Your article “The Finest Scotch” (MW October 2) serves to perpetuate a recent industry myth in claiming that Birmingham ICC was the first purpose-built conference centre in the UK, to which Glasgow’s Armadillo now becomes the second. To this myth you have added another with your article, and that is that they have both been developed by commercial interests to meet a burgeoning meetings market.
Aside the many sophisticated purpose-built meetings and presentation venues often featured in your magazine, which are developed by, and in association with, hotels, you have lost sight of, or forgotten, the real first in both criteria and that is Wembley.
Opened in 1977, The Wembley Conference Centre was the first purpose-designed conference centre in the UK. It featured a multiplicity of conference auditoria, associated exhibition space and hospitality rooms together with other support space and services housed under one roof.
The combination of facilities intended to provide the flexibility to meet the needs of either a single large event, requiring further sub division, or a variety of smaller ones without interference with one another. This multi-auditoria design, and the principles behind it, have remained the same – other than in changes of architectural preference and design detail.
Since laying claim to being the UK’s first purpose-built convention centre in its launch literature, Birmingham’s ICC through your article is now being lauded – together with the SECC Armadillo – of being far-sighted commercial undertakings. Myth two, as both are owned and managed by limited liability companies, the local authority being the single shareholders. Wembley plc, on the other hand, is a publicly quoted company with a listing and share issue.