Discover 2011

Canal Street Cart at Blists Hill Open Air Museum

Blists Hill Victorian Village (Image via Wikipedia)

Becki and Gill from Events Northern Ltd were invited to attend ‘Discover 2011’ – a familiarisation weekend to Telford and Shropshire taking place on the weekend of 16th – 18th September.  Organised by Telford and Shropshire Conferences and the Southwater Event Group the trip brought together over 150 event managers from across the UK to give them a taste of what the area has to offer.

We arrived on the Friday evening in time to check into the Holiday Inn Telford/Ironbridge, drop our bags and head out to Blists Hill.  This is a Victorian town, part of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust.  Here we could explore the period shops and attractions such as the chemists, drapers and sweet shop and choose where to spend our shillings and pence, which had been issued to each of us on the coach.  Characters in period costumes invited questions and interaction and set the scene for what it was like to live during Victorian times.

We explored the streets, mine and foundry, enjoyed traditional fish and chips, washed down with dandelion and burdock and eventually found ourselves in the fairground at the coconut shy, wooden swing boats and motorised chair swings.  The evening was concluded with a singsong and hot whiskey toddy.  This was certainly an unusual experience and would make a different setting for a group event or indeed a wedding – Blists Hill is licensed for Civil Ceremonies within the Club Room and the Forest Glen.

We had a range of excellent activities and trips to choose from for the Saturday and it was difficult to decide which appealed the most as we wanted to be involved in them all!  We opted to visit Weston Park for a show around the stately home and time to enjoy the

Weston Park

The house at Weston Park

Midland Game and Country Fair taking place on the site.  Becki often attends V Festival at the Staffordshire site but it was great to enjoy the splendour of the house and to see it in its true glory.

The House at Weston was built in 1671 and is set within 1,000 acres of historic Parkland.  The house can be hired for corporate events, conferences, dinners and weddings and comprises 28 bedrooms, each with its own individual character.  When you hire the house it comes fully staffed and is hired on an exclusive basis.

We were particularly inspired by the beautiful Victorian Library which homes 3,000 leather bound (and no doubt first edition) books.  The Dining Room was also impressive, overlooking the formal gardens and with Weston’s finest and most important collection of paintings, including works by Van Dyck and Lely.

Inside the house, Weston Park

The house is licensed for civil ceremonies (various rooms) and is also next door to the Parish Church of St Andrews, which is linked by a private corridor to the stately home – perfect to keep celebrity weddings private or simply if the English weather lets you down!  The Victorian Orangery has natural stone walls, complete with foliage and fairy lights and huge period windows offering superb views over the Gardens.  This would be a truly magical setting for a wedding breakfast for up to 120 people.

After viewing the house we had time to enjoy lunch and cup-cakes and to explore the Game Fair at our leisure.  Although we were a little disappointed to miss out on the jousting and ferret racing (!) we really enjoyed the falconry, gundog and dog agility demonstrations and the numerous stall holders throughout the site.

On Saturday evening we were amongst 500 guests attending a black-tie gala dinner to launch the brand new, 1300sqm Ludlow Suite at The International Centre.  With over 11,600 square meters of event space in total, The International Centre is one of the largest conference and exhibition venues in the West Midlands. The venue provides a contemporary and versatile event location for events ranging from boardroom meetings, gala dinners, conferences and large exhibitions.  The Ludlow Suite offered a stunning backdrop for the dinner, complimented by excellent food, drink, entertainment, hospitality and service.

The Ludlow Suite, Telford International Centre

Discover 2011 Gala Dinner, the Ludlow Suite, Telford International Centre

The 400 metre and relay runner Roger Black gave an after dinner speech, which was particularly inspiring and heart-warming less than a year away from the London 2012 Olympics.  It was an honour to be able to speak to Roger afterwards and to hold his beautiful silver Olympic medal – the medal for his personal best of which he is most proud (despite achieving a gold medal with the British relay team).

Telford is already a popular destination with event organisers – it is situated at the heart of the national motorway network, with direct trains from London Marylebone and over 3,000 bedrooms within a 20 minute radius of the centre.  Discover 2011 celebrated the major investment the destination has seen in the last 10 years, and promoted the ongoing developments that will take the area to the next level, including the £250 million Southwater development programme to create a new convention quarter in the heart of the town.

The weekend was an excellent taster to highlight some of the ideas and versatility of Telford and Shropshire.  It was an inspiring weekend, not only in terms of the excellent venues and facilities on offer, but also in terms of networking and generating ideas with other event professionals.  Throughout the weekend we discussed some great plans for new events, partnerships and collaborations with some of the lovely people we met; and who knows maybe some of these ideas will come to fruition in Telford and Shropshire venues!  Discover 2011 once again proved the power of bringing together people who share similar interests and areas of expertise.  The energy and ideas created by meeting face to face cannot be created in any other way and once again highlights the importance of events and the event industry.

The organising team from Telford and Shropshire Conferences and the Southwater Event Group worked tirelessly to ensure an informative and thoroughly enjoyable weekend was had by all and the variety and quality of venues on offer shone through.  These are very exciting times for Telford and Shropshire and we are looking forward to bringing more business to the area.

Thanks and credit to Southwater Event Group for providing the photos of Discover 2011 featured in this blog post.