Name: David Browne
Venue: Eikon Exhibition Centre, Northern Ireland
Role: Operations Manager
Tell us a little bit about your time at the [venue]: I started working in events over 30 years ago, at our former venue The King’s Hall, Belfast. I began working as a joiner, before becoming foreman and now Operations Manager. My role involves working one-on-one with our event organisers in relation to the logistics and operations of their event and advising on what works best within the venue. I oversee the build-up and breakdown of the event, in adherence with our health & safety guidelines.
My favourite event has always been the Balmoral Show, which is Northern Ireland’s largest agri-food festival. We have over 120,000 people attend the event over a four-day period. It’s the highlight of the year for me – despite having to be on two radio channels and my work mobile! You don’t want to see my call list during the build and event!
The highlight of my career to date was the very first Balmoral Show that we had at our new home, the Eikon Exhibition Centre. Moving an event of that scale and complexity to a new venue was daunting to say the least, but it was a great success – I earned my bottle of barcardi that week!
What are some of the things that you have been working on at your venue during the COVID-19 lockdown?: I’ve been a lockdown one man band! We are fortunate here at the Eikon to have a great grounds team, but we enrolled them into the government’s furlough scheme. So I was doing everything on the site that needed to be maintained – from installing Perspex screens in our office, taking meter readings, checking all of our alarm systems… to even spraying the weeds! It would’ve been easy to lock the gates and not come back until events were given the go ahead, but keeping the venue maintained was absolutely paramount in ensuring the venue would be in a premium condition and event organisers could be offered the same, high standard when the time came that we could reopen.
How are you and your team working towards instilling confidence in events in the future? We are meeting regularly on a weekly basis to discuss our current risk assessments, our health and safety policies and the measures that we are putting in place to control the risk of transmission of both Coronavirus, or indeed any future strains, when attending events in the future.
Our current events team have accumulated collaboratively over 100 years’ experience of working in events and exhibitions, and so we are well equipped to put in place a coherent management plan for the venue. In my own individual role, I am currently researching operational improvements that we can make within the venue to move forward, so that both our event organisers and their patrons feel safe to host and attend events at the Eikon Exhibition Centre.
Tell us one thing you enjoyed about lockdown? Well not only did it take a global pandemic for me to finally paint my house, I have never spent as much time at home with my wife and my family since I got married 29 years ago!