Unexpected Meetings Destinations in the U.K.

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Author: Sarah Beauchamp       

More international conference organizers are looking beyond larger, first-tier destinations when hosting meetings in the United Kingdom. For instance, the World Down Syndrome Congress took place in Glasgow in July 2018 at the SEC Center, Scotland’s largest convention center, and BIOMAG 2020 will commence next August at the University of Birmingham in England.

These are just a few of the U.K.’s second-tier cities that offer first-class convention experiences. Here are some of the country’s more non-obvious choices for meetings — all easily accessible from the U.S.

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The Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow is made up of several event spaces, including the SSE Hydro (right) and the SEC Armadillo (left). (SEC Glasgow)

Creating legacies in Glasgow, Scotland

Months before the city welcomed more than 1,200 attendees for the World Down Syndrome Congress, held July 24-27, 2018, Glasgow put in place programs that made sure the event would leave an impression. Down’s Syndrome Scotland conducted workshops during Down Syndrome Awareness Week in March last year to educate staff across the hospitality industry about the condition, aiming to remove any stigma and ensuring congress attendees felt at home.

Helping planners make an impact on the city is a big part of Glasgow’s approach to meetings. Through its legacy program, the convention bureau works with event organizers to produce customized public engagement programs, providing a platform for attendees to interact with the local community, businesses, and academics — and Glasgow has the U.K.’s largest academic community outside of London, with world-leading research in life sciences, engineering, and technology.

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The International Convention Centre Birmingham is the site of the 57th Annual Meeting of the International Association of Forensic Toxicologists in September 2019 (ICC Birmingham)

Unprecedented investment in Birmingham, England

Located in the heart of the U.K., Birmingham is within a three-hour drive from 75 percent of the nation’s population, making it a convenient choice for meeting planners. But the city is about much more than convenience. Birmingham boasts a quickly growing food scene; a diverse arts district, including the Symphony Hall and its resident orchestra; and a rich history, which attendees can explore at the National Trust Back to Backs and the Black Country Living Museum.

The city center is seeing unprecedented investment. Plus, with the opening of Europe’s largest library and the nearly $800 million redevelopment of the Birmingham New Street station, the city is better equipped than ever to host a wide range of meetings and events. In fact, the city has been chosen as the location for several major international conferences, including BIOMAG 2020, the 22nd international conference on biomagnetism, to be held Aug. 31-Sept. 4, 2020, and the 57th Annual Meeting of the International Association of Forensic Toxicologists, set for Sept. 2-6, 2019, at the International Convention Centre.

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Manchester Central can accommodate meetings as small as 40 people to as large as more than 10,000. (Manchester Central)

Medical excellence in Manchester, England

Manchester — the global gateway to the North of England, with the largest airport in the U.K. outside of London — is a big draw for medical conferences, being home to Europe’s largest clinical academic campus. The city boasts several medical research institutes, including Europe’s biggest cancer treatment center and the world’s largest clinical trials unit. Manchester is the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution and home of the first programmable computer and its manufacturing and digital media sectors continue to thrive, making the meetings destination an industrial and commercial powerhouse.

This year, Manchester will host the 58th Annual Conference of the Particle Therapy Co-Operative Group (PTCOG). More than 1,000 leading clinicians, physicists, and practitioners in particle therapy from around the world will meet in the city to share the latest clinical, scientific, and industrial developments.

More Cities, More Meetings

And there are plenty of other second-tier cities in the U.K. that offer top-notch meeting amenities and their own unique event resources. Bristol, England, for instance, is one of the U.K.’s creative capitals, home to Aardman Animations, Banksy, and Upfest, Europe’s largest street art and graffiti festival. And in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the city’s award-winning conference center, recently underwent a nearly $40 million renovation. For more information on meetings destinations in the U.K., go to visitbritain.com.