Conferences, conventions and cars: Inside the busy world of the ExCeL

PUBLISHED: 17:00 04 July 2019

ExCeL boss Jeremy Rees. Picture: ExCeL

ExCeL boss Jeremy Rees. Picture: ExCeL


Attracting more than four million visitors a year, the ExCeL is one of Newham’s busiest venues - and it’s still growing.

Adobe Summit 2019 is one of the many corporate events the venue holds. Picture: ExCeLAdobe Summit 2019 is one of the many corporate events the venue holds. Picture: ExCeL

The Royal Docks venue opened in 2000, with its second phase - including a new entrance at Prince Regent - in 2010.

"It was used as a large scale regeneration programme," ExCeL CEO Jeremy Rees explained.

"I quite like thinking that cities around the world are using convention centres for regeneration, driving business tourism.

"You've got something which is quite unique in London, this really large scale exhibition and convention centre."

Hannah Brown and Lawrence Quinn at Comic Con. Picture: Ellie HoskinsHannah Brown and Lawrence Quinn at Comic Con. Picture: Ellie Hoskins

The ExCeL generates £4.5 billion of economic impact for London and supports 37,600 jobs each year.

There are 220 staff directly employed by the venue, with more than 35 per cent living in east London, while catering partner ExCeL London Hospitality has 77pc of its workforce based within six miles of the Royal Docks.

The venue has partnered with housing developer Mount Anvil to create homes on part of its 100-acre estate with 14 apprentices among the workforce.

At the centre of the estate - which also includes bars, restaurants and hotels - is the exhibition and convention centre, laid out as two long but dividable halls either side of a 600m central walkway.

The FaceIt global summit. Picture: Joe BradyThe FaceIt global summit. Picture: Joe Brady

It holds more than 400 events a year, ranging from large corporate showcases to international association meetings and family-friendly events such as Comic Con.

The venue has also hosted immersive experiences such as the Avengers Station, which allowed fans to step inside the film franchise's world.

One of the most controversial events is the Defence and Security Equipment International fair, which is held every two years and attracts protests because of the sale of weapons to countries around the world.

"There are elements such as cyber security, but I understand that people are against other parts of it," he said.

The Avengers Station featured costumes of Marvel's superheroes. Picture: Tomek PleskaczynskiThe Avengers Station featured costumes of Marvel's superheroes. Picture: Tomek Pleskaczynski

"It's all about minimising impact on the community."

It's that community focus which has seen the ExCeL partner with two charities - Newham All Star Sports Academy (NASSA) and Community Food Enterprise (CFE).

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"We love working with them and are hugely supportive of the work they do," Jeremy said.

The World Travel Market. Picture: ExCeLThe World Travel Market. Picture: ExCeL

"We buy fresh fruit from CFE to provide our staff with a free, healthy snack, and donate left-over food from our events."

Other community activites include providing free space for summer holiday scheme ExCeL in the Arts and London City Airport's STEM day, and sponsoring the annual Newham fireworks display.

The venue is gradually getting greener, launching a 'no plastic' campaign at the start of the year.

This includes removing plastic straws, installing water fountains and having lower lighting when setting up or taking down events.

Formula E cars outside the ExCeL. Picture: Formula EFormula E cars outside the ExCeL. Picture: Formula E

The ExCeL is also home to the UK's largest commercial wormery, boasting more than 300,000 worms. It is used to recycle vegetable waste with the resulting fertiliser used on the surrounding green spaces.

With such green credentials, it seems appropriate that the venue will be playing host to the final two rounds of the Formula E electric racing series in July 2020, in what will be a world first indoor and outdoor race.

"We are working closely with Formula E to showcase the versatility of our venue, creating a truly unique experience for teams, drivers and spectators," Jeremy explained.

"There are some big cities on the calendar - New York, Paris, Hong Kong - and we wanted London to be on there too."

Races - which feature car manufacturers such as Jaguar, Audi and BMW - attract a global TV audience of around 40 million, with Jeremy hopeful that the event will "shine a global spotlight on the Royal Docks".

With the multi-year deal meaning thousands of motorsport fans are set to descend on the ExCeL for at least the next few summers, easy transportation to and from the venue is vital.

Enter the Elizabeth line, which will have a station at Custom House, meaning the ExCeL's one million annual international visitors can get to the venue from Heathrow Airport in just 43 minutes - and from Paddington station in just 19.

And Jeremy explained that the new rail link could be a boost to the changing face of the events business.

"With increasingly busy lifestyles, there may be an appetite to spend less time at events," he said.

"We believe organisers will be attracted to cities which continue to invest in their transport network, offering time-saving travel options.

"Our vision is to be the home of world leading events. We want the very best events in the world to find a home at ExCeL London."

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