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Case study: Best Unusual Venue at the UK Event Awards

This case study outlines the strategy behind the Imperial War Museum Duxford, which won the award in the category of best unusual venue at the UK Event Awards 2011.

Elior at Imperial War Museum Duxford – where history is in the air

Imperial War Museum Duxford is Europe’s premier aviation museum and offers delegates a unique and award-winning selection of conference and dining facilities.

Where else in the UK can you dine under the wing of Concorde or a B52, create a team building day that includes flying in vintage aeroplanes and riding in tanks, and have a conference in well-appointed meeting rooms that are just a few steps from one of the finest collections of aeroplanes in the world?

Duxford is an historic site. Home to both Spitfires and Hurricanes in World War II, today its outstanding exhibitions, world-renowned air shows and 300 acres of space combine to create the perfect backdrop for everything from corporate dinners and weddings to conferences and product launches.

IWM Duxford is one of the largest exhibition and events venues in Eastern England. It’s a spectacular and versatile location and can accommodate events of almost any size. Duxford offers visitors three main hubs.

AirSpace Conference Centre, overlooking the working airfield, opened in 2007 and has a range of flexible suites and rooms, including the state-of-the-art Marshall Auditorium. Complementing the centre, our AirSpace Conservation Hall is now available to hire for largescale conferences, exhibitions and product launches. The hall is home to three impressive aircraft and offers a dramatic backdrop to any event.

AirSpace is also a spectacular dining venue that oozes sophistication and glamour. Lunch surrounded by some of the most iconic British aircraft ever to grace the skies is always a memorable event, but Airspace truly comes alive at night. Stunning lighting and extensive dining options, alongside entertainment, make this the perfect place for a celebration. With space to seat up to 500 guests everyone is guaranteed a night to remember.

Further down the airfield is the American Air Museum. This award winning building, designed by Lord Foster, is an extraordinary example of contemporary British architecture. We’ve been offering premium evening events here since 1997. Guests can dine under the B52 or by the glass wall. There are spectacular views of the airfield and it is the perfect location to dance the night away to a swing band.

Duxford lends itself to outdoor events and the museum seamlessly combines the historic airfield and runway with modern visitor facilities. A wide selection of grass and tarmac spaces provide flexible areas for large product demonstration whilst the mile long runway can be utilised for car displays and is often favoured by Formula 1 teams for testing.

Clients can add new dimensions to events with fantastic team-building opportunities available. To add glamour to an event guests can even arrive by plane…budget permitting of course!

Clients, Events and Innovations Over the last year, Duxford has played host to a wide variety of clients. The CBI held its annual Eastern Region dinner here last year for over 400 guests (and will do so again this September), whilst Lotus used the Conservation Hall for the media launch of its new partnership with Caterham. Three cars were displayed centrally and over 200 media and VIP invitees were present for the unveiling. Other clients of note include EEDA, UK Trade and Investment and MBDA.

At the other end of the scale, we recently opened a room in AirSpace. Suitable for 12 delegates, the Lightning Room is proving popular and is attractively priced. Half day room hire, light refreshments and entrance to the museum for up to 10 delegates, is available for less than £100.

Whilst Duxford is attractive to a wide range of businesses, due to its unique character and accessible location, we’ve particularly targeted innovation and technology companies. This is partly because guests can wander past some of the most inspiring examples of engineering brilliance the world has ever seen. Part of the Wright Flyer of 1903, the fastest Concorde to ever take flight and the Blackbird, the fastest jet aircraft, are just some examples.

Being surrounded by such noted developments in technology can’t fail to have an impact. All delegates receive complimentary entrance to the museum when they attend a conference and it’s easy to encourage a little ‘blue sky thinking’ when attendees are in the presence of greatness.

But our visitors don’t just come for the aeroplanes! The recent promotion of the Conservation Hall, a 2000sqm event space, has established Duxford as an ideal setting for product launches and displays, trade shows and exhibitions. Over the last twelve months, we’ve worked hard to ensure that the AirSpace Conference Centre balances the requirements of a conference venue whilst incorporating the life of an active museum.

The strategy is working. The centre is seeing a remarkably high level of repeat business and is regularly used for training events and seminars by sectors such as agricultural, retail, law and of course aviation! It is also utilised for networking events including breakfasts for the Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce.

Airspace and the American Air Museum are both wonderful venues for dinners with undoubted wow factor and in the last year we’ve enhanced the level of service we offer, with improved lighting, extensive use of company colours and logos and a wider range of dining options.

In an effort to increase our range and number of customers still further, we recently launched the Keep Calm and Carry On Campaign. Using the iconic branding, postcards were distributed to event bookers promoting the opportunity to leave the stress of event organising at ground level and take off for a complimentary flight over Cambridge or a luxury spa voucher.

Duxford has also been in high demand as a Christmas venue. 2010 offered a Supersonic Christmas to over 1000 guests and 2011’s Christmas with Altitude looks set to double that. Open to private and joiner parties, the Christmas season offers the opportunity for groups as small as 10 to party amongst the planes. This proves very popular with local businesses, who might not usually have the budget for such glamorous and unique entertaining.

Another innovation in 2010 saw Duxford become a wedding venue. Offering an alternative to the usual stately home celebrations, couples can now hold their ceremony and reception here.

The last twelve months have proved extremely successful despite the very challenging climate. We’ve won new clients, offered improved and innovative services and found interesting and successful ways to market Duxford. As 2010 ended, figures showed we had welcomed over 20,000 guests and delegates to more than 400 events.

Case Studies
1. Building Society

The Brief
The client was looking for a venue which could host a managers’ conference for up to 100 delegates, followed by an evening awards ceremony to celebrate outstanding performance in customer care. They were specifically looking for a glamorous and memorable venue which would appeal to full spectrum of staff at various levels of seniority. They also needed space for a large prize giveaway.

The Operation
We held a daytime event for 70 senior managers in the Marshall Auditorium. Delegates stayed in a local hotel and returned for the evening awards ceremony. Drinks were taken by our Spitfire before 230 guests enjoyed a sumptuous meal and ceremony under the wings of Concorde. The star prize for the evening was a Fiat 500 which was brought into the hangar and formed the centrepiece of a dramatic stage production. Extensive event lighting brought the venue to life with the company logo projected onto the entrance and rotating gobos across the floor.

The Result
A spectacular event which was enjoyed by all levels of the company. The venue fitted the brief perfectly and was a complement to the company’s brand and image.

2. Car Manufacturer

The Brief
A press call and media event to announce the launch of a new automotive partnership. The requirement was for an exciting venue which would attract media interest, along with extensive internal and external display areas able to facilitate a static car display and a stunt driving display. It was a high profile event, including Formula 1 drivers and teams.

The Operation
Media were invited for registration and refreshments on the West Gallery overlooking the Conservation Hall before moving through for the announcements and unveiling of the cars. Following the press call, guests moved out to the jetpan and runway for a photo call before being treated to a stunt driving display by a noted F1 driver. After this guests were able to experience the thrill first hand when they were taken out in the cars with the afternoon spent at leisure in the museum.

The Result
The client was delighted with how the event ran – the media call was the largest ever to take place at the museum. Feedback from staff and guests was outstanding and a testament to the hard work and dedication of the events team. Further enquiries have since been made with a large event pencilled in for later in the summer.

Featured by The Drum