You might not think Europop and real estate have a great deal in common – but the song contest in Liverpool and Leeds’ second year playing host to the UK’s largest property conference are a reminder about how events can generate cultural and commercial clout.
The last fortnight has seen two of our great northern cities abuzz with energy, creativity, and positivity – and this has made a sizeable contribution to their respective economies.
Look at the impact on hospitality. £200m was the boost to Merseyside as 300,000 people descended on Liverpool to see Loreen crowned champion for a second time. Meanwhile this year’s UKREiiF was twice the size of 2022’s launch – with hotels across Leeds sold out and venues full to the brim. Based on the feedback we heard, there’s every reason to reckon the event will be even bigger in the years to come.
Then, consider the deals struck and commercial opportunities created at and around the Royal Armouries and Leeds Dock. Where these things happen is both symbolically and materially important. Lord Heseltine summed it up well in his keynote address on the final day of the conference saying: ‘it’s all about confidence. You need to put trust in places to deliver, invest in them, and then the crowds will follow’. That’s certainly been the case for UKREiiF.
The former Chancellor’s speech was one of many big hitting moments – with the likes of Rachel Maclean, Rachael Reeves and Chris Skidmore also sharing perspectives on what the built environment industry must do to remain globally competitive while spreading prosperity across the country.
For our towns, cities and regions, this was the place to make big announcements and attract investment – see West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s deal with Homes England, an update on Birmingham City Council’s plans to transform its urban environment, and major new developments unveiled by councils such as Sheffield and Stockport.
On top of all that there was a special appearance from The Rest is Politics podcasters Alistair Campbell and Rory Stewart, an interview with Gary Neville, and fringe events including running clubs and yoga.
This might give the impression that the conference is going a little bit mainstream – and that’s a good thing.
The event’s organisers have shown they want to do things differently and aren’t interested in creating an echo chamber, so next year we’d like to see more of the unusual suspects in attendance – from the wider worlds of business and culture – who can challenge the industry’s conventional thinking and convey messages to a wider audience.
This is a progressive and positive place for the sector to come together. From Camargue, it’s douze points for UKREiiF.
James Snowdon is an account director at Camargue.