From the moment Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the ICC on 12th June 1991, events have been more than simply our lifeblood. They’ve been our passion. Year after year, we’ve continued to believe that great events have the power to drive success. To inspire. And to bring people together in a uniquely collaborative way.
And it’s this approach that has brought our venue to life over the past three decades, welcoming around seven million delegates and playing host to over 12,000 exceptional events. From the exciting 1996 UEFA European Championship Finals Draw and the prestigious G8 Summit in 1998, to the high-profile political party conferences and the celebratory banquets and awards dinners, our venue has been the setting for countless wonderful memories and unforgettable occasions.
And it all lies in our foundations, quite literally. Did you know in 1987 ICC construction began the site of the world’s first purpose-built exhibition space, Bingley Hall? It’s been our mission ever since then to lead the conferencing industry on such significant ground. Between our engaging approach to event delivery and going above and beyond to exceed customer expectations, we believe our 30-year history is a testament to our achievements.
A trip down memory lane
Construction work begins
Back in 1987, construction work began on the site originally occupied by Bingley Hall, which was the world’s first purpose-built exhibition space when built in 1850. During construction, 60,000 cubic metres of concrete were used and 1,500 workers employed on the site.
Our iconic building takes shape
By 1988, the iconic building we know today was starting to take shape. Architects Percy Thomas Partnership and Renton Howard Wood Levin designed the building and acoustics were by Artec Consultants. The foundation stone was laid by Jacques Delors.
Quality at every level
Throughout the build, everything was thought through and exuded quality. Our famous Halls were built to withstand noise from the surrounding areas and the main line railway track that runs under the building, with the installation of premium sound insulation.
The first event
On 2nd April 1991, the ICC hosted its very first event, the British Small Animal Veterinary Association’s annual congress. In fact, we hosted this congress for 30 consecutive years until 2019 and it grew to a scale that incorporated our sister venue, the Utilita Arena Birmingham, too!
Opened by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II
The ICC was officially opened by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II on 12 June 1991 who then attended the International Olympic Committee 97th Session. The celebratory opening was further marked by a Royal Gala Performance within Symphony Hall.
The international spotlight
Hosting the EU Emergency Summit in 1992 was one of the earlier events that put the ICC in the international spotlight. It was the first of many short-lead events, showcasing the team's dedication to event delivery.
Best Conference Venue
Having won the 'Come to Britain' Trophy in 1991, the ICC then went onto many major awards including Best Conference Venue at the Business Travel World Awards, cementing its position and growing reputation for excellence within the events industry.
Hosting the G8 Summit
In 1998, the ICC was proud to be selected to host the G8 Summit. We warmly welcomed the presidents of the leading eight global nations to our venue for this iconic event, including Tony Blair and Bill Clinton.
Meeting of NATO Defence Ministers
On 10- 11 October 2000, the ICC was proud to be the host of the Informal Meeting of NATO Defence Ministers. This important conference was held at the venue under the chairmanship of the NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen.
Events from every sector
Since opening, the ICC had been the setting for events across many sectors and 2002 was a year that we welcomed several scientific conferences through our doors including the British Society for Gastroenterology and the Royal College of Ophthalmologists.
The home of political conferences
The ICC was chosen as the venue for the first Cabinet meeting to be held outside London since 1921, as well as hosting the Labour Party 2008 Spring Conference. This was the start of the ICC becoming the experienced home of the political events.
Welcoming the Conservative Party
The Conservative Party held their annual conference at the ICC, marking the start of many successful events to follow. In fact, we were the only UK venue at the time to have hosted events by all three main UK political parties across a two-year period
Environmental and Quality credentials
With a reputation for excellent standards, the ICC achieved the ISO 9001:2000 and ISO 14001:2004 accreditations in 2009 to recognise the venue’s quality and environmental management standards
Welcoming the Liberal Democrats
The ICC is renowned for its ability to hold large national and international conferences and having held successful political conferences in previous years, the venue welcomed The Liberal Democrats Spring Conference through its doors in 2010 and then again in Autumn 2011.
Multi-million-pound refurb programme
As we approached our 25th anniversary, we felt it was time to refresh the physical look and feel of the ICC – without taking away from its iconic characteristics. In 2015 we began a £10m refurbishment programme to improve the experience to our customers.
Best UK Conference Centre
Year after year, we've continued to deliver successful events and win key industry awards due to our continued success. In 2016 we were proud to take the Silver award back home to Birmingham having won Best UK Conference Centre at the prestigious M&IT awards.
Digitalisation and connectivity
2016 saw the installation of large format digital and portable screens throughout the Public Mall creating a dynamic and interactive space. Further investment included Wi-Fi upgrades and the modernisation of our lighting throughout the Mall, Registration and Foyer areas.
ICC refurbishment complete
The second phase of our refurbishment was complete with key improvements made to our conference facilities including a facelift to our largest flat-floored space, Hall 3, Registration Area & Mall plus refreshes on Halls 4, 9, 10 & 11 and six of our Executive Meeting rooms.
Food for the Brain accreditation
We became the first conference centre to achieve an accreditation from the Food for the Brain charity. This recognised the achievements of our in-house caterers Amadeus in offering nutritionally balanced menus to support performance and wellbeing to our delegates.
C&IT Best UK Conference Venue
In September 2017, the ICC was proud to win the prestigious C&IT award which honoured us as a UK conference venue that had a standout year in 2016. We hosted 464 events and maintained a 9.2/10 recommendation score, with 97% of organisers saying they would return.
Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence
In May 2019, the ICC was recognised with a Certificate of Excellence for the sixth consecutive year from Trip Advisor. This certificate was based on the consistently great reviews we had continued to earn year after year on the world’s largest travel site!
Conservatives return to Birmingham
Conservative Party Co-Chairman, Amanda Milling MP, announced that the Conservative Party will return to Birmingham for its Party Conference in 2022, 2024 and 2026. This commitment to more main conferences in Birmingham is a clear vote of confidence in the City and the wider region’s future.
Customer Service award win
The ICC was named ‘Best Conference Venue Customer Service’ at the 2020 Conference Awards. As a venue, each year we pride ourselves on our ability to provide exceptional service for both event organisers and their delegates, and winning this award was a testament to achieving just that.
ICC reduces food waste
This year, the ICC became the first event venue to partner with food waste pioneers Winnow, installing software in the venue's kitchens to monitor both the type and amount of food being disposed of. The technology has been used to save more than 16 tonnes of food – the equivalent of 40,800 meals a year.
Symphony Hall transformation complete
As April officially marks three decades and we approaches our 30th birthday, it's fair to say we've never looked better! The recent multi-million pound transformation across Symphony Hall and Centenary Square has given the ICC a completely new doorstep and a modernised welcome to our visitors.
As we look back, we know we couldn’t have reached this significant milestone without our amazing customers and the support of our outstanding team. Together they have been the driving force in generating remarkable progress at the ICC, through technological advancements, event innovation and trend setting at every possible turn.
An incredible amount of dedication and pride has gone into 30 years of event delivery, resulting in an industry leading reputation and an outstanding range of accolades. From achieving architectural acclaim upon its opening to winning every major venue award throughout the 1990s and 2000s and then completing a multi-million pound refurbishment programme in 2018, it’s clear that both the ICC and Birmingham, the city we're so proud to call our home, live and breathe the city's motto: 'Forward'.
Here’s to the next chapter…
At 30 years young, we know it’s our enthusiasm to embrace different ideas, welcome new technology and interrogate modern trends that ensures we never feel our age. While continuous investment in our venue ensures we’ll never look it either.