Hundreds of business leaders and delegates gathered at Liverpool’s waterfront conference centre on Wednesday as part of the Government’s first trial event for mass gatherings.
Representatives from some of the city’s biggest companies came together for the Good Business Festival, where no masks or social distancing were required.
Held at ACC Liverpool on Wednesday, the ‘Change Business for Good’ event was billed as the first in-person, live business event without Covid measures since the first national lockdown in March last year.
Held as part of the Government’s science-led Events and Research Programme (ERP), all attendees were required to take a Covid test before and after the event – with the findings hoped to get audiences back safely as restrictions are gradually eased. Some 400 people attended.
Speaking at the event, Garth Dallas, head of collaborations at the festival, said business leaders and event goers were “nervous” – but “understandably so”, but that it was “absolutely amazing to be back”.
He said: “While we have been engaged with businesses, this is a great test that we are relishing.
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“It has taken a bit of handholding in making sure they understand the reasoning behind the test. We have got to make it as safe as we possibly can, but at the same time make it clear to them there is no such thing as business without a certain amount of risk.
“So we fully understand there is a bit of nervousness – but there was nervousness at the beginning of Covid.
“We have managed to get used to it. We also believe this nervousness is natural but business leaders have embraced this as best as we possibly can.”
Speakers at the event included ex-Body Shop CEO Jeremy Schwartz, entrepreneur and founder of WAH Nails and Beautystack Sharmadean Reid, journalist Paul Mason – and Tony Reeves, chief executive of Liverpool City Council.
Tickets for the event were open to all Liverpool City Region residents, with the event the precursor to the main Good Business Festival event, set to take place over three days in July at venues around the area.
Originally scheduled to take place in September last year, the event was postponed due to the pandemic – although a virtual ‘Act 1’ event took place in October.
Also speaking at the event was Nigel Huddleston, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Sport, Heritage and Tourism.
Addressing delegates, he said: “This is an important landmark in the recovery of the sector.
“Liverpool City Region is a world class leisure destination not only because of the ACC but the great hotels, heritage attractions and work being done in energy, maritime and manufacturing.
“I know the extent to which businesses in the city have really been affected by the lockdowns over the past year.
“This sector is one of the worst hit by the virus and one of the most challenging to recover. But I’m confident that we can do that.
“Thanks to the amazing efforts of all of those involved in the vaccine rollout I am confident we are on track to opening more of the economy on May 17.”
Claire McColgan, director of Culture Liverpool, said the preparation for Wednesday’s event had “been tough”.
“The learning we’ve had over the past four weeks has been the biggest learning curve of my whole career.”
She added: “Doing this with the difficulties when dealing with universities, government departments, all of that to get to this point has been really complex.
‘It’s been really hard but it will make it easier for the next set of organisers.
“It’s about how to get that confidence, that joy back to people. Until we can get that life and that joy back, we are not a city or a country.
“It’s not been easy but I’m really proud the city took a decision to do this and hope this will help us get this working so we can all get back to doing what we love.”