THE ORGANISERS of the biggest showcase of British business since the Festival of Britain in 1951 say the 50-day event in Liverpool will strengthen the image of the North on the national and international stage.
The International Festival for Business will attract business delegates and trade intermediaries from around the world and hopefully bring in £100m of investment into the UK.
Highlights include a global summit for more than 200 international city leaders, the Indian version of Davos and a major cultural programme in the birthplace of The Beatles.
Max Steinberg, festival chairman, said: “This is not a Liverpool event, we are simply the host city, which is why Scotland and Wales and Ireland are all joining in with us and why I expect to see something like 80 countries from around the world being represented in Britain.
“It is taking place across the North now with events in Sheffield, Lancashire, Cheshire... the whole of this city region.
“I am very pleased we are being non-parochial because we are building more relationships with cities across the North.”
Mr Steinberg, chief executive of Liverpool Vision, added: “The festival at its heart is about rebalancing the UK economy. We are on the cusp of a major opportunity for British business.”
Prime Minister David Cameron launched the festival in Liverpool at the start of the year and has described it as “a shop window like no other”.
Organisers are hosting at least 240 events across nearly 100 venues and are inviting businesses in Yorkshire to come to the city.
Activity is clustered in sectors covering cities, creative and digital, financial and professional, higher and further education, low carbon and renewables, manufacturing, science and technology and maritime, logistics and energy.
Chris Brown, director of Marketing Liverpool, said: “This showcases what cities outside of London can do.
“Hopefully it gives people reasons to think that outside of the capital there are other places doing exciting things.
He added: “It helps with Government. If you can put these events outside London, what other events can you put outside London? If you combine this with the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the Tour de France in Yorkshire, the North has a spotlight for a moment in time. It is how we capitalise on that.”
Sir Terry Leahy, former chief executive of Tesco and festival ambassador, said: “I wish there has been an IFB when Tesco was about to embark on its international expansion.
“It would have made it a lot easier to develop contacts and forge partnerships which are key to successful expansion abroad.”
Massive economic regeneration, unbridled hedonism, and a very cultured city
Local artist Eddie Berg once remarked that an alien landing in Liverpool late on a Friday night could be forgiven for thinking that the human race had just been told there were only three hours left until the end of the world, such was the spirit of unbridled hedonism. My visit to the city was rather more sedate, but just as stimulating with the added benefit of being able to remember everything the morning after.
At various times Liverpool has been the capital of world trade and the centre of the pop music revolution, but the city has also had its fair share of hard times.
City leaders were in confident mood when I met them at the Malmaison Hotel overlooking Princes Dock.
Ian McCarthy, a director at Liverpool Vision, said: “We have brought Liverpool on tremendously over the last 10 years.
“Liverpool as host for the festival would have been simply inconceivable in the early 1990s but it’s certainly not the case now.”
Claire McColgan, who managed the city’s European Capital of Culture bid, said Liverpool never expected to be shortlisted, let alone win the title in 2008.
She said: “We absolutely delivered, not just a cultural programme but massive economic regeneration. I don’t think there’s any other city that’s been transformed so much physically and emotionally over the last 10 years.”
They are getting ready for the start of the 50-day International Festival of Business, which they hope will continue the revival of the city’s fortunes as a destination for business, helped by investment in facilities like the £30m Titanic hotel at Stanley Dock.
As my taxi driver said on the way back to Lime Street Station: “Are they going to hold the festival every year?”