations teams are all too familiar with quick turnarounds, ever changing event set-ups and complying with local and national regulations, but this was different. 

“At face value to a member of the industry, the hospital was a slightly larger and more complex ‘event’ that the team had to manage. But we need to look deeper at just how this impressive feat of collaboration came to fruition to understand the silver lining that will benefit the industry in its recovery,” Laidlaw comments. 

Operational within three weeks

For context, the NHS Louisa Jordan currently occupies the SEC Centre – the heart of the Scottish Event Campus. It was operational within less than three weeks and has since treated over 19,000 non-Covid-19 patients, trained more than 5,500 NHS staff and is now assisting with the national vaccination programme – with the first nurse in Glasgow receiving her vaccine at the centre in December.  

“One of the biggest challenges for the team was the unknown – as we all know, by the time a client comes on site, we know them well and we know their event like the back of our hand. This was different. There were teams from the British Army and even competing building firms all working to a plan that was ever evolving – and no one had met each other.

“The first three weeks were an incredible example of how people from all kinds of environments and holding different skillsets can come together to work towards a common goal. It took time to recognise and understand what each group could bring to the project but this really highlighted how highly skilled event professionals are. As in any venue, the event team know the logistics, supply chain and day to day operation of the building better than anyone. It simply could not have been done without them,” he continues. 

At the end of the initial build, it was clear that it was now one, cohesive team working towards something of huge national importance. This was made clear by the moving farewell to the building contractors given by the NHS staff as the facility was handed over to them to run. 

“Seeing the first teams be clapped through the venue was like nothing we had seen before. It was a beautiful show of gratitude and gave the SEC team a huge boost for the next stage – reinforcing that what they were doing was so important for Scotland,” said Laidlaw. 

Next phase

The next phase of the project saw the NHS take over and run the facility – meaning more unknowns for the SEC. As before, it was a totally new team, new counterparts, new contacts – like changing to a brand-new client halfway through an event.  

“The team took this in their stride and once again, the skills that come from being in the event industry shone through. The ability to work in such a fluid and fast paced environment with ever changing plans and being able to turn your hand to any task that needs doing is testament to our industry,” he added. 

It is this combination of flexibility and resilience that makes our industry so unique. The past months have been sobering and eye-opening for the SEC team, but more than anything, Mark notes a drive and determination to return to events, and a relentless energy to deliver. 

“The team, as I’m sure many are around the world, are itching to get back to events. They have missed working closely with their clients to deliver events which make positive impacts in their sector. They have missed the buzz of a busy campus and the quick builds and breakdowns. This energy is going to bring a breath of fresh air and reassurance to clients who have waited so patiently for their next event to happen. 

“We’ve been talking about technology, health and safety measures and phenomenal government lobbying efforts to bring events back, but in reality, it’s the people, the energy and the drive that are really going to make the difference in the long run. That’s not to say that they didn’t exist before – of course they did – but as we know, absence makes the heart grow fonder and, in this instance, our team’s heart is bursting to bring the industry back to life.”

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