Tall order

Tasked with bringing major events to the capital, Iain Edmondson, head of Visit London’s Events for London team, talks strategy, as he settles in to his new role…

A large black, matt laminated and branded box lands on the desk. I say lands, as no other word is more appropriate – it’s a beast, which leaves its keeper with no other option but to deposit the package in the swiftest way possible. Lifting the lid on what I soon learn is the England 2018 FIFA World Cup bid submission is Iain Edmondson, newly-appointed head of events of Visit London’s Events for London.

Drinking tea, Edmondson, a Northerner born and bred is a staunch supporter of the capital. Calm and confident in nature, I soon discover he is a keen athlete – a rower and lover of all things triathlon; he’s a “hands-on kinda guy”, almost laidback. Yet when I ask a member of his team “what’s he like as a boss?” I discover he’s a “do-er”.

“I will only be a success if I can get other people to work together,” Edmondson says. “My style is to get the things that need doing done, and it’s my aim to maximise what resources we have around us.”

Edmondson is charged with heading up the Events for London (EfL) team, a partnership between Visit London, the Greater London Authority and the London Development Agency. He has been in the job for just one week, previously working with EfL as a senior project manager for two years.

“I was brought in by David Hornby [former commercial director of Visit London] and at that point it was just David and Heidi Trueman [senior project manager] who did lots of work and made the case for EfL. Now I also manage Alex Goldschmidt [project manager], Beckie Crane [marketing manager] and Chloe Couchman [communications manager]. It’s our job to look at the opportunities available and understand how London sits in global destination marketing.”

Decision time

Edmondson and the EfL team have been tasked with attracting, developing and staging major sporting and cultural events to London, and as he explains it’s about what decisions have to be made in the next 12 months to make London a more commercially deliverable destination for the next 10 years.

Events are massively diverse, yet EfL has four areas of responsibility, criteria or key objectives that events must meet: Does the event have global media reach? Will the event bring large-scale economic benefit and attract new visitors? Will the event support preparations for 2012 and create a legacy? And will the event engage communities and increase active participation?

EfL brings together all the relevant bodies needed – Visit London, the emergency services, Transport for London, the London boroughs and Government – into one body to support the transport, crowd management and other significant aspects of major events. It asks the questions and discovers whether bidding is viable, explaining that Robbie Madison’s backflip across Tower Bridge required the sign off of 30 separate agencies, co-ordinated by EfL.

Bidding wars

Educated in Salford, Edmondson was living in the North of England when Manchester bid against Sydney for the Olympics. As the years progressed, he soon realised that London’s bid was the country’s only chance it would have of winning.

Edmondson brings with him 18 years experience in operational and project management in the public and private sector and was a member of the London 2012 winning bid team but he has also advised on a number of major event bids and legacy planning including the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth at his previous role at sports consultancy PMP.

“We are in a unique period of time in the city and it’s a unique opportunity – only two years before the Olympics. If we don’t do anything about what events we plan to develop now then it will be too late. Everyone wants to be a part of the Games. The events industry in London is probably the best in the world. We have creativity on our doorstep and people want to contribute,” he continues.

“London has a better opportunity than any other city to integrate with the Games, as the Olympic Park is just six miles from the centre. The Olympic Park will be a major asset to the capital but it’s not our job to create a legacy for the Olympic site. EfL doesn’t own a venue and we don’t have mass budgets. London is owned by the Queen, taxpayers and private landowners, so we will only be able to create, develop and deliver major consumer events if everyone is joined up and you can’t rely on someone else to make those opportunities.”

Edmondson is currently working with many other agencies to decide whether or not London will bid this year to host the World Hockey Cup, the World Netball Championships and the European Swimming Championships. Plus, he is in discussions with UK Athletics as to whether a bid is submitted to host the World Athletics Championships in either 2015 or 2017.

The event would be another major coup for Edmondson and his team, a feather in the team cap, yet in terms of development and planning it’s extremely high profile politically, as it would need Government funding.

The International World Athletics Federation has stated that it has had interest to stage the event from Beijing, the UK and a Polish city. If London wishes to host the event in 2015 it must submit its bid by September. The event would be hosted at the Olympic Park, which is being developed after the Games, so decisions must be made over the long-term use of the site.

“We need to grow events to amazing stature year on year, as a result of having 2012. For example, the BAFTAs are growing in terms of global reach, so can we capitalise on the event and rival the likes of Cannes. Can we develop London Fashion Week so it has the draw of Paris and New York? Does the London Restaurant Festival have the capacity to draw in crowds experienced at Edinburgh Festival? These are all things that need exploring, and it’s our [EfL] job to ask the questions and consider it.

“I’m a firm believer in the phrase if you can’t change the world then don’t waste your time doing it. Paperwork is all part of the job, it’s a necessary evil, bureaucracy can be frustrating but firstly I need to put myself in the shoes of the relevant markets and then maximise my resources – my team, the Mayor’s Office and the venues we work with.”