A day in the life of the Bournemouth International Centre
As the BIC celebrates its 25th anniversary, Andrew Headley watches how a typical day there unfolds
Published in September ’09
7.30 am. Apart from the cleaners and security staff, one of the first people in is Simon Bagnall, the technical stage manager. A major American singing star of the 1970s is bringing his show to the Windsor Hall tonight and Simon has to oversee the ‘get-in’ of his lighting and sound systems and staging. In most cases the production company is self-contained and has set things up so many times that they can do it in their sleep, but Simon’s team of half a dozen provide the labour and Simon is there to troubleshoot any unforeseen problem. This is a comparatively simple ‘get-in’; by contrast, for Jeff Wayne’s musical version of War of the Worlds, the equipment (including a 35-feet high Martian) travels in nine articulated lorries and Simon has to provide thirty people to help set it up.
10 am. Brian Woolton, a senior supervisor, is opening up the ticket office. He sells tickets not only for the BIC but for the Pavilion and other venues and at full pelt employs thirty staff – for example, after a major act is announced as coming to the BIC, when the ticket office will open at 8 am or earlier. Christmas Day is the only day it is closed. Peter Woods, an operations manager with additional responsibility for security, is scanning e-mails from other arenas about acts which are coming to the BIC. If, say, one of his opposite numbers is reporting that a band attracts a mostly young, hard-drinking audience, he can plan his security and crowd control operation accordingly. David Thomas, officially the receptionist, but one of those high-profile people around whom an operation like the BIC revolves, has been in since 8.30 am and is now receiving a stream of packages for a medical conference and exhibition which is taking place at the weekend.
11 am. Steve Turner, the entertainment programming manager, is poring over a spreadsheet which tells him the shows booked so far for late 2010 and early 2011. There are lots of gaps because some shows only become available at short notice, but he feels that the programme is shaping up to provide something that will be popular with audiences but also of good cultural quality. His contact is entirely with the promoters who are organising the acts’ tours. Karina Gregory of the Bournemouth International Conference Bureau is on the phone to one of the political parties’ headquarters about Bournemouth’s bid for the party’s conference in 2012. The bureau’s job, although closely linked to the BIC, is to promote the town as a conference destination, which can include quite small locations like individual hotels, as well as the BIC. The party conferences are the high-profile ones, but the medical conference this weekend is typical, and trade unions, professional organisations and large companies all provide regular business for the BIC and Bournemouth.
11.30 am. Peter Gunn, the BIC’s managing director, is meeting with his three directors: Clive Tyers (conferences, exhibitions and events), Martin Belben (building and technical services) and Steve Smith (finance and operations). They meet formally every two weeks but often informally in between. Today, one of the major topics on their agenda is progress on the long-term project to build a hotel linked to the BIC: the sort of strategic thinking for which they must detach themselves from the day-to-day hurly-burly. Peter Woods is meeting with a Chief Inspector from Dorset Police to review the BIC’s procedures to deal with calls that there is a bomb on the premises. Ironically, Peter finds the party conferences easier than some other events from a security point of view, because the police involvement is so intense.
12.30 pm. A local company’s sales conference, being held in one of the seminar rooms, is being served lunch by the catering staff. Tara Phillips, who deals with PR for the conference and exhibition sector, is hitting the key that will send to her 100 or more contacts news that a major professional institute has chosen the BIC as its conference venue for 2011. Her colleague on the entertainments side, assistant marketing manager Tom Madge, is finalising his plans to promote the December shows.
2 pm. Entertainment programming manager Steve Turner is on the phone to a promoter, negotiating the contract for the booking of one of the promoter’s shows. They are discussing what the ticket prices should be and whether the promoter is going to take a percentage of revenue or a flat rate. Louise Burridge, in charge of the team who organises the BIC’s own exhibitions, is busy selling stands for the Christmas Gift Show in November. This is one of three fairs she organises at the BIC (plus a fourth at the BIC’s sister venue, the Bournemouth Pavilion) the others being a wedding fair in February and an exhibition to coincide with the UK Dance Championships in January. For the last two, many exhibitors come back year after year, but the Christmas Gift Show takes a little more selling.
4 pm. For Simon Bagnall, the get-in for the American singer has gone smoothly and he can now return to the paperwork on his desk, which includes an e-mail from a promoter who is bringing an act to the BIC in a month’s time, detailing exactly what the technical requirements will be. This gives Simon the opportunity to flag up anything that might cause a problem and to resolve it now rather than on the day of the get-in.
5.30 pm The chefs are busy preparing meals for those who will want to eat before the show in the Windsor Hall. All the public eating areas in the BIC, plus the bars, have recently been taken over by a firm called Kudos on a five-year contract. Their major plans to improve the existing facilities are still being put into practice, but meanwhile they must continue to feed the BIC’s clients. This could mean anything from a banquet for 1200 to a small private party. At the moment, Kudos’s general manager, Iain Robertson, is assessing his staff requirements for bookings that have been taken so far for the period immediately before Christmas.
6.45 pm. As well as those eating before the show, the audience for tonight’s Windsor Hall show has started to arrive. Some of them are ordering interval drinks via the automated machines that avoid queuing at the bar. In the ticket office, Brian Woollton has a major crisis: a lady who has brought a party of eight only ordered seven tickets. The show is sold out and, much though he would like to, he can’t help as the eight ladies start a shouting match about which of them should miss seeing their idol. Sensibly and discreetly, he withdraws.
7.15 pm. The audience is filtering into the Windsor Hall, which holds 4000 seated or 6500 standing; some of the seating folds away. Other spaces at the BIC include the Solent Hall, opposite the Windsor Hall, which can hold smaller events or be an ancillary venue to the Windsor Hall: for example, for exhibitions associated with a large conference. The Purbeck Hall has an ice rink laid in it for public skating twice a year, and the Tregonwell Hall is smaller but can still host quite large events. The staff catch their breath as the American star swings into his act.
9.30 pm. A lady in the Windsor Hall, perhaps over-excited at seeing her heart-throb in the flesh, becomes breathless and feels faint. St John’s Ambulance provide all first aid at the BIC and quickly arrive to help her. After a few minutes sitting down outside she quickly recovers and even goes back in time to see the last number.
10 pm. As the audience leaves, Peter Wood’s security staff maintain a watch on the surging crowd, who are excited by the show but orderly. Discretion for the security staff is all: they will respond quickly if necessary, but they never forget that people are here to enjoy themselves.
5.30 am. It is still dark as the cleaners arrive to clear up: even an orderly crowd of 4000 can make a surprising amount of mess. By the time David Thomas arrives at 8.30 am, the BIC is spick and span and ready to face a new day.