The Kent Showground celebrated the official launch of the newly refurbished Clive Emson Conference Centre on Thursday 16th June. Over 400 guests attended the event which showcased the improved 1700sqm exhibition space.
Chairman of the Kent County Agricultural Society, George Jessel, DL started the proceedings by thanking his Board of Directors and in particular Glyn Charlton the Financial Director who had kept a close eye on the 1.2million pound budget and Alison Wallington the Events Manager who is responsible for marketing the centre.
George explained that the vision to remodel this building actually started six years ago and was part of a larger project to revamp and upgrade the buildings at the Showground. He added that change had been at times challenging for the Kent Agricultural Society however the result was a first class event building.
George also thanked Nigel Gerrett, the Project Manager together with Abbotts, the constructors who had a strict completion date to adhere to and also had to contend with extreme weather conditions.
The project was supported by Barclays Business, Ashford Branch who financed the building and obtained the EIB grant of £12,500.
George told guests “We now live in a very different world and I believe the future of this Society is in attracting first class business entrepreneurs and I regard Clive Emson as one of Kent’s leading businessmen. His enterprise now spans from Kent to Cornwall and it has given me huge satisfaction that Clive has put his name to this building”.
For 21 years Clive Emson held auctions at the Ramada in Maidstone but due to fire regulations the successful events that number around seven each year, were attracting so many people that they were forced to look elsewhere for venues.
Clive informed guests at the launch that the Kent Event Centre was the perfect venue to continue their auctions and business in the County. Not only was the Kent Showground ideally located but the facilities in the new centre were ideal and would allow the auctions and other events the company organised to expand over time.
Clive said “As one door shuts, another opens. The opportunity to sponsor the new building was perfect timing and I am proud to be part of this wonderful building”, Clive Emson also thanked his wife Sue for her patience and his staff who had helped him build up his business.
HM Lord-Lieutenant of Kent, Allan Willett CMG CVO as a great supporter of the Kent Showground was delighted to be asked to officially open the Clive Emson Conference Centre. As he was approaching his 75th birthday in August he felt it was fitting that one of his last public duties brought him back to what he recognised as the hub for all that is best in the County.
He said “The Lieutenancy had made good use of the Showground during his tenure of office and had held a number of celebrations. The Lord Lieutenant would be at the Showground again on Saturday 18th June for a farewell tribute by Kent’s Cadet Forces. “The Showground is conveniently placed, bang in the centre of the County, with excellent facilities. I commend Kent County Agricultural Society not only for providing this marvellous venue, but also for all the vitally important work it does in supporting agriculture in Kent”.
Allan Willett unveiled a plaque that will be mounted in the new building to mark the occasion.
Guests were then able to tour round the exhibition space to view the meeting rooms, reception area and catering facilities.
Alison Wallington, Event Manager for the complex was delighted that the centre was now officially open for business and would be able to host a varied programme of events, from meetings to large conferences. “I am looking forward to welcoming Kent’s business community to the new facilities. We have had a complete re-brand, the Kent Event Centre has a new image, new website and an invigorated approach to event management and planning”.
The refurbishment of the building has converted a twenty eight year old, earth floored barn into a modern conference, entertainment and exhibition centre. The hall has a clear span exhibition space of over 1,700 sq metres measuring 36m by 48m with a ridge height of 7m and an eaves height of 3.6m. There is a viewing gallery and at the far end a cargo door to admit HGV lorries. The entire space is fully lit, has under floor cabling and is fitted with modern communication technologies. There is commercial kitchen space capable for catering for up to 1,000 people. The new building has full disabled access, including a platform lift to the first floor meeting rooms and business centre.
The Kent Event Centre is by far the largest Conference and Event Centre in the County. The new venue at Bluewater will provide 1,300sqm less space when completed. Roger Moore, Executive Manager said “We are competitively priced and the Clive Emson Conference Centre refurbishment will put us in an even stronger market position. We are delivering an affordable Conference and Event solution for businesses in the South East”.