A week in the working life of Cloth Hall Court Manager – Kelly Allen

Speeches during the CHS Welcome Reception in Cloth Hall Court

On Monday 24th April, we proudly launched the latest addition to our portfolio of venues – Cloth Hall Court, located in the vibrant heart of the city, next to Leeds Railway Station. Following this hugely exciting week for University of Leeds Conferences and Events, our Cloth Hall Court Manager – Kelly Allen, shares some insights into her working life running a multi-purpose venue!

What did the launch week entail? 

With the CHS Leeds show also taking place in the same week, we were thrilled to open our doors for Cloth Hall Court’s first event, the CHS Leeds Welcome Reception. This was closely followed by the AFN Network+ Big Tent Event 2023 attended by 100 delegates.

These two very different events really showcase Cloth Hall Court’s versatility. For the Welcome Reception, over 300 event professionals were in attendance, representing the whole UK-wide industry, for an evening of networking. Guests enjoyed interactive mixology from Leeds-based Mix & Twist, canapés, bowls and grazing stations provided by our in-house caterers, an ice cream station from Leeds’ Northern Bloc and performances from Soniq Empires Partyband.

The two-day AFN Network+ conference has a variety of plenaries, panels and workshops exploring the transformation of the agri-food system for a net zero future. We utilised the whole venue holding the theatre-style main plenaries in the Tweed Suite with a range of simultaneous breakout sessions in our smaller rooms. Merchants Hall was the perfect environment for networking refreshment and lunch breaks.

What were the timelines and challenges in planning these?

The enquiries came in several months ago, but due to refurbishment, followed by use of the venue for Leeds Crown Court trials until a month ago, we had limited access for site visits and client meetings.

We were able to share photographs of the different rooms and talk through the flow of the events and set-up requirements. The venue is hugely flexible, so once I understood the main objectives for each event and the vision for the look and feel, I could propose the best options.

Our clients had faith in our reputation for delivering world-class conferences and events and the communication between us enabled fast and effective planning once we could conduct site visits.

What other types of events can Cloth Hall Court accommodate?

We are now receiving enquiries for a very diverse array of formats. Everything from intimate board meetings for government departments or corporate conferences for up to 300 delegates with interactive breakout sessions – to private parties and even a professional 24-hour Hackathon!

What has been the client and attendee feedback about the new venue?

Cloth Hall Court delivers on multiple objectives for planners. Its prime location reduces travel once delegates arrive in the city, which is a huge plus for sustainability. Also, many responsible businesses now look for their venue hire spend to fulfil an ethical benefit. Our revenue is directly re-invested in the University of Leeds as one of the UK’s leading higher education institutions, so it definitely ticks that box.

It’s also been great to see the reaction to the venue’s theming. The Grade II listed building has an important history for Leeds – it was formerly used for the trade of ‘Yorkshire Broadcloths’. This laid foundations for the city to gain its status as a global centre for textiles commerce.

We really wanted to preserve this rich history, while offering planners all the technical facilities you’d expect to find in a modern, multi-purpose events venue. The room names are all textiles related and the décor also nods to this, so it’s a fascinating talking point when delegates discover more about the venue’s origins.

What does your day-to-day role involve?

It’s a really varied role as I look after the entire operation of the building. This includes line management of the team, health and safety, estates and maintenance, on-site client logistics meetings, supplier liaison and the running of events.

My role requires meticulous organisation, in-depth planning, a practical approach with the ability to think on your feet, and confidence in communicating effectively with a broad range of stakeholders.

What’s your top tip for planners to maximise the potential of Cloth Hall Court for their events?

I would say being open to a creative response to their brief. We often find that organisers come with a very a specific concept in mind, which they don’t like to deviate from. I always explore exactly what it is that they’re aiming to achieve with their event – in terms of budget parameters, format, any specific requirements, and the overall delegate experience.

Our knowledge of the intricacies of the venue makes us best placed to suggest the most suitable solution – even if it’s not what they originally had in mind! Ultimately, we are always striving to surpass their expectations and we love exploring new ways of using our versatile venue. We can then pass on this invaluable tried and tested expertise, for the benefit of our clients.

To find out more, arrange a site visit or discuss your specific requirements, contact Kelly and her expert team:

Telephone: 0113 343 6100

Email: conferences@leeds.ac.uk