Radical overhaul for Liverpool’s fourth International Business Festival

Liverpool City Region Combined Authority to offer up to £3m for the 2020 festival which would take place across multiple venues with a strong focus on social value. Tony McDonough reports

Steve Rotheram
Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram at the 2018 festival Picture by Tony McDonough


Liverpool’s fourth International Business Festival will go ahead next year, allaying fears the event may be cancelled – but it is set to look very different from the first three.

In October last year LBN reported that the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, headed by Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram, was considering whether the 2020 event should go ahead.

The 2018 festival had welcomed tens of thousands of business people from more than 100 countries to Exhibition Centre Liverpool. However, some senior figures in the city region’s six local authorities believe the £5m spent on the event could have been better spent on other projects.

UK-wide event

Launched in 2014 as the International Festival for Business, the event was the brainchild of Lord Heseltine and Liverpool-born former Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy. Held again in 2016 and 2018 it was very much billed as a UK event being held in Liverpool.

Consequently, with the focus being on investment and exports for the UK as a whole, many local people and businesses felt excluded from the festival. A new report being put before the Combined Authority recommends making the next event more inclusive.

Mr Rotheram says the 2020 festival, which will benefit from £3m of support from the Combined Authority, will probably not be centred on a single venue, but will take place at multiple locations across the city region and and will have a strong ‘good business’ focus, exploring how businesses can maximise social benefits.

He explained: “These are exciting plans that, if approved, would build on the success of previous business festivals that we have supported as a Combined Authority.

Lord Heseltine
Lord Heseltine, who helped inspire the festival, speaking at the 2018 event Picture by Tony McDonough


“Clearly there are lot of details yet to be decided but these are very exciting new ideas for the festival that would see businesses and civic society coming together to explore how we can maximise the social impact of investment and business activity. 

“The concept of a dispersed festival, using venues across the whole city region, also has huge potential to engage with local people and organisations in an innovative way, whilst also attracting an international audience.”

New report

Mr Rotheram and the Combined Authority leaders will this week be asked to approve a report with recommendations for the new-look festival at a meeting later this week.

Businessman Asif Hamid, Portfolio Holder for Business Support and Brexit on the Combined Authority, added: “The International Business Festival has helped to raise the profile of the city region with tens of thousands of businesses over recent years. It is important that we take the opportunity to build on that legacy in a way that actively involves and benefits our local businesses. 

“This new approach looks very promising and should enable us to build on previous experience and successes, while developing an innovative approach that will involve the whole of the city region.”

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