Digital Festival boosted Black Country global profile

Nearly 2,000 people took part in the programme of 96 events that were staged as part of the 2020 Black Country Business Festival.

The third annual festival had to be postponed from May due to the coronavirus outbreak and ran from October 5 with 80 of the events in digital only form on Zoom.

Chief executive of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce and festival board member Corin Crane said the festival had been held in a very different environment and there had been a real focus on support and training this year.

Alistair de Ternant, managing director of Associate Events which ran the festival, said 873 business had been engaged in the festival with 1,915 people attending events – 41 per cent from outside the region with people from 19 different countries, including Afghanistan and Brazil, taking part compared to eight in 2019.

"Over the nest 12 months the focus will be to grow that international profile," he added.

The 2021 festival is already being planned and is likely to be held in the autumn again.

"We want to improve the festival again and I think we can do that even though my personal view is that we still may have a Covid crisis, be in recession and just have gone through Brexit. We will really need to keep the positive vibes going with a buy Britain and buy Black Country message," said Mr Crane, who added that the aim was to make it the most inclusive business festival on the globe.

“The enhanced digital aspect has truly opened the Black Country Business Festival up to the rest of the world, helping to place the region’s activities not just front and centre of the UK’s business agenda, but also on an international level – when it has been required most.

“On a local level, importantly, 89 per cent of people told us the events had a positive effect on their business, so the festival has met its objectives to provide support, guidance and knowledge sharing to the people and businesses in the Black Country community," said Mr Crane.

The chamber will be holding its Business Hero Awards on November 13.

The Black Country Living Museum will host the event which will be held online. It will honour businesses and individuals that have responded in heroic fashion to the pandemic over the last six months.

The three contenders for the business hero of the year are John Donovan of Kingswinford's JJX Logistics; Robinson Brothers, West Bromwich and Bradley Moore from the Wolverhampton Wanderers Foundation.

Other categories include large, small, start-up and family business; exceptional employee or team; kindness in the community; adaptation and innovation; retail resilience and international trade

Chamber president Jude Thompson said the event would be raising funds for the Teenage Cancer Trust and Parkinson's UK.

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