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Bristol and Bath: Creative bonanza ignites the West Country

From Brunel to Concorde, Bristol is a city of innovation. And for the last few years, the city has been channelling that innovation into its events offer.

Despite not having an exclusively dedicated convention centre, investment into venues has created a huge range of event space to choose from, ensuring plenty of variety for dinner and social events across the city.

Kathryn Davis, head of tourism at Destination Bristol, says: “Our aim has always been for Bristol and the city region to focus on what we can do and deliver exceptionally well.

Dine under a Concorde at Aerospace Bristol

Dine under a Concorde at Aerospace Bristol

“I think it is incredibly exciting that engineers from all over the world can be hosted at business events at Brunel’s SS Great Britain or Aerospace Bristol, so not only be in the destinations responsible for these world-changing modes of transport but also make them central to their event.”

Opened in 2017, Aerospace Bristol celebrates the city’s rich aviation history. The museum space and modern meeting rooms are available for private hire, but the star attraction is undoubtedly the unique opportunity to host a gala dinner or drinks reception under a Concorde.

I stayed at the recently refurbed Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel, the city’s oldest hotel, with its glorious mix of Victorian chic and modern vibes. Palm Court is the pick of its event spaces, the high ceilings and grand statues making for a memorable space.

Planetarium for hire
A millennium project, We The Curious hosted 350 delegates at the inaugural Meet South West in its Rosalind Franklin room, highlighting the museum’s place at the heart of Bristol’s events offer.

The museum allows delegates to get hands on with the exhibits during drinks receptions, while its planetarium is also available for private hire. Alison Norledge, venue consultant at Venuepot, says: “If you are looking to add something different to your event then the award-winning science and discovery centre is the place to start.”

Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s fingerprints are all over Bristol, from the Clifton suspension bridge to the SS Great Britain, effectively the world’s first cruise ship. The latter is open to the public and for events hire, with the chance to do drinks on deck before ducking down below for a gala dinner for up to 160 in the First Class Dining Saloon. And if you’re looking for something more 21st than 19th century, the newly-opened Being Brunel museum offers quirky event space for 160.

Harry and Meghan at Bristol Old Vic

Harry and Meghan at Bristol Old Vic

Fully reopen after a two-year refurb, the Bristol Old Vic is home to myriad event options. Combine the grand Cooper’s Hall with drinks on the balcony to take in the buzzy atmosphere of one of Bristol’s hippest hangouts – just like Harry and Meghan did on a recent trip to the city.

Formerly a spa hotel, the Avon Gorge in Clifton has just joined the Hotel du Vin family, with spectacular results. The lush interiors and décor are everything you’d expect from the boutique brand, while the newly-renovated event space in the old Turkish baths are a genuine surprise – high ceilings and views of Brunel’s Clifton suspension bridge.

Bristol City’s Ashton Gate stadium houses the South West’s largest conference space, the 850-capacity Lansdown Restaurant, opened in 2016, while ambitious plans are afoot to build a brand new conference centre, stadium and two new hotels on an adjacent site by 2021.

Kathryn Davis adds: “The launch of the new facilities at Ashton Gate Stadium have enabled the city to host larger events, and the forthcoming investment in Colston Hall will enhance this.”

Down the road in Bath you will also find history and innovation on show – almost 2,000 years of it. Dating back to 70AD, The Roman Baths is one of the best-preserved Roman sites in the world. The magnificent Great Bath provides a unique setting for drinks receptions, while the adjoining Pump Room can accommodate large parties for private dining.

Conference facilities
It’s not all ancient history though. Opened in 2017, the £50m Apex City of Bath Hotel is home to the city’s largest and only purpose-built city centre conference facility. Housing eight meeting spaces and catering for everything from flagship conferences to board meetings, 2018 saw the 177-room hotel welcome 677 conferences and events – worth more than £1m in revenue.

Bailbrook House’s The Crate Escape activity

Tammy Pratt, event manager at KC Jones, says: “Our clients are excited to have the option of visiting such a historic city while benefitting from professional conferencing services under the same roof as high quality accommodation.”

Bailbrook House Hotel, part of Hand Picked Hotels, is one of only two Grade II-listed country house hotels in Bath and has 12 meeting rooms, including the 200-capacity Brunel Suite. It has just teamed up with ACF Teambuilding & Events to develop a bespoke team building activity, The Crate Escape.

Further afield towards the Cotswolds, De Vere Tortworth Court is a historic hotel in stunning surroundings and home to 14 flexible event spaces, which can accommodate up to 400 delegates.
South of Bath lies the Longleat estate, home to the UK’s original safari park and high Elizabethan grandeur. Across the estate there is a diverse range of stunning and unusual event venues, catering for everything from team building away days to full conference packages.

Buyer’s eye
Eloise Perry, senior event manager at Venues and Events International 

Village Hotel, Bristol
A fantastic addition, each of the hotel’s bedrooms is contemporary and functional with everything the business traveller could need. With a full gym, swimming pool, Starbucks, pub, grill, free Wi-Fi and most importantly, complimentary car parking, the Village Hotel is already a hit with local guests and those travelling from further afield.

The Great Bath offers unique event options

The Gainsborough Bath Spa
The Gainsborough Bath Spa excels at five-star service, with all staff taking pride in addressing each guest by name. The Chapel can seat 80 theatre-style and has direct access onto an external terrace, adding an outdoor element to the space or a perfect spot for a drinks reception. The Somerset Room can seat 50 for private dinners and features historic detailing.

The Roman Baths
The Roman Baths date back over 2,000 years, making them a magical setting for a drinks reception. The Pump Room is ideal for pre-dinner drinks, while The Terrace, which overlooks the waters of the Great Bath is a particularly atmospheric venue for small dinners or drinks receptions. We recently hosted a gala dinner at the Roman Baths for a construction company and the feedback was sensational.

Buyer’s Eye 2

We asked the venue finding team at NYS to provide their recommendations for the region…

Bristol

M Shed
Very quirky, 1950’s museum transit shed with state of the art technology. For customers looking for something a little different or with a technology themed meeting.
Mercure Grand
Nice welcoming reception, modern bar restaurant accessible from hotel and street. The hotel has a very industrial feel to it and this is carried into the bedrooms. Central location and very easily accessible
Harbour Hotel
Very traditional building with smaller quirky spaces for high end board meetings. The old banking hall is a fantastic ballroom now with high ceilings and the acoustics are amazing. The Spa is located in the old vault rooms again cosy and historical but the modernisation is not out of place. Quirky and aimed more at the higher end compared with other venues in the area.

Bath

Bath Racecourse
Contemporary, modern and great views! Positive customer feedback from a variety of events. Very easy to work with.
The Pig Hotel
Rustic venue with country feels, small only 29 rooms. Great food and service, at home experience, great reviews.
MacDonald Bath Spa
Beautiful hotel and tastefully decorated throughout, the spa is a main focus for the hotel. There is a lovely 10 minute walk through parkland to the city centre and the spa facilities

Who to contact

Bristol
Amy Bramhall
Convention Bureau Manager | Meet Bristol
Tel: +44 (0)117 946 2218
amy.bramhall@meetbristol.co.uk
www.meetbristol.co.uk

Bath
Bath Venue Finder
http://bathvenuefinder.co.uk/
Helpline: 01225 569250