Figureheads from the event suppliers and services sector reunited face-to-face after a year’s hiatus at the ESSA annual conference and awards ceremony.

With the events sector still in recovery mode from the devastating impact of the pandemic, ESSA’s annual conference provided a timely interlude to its members by sharing intelligence and industry insight along with a hefty dose of camaraderie.

After an opening video message from the government’s Minister for Tourism, Nigel Huddleston, the day was filled with insightful sessions offering guidance and encouragement on how to tackle the plethora of new challenges faced by the events sector, whilst at the same time taking this unique opportunity to build-back-better.

Members were challenged to ask themselves hard questions to ascertain what is no longer working or relevant. In a session titled CTRL ALT DELETE, James Poulter, CEO and Co-Founder of Vixen Labs said the industry had some ‘serious un-learning to do’ and suggested it ‘hit delete and start again’ to build back better, instead of assuming everything had worked fine before the pandemic.

Among other speakers, James Capell-Abra of Stress Matters hosted a wellbeing session exploring change and its impact, an issue very high on the agenda. With the events sector being the first to close at the start of the pandemic and the last to re-open, these adverse conditions have resulted in monumental upheaval and uncertainty. The only certain is the need to change. 

With many still feeling shock, frustration and abandonment, support from ESSA and its members has undoubtedly helped carve a path through the baffling and complex process required to change, reset and start again. It is evident that there is a strong appetite within the ESSA community to embrace change and seize new opportunities to improve and reform long-term.

Looking to future generations, ESSA invited students currently studying Design for Event, Exhibition and Performance at Lincoln School of Design to the conference providing a clear message is that there has never been a more critical time to promote the sector and encourage the younger generations in.

ESSA Chair of Association Lou Kiwanuka said: “Against all the odds, there have been some astonishing achievements during the past 21 months. We’ve been thrown everything imaginable, but we have thrown back more. I have watched daily as Andrew Harrison and his team absorbed the pain of our members and admired how they fought hard to find answers, solutions and connections to all member issues. The stress and strain has been universally felt across the sector but we have survived and are stronger for it. Moving forward, we need a different and stronger relationship with government, we need to reduce waste, embrace industry 4.0 and adapt to the rapid changes in society and technology. We at ESSA have clear objectives and are very ready to follow this through.”

ESSA director Andrew Harrison said: “Welcoming our members back to the annual conference and uniting in our experiences in a positive forum has been the very tonic we all needed. We have worked tirelessly to drive the association forward during the pandemic, at a time when our members needed us most.

“One overwhelming product of the pandemic is the emergence of a strong, like-minded community brimming with support, and which recognises that we are all in this together. Together we will emerge stronger. It’s a critical time to take stock, regroup, adapt and move forward. With no clear finish line in sight and with 21 months of pandemic experience behind us, the time is ripe to ask some tough questions to make futureproof changes for the benefit of all.”


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