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For some of you reading this article, it’ll feel like just yesterday attendees were crowding into the GMEX. In the decade since the venue’s most recent remodel, the former train station has quickly become a hub of business success in Manchester, for good reason. Celebrating 10 years as Manchester Central, we take a look at what the event space means for the city and what’s in store for the future.

Occupying the listed building which once played host to Central railway station, the GMEX centre often invited in crowds for university open days, conventions and crowd-pleasing expositions. But following a revamp in 2007 that saw two related venues brought together, Manchester Central has taken GMEX’s position as a leading events space and run with it, becoming a key player within both Manchester’s business community and its economy.


A Brief History

As we’re celebrating the birthday of a Manchester institution, there’s good reason to look back at the history behind the venue.

Although Manchester Central is celebrating its tenth birthday, the venue itself is closer to 140 years old. Previously serving as a passenger railway station from its completion in 1880, the building was eventually closed in the 1960s before being declared a Grade II listed building.

After a period of disuse following the council’s purchase of the building, the station was transformed into GMEX – an exhibition centre – opening to crowds in 1986. Fifteen years later, Manchester International Convention Centre was introduced – which would later form one-half of the merger leading to Manchester Central in 2007.


Good for Everyone

With such a rich and varied history, as well as spectacular architecture and fantastic facilities, it’s no surprise that Manchester Central has become an important venue within the city.

Making use of an in-house team of around 125 – which can be bulked up according to needs – the venue is able to adapt itself to meet the needs of various conventions and meetings within its 23,000 sq. ft. of space. But one of the great facets working in Manchester Central’s favour over the last decade has been that attendees don’t need to fill the entire space to make use of the venue – its flexibility means a group as small as 10 can be accommodated comfortably without feeling intimidated.

But it’s not just the grandeur of the surroundings or the versatility of the space which has secured Manchester Central’s position as a beloved Manchester institution – it’s the economic impact the venue has as well.

Recent accounts have shown that for every £1 spent at the centre, Manchester Central was able to generate £4 – hence why 2016/17 featured its strongest revenue to date, totalling a massive £19m. But the economic wonders of Manchester Central don’t stop there: by attracting half a million visitors to the city each year, the venue’s overall impact on the local economy averages £75m. This is because revenue from visitors and exhibitors feeds into restaurants, hotels, and local retailers across the city – proof of the centre’s beneficial nature.


Looking to the Future

“Times are changing, the city is changing and the landscape is changing. The requirement of our client is also changing. All of the time we hear about disruption in industry – the Uber for this and the Airbnb for that – well the event space is equally as ripe for disruption.”

Shaun Hinds, Chief Executive Via MEN


If the last ten years – and the history before that point – is anything to go by, then Manchester Central has a stable foundation upon which it can continue to build a bright future. This will prove particularly useful in the coming years, as disruption makes a beeline for event space in the form of new technology and different ideas.

But Manchester Central’s leadership team remains confident, preparing for future shocks in advance. One such example of the preparation coming into play is the creation of an online ordering platform, which will enable exhibitors to shop for caterers and other resources all in one place – making Manchester Central one of Britain’s first event venues to digitise the exhibitor journey.

If the venue can successfully weather the shocks that disruption to the market will bring, it will be able to achieve new heights of success – all of which will bring welcome economic success to the city, and hopefully attract more big name events to Manchester. Knowing that preparations are already in place, however, is likely to put much of that worry to rest.

Now all that’s left to say is Happy 10th Birthday, Manchester Central from myself and the team at Kaleida – we’re constantly proud of what this city and its institutions can achieve for Manchester’s prosperity, and we’re looking forward to seeing what another ten years of success can do for Manchester Central and the city itself.

Kaleida are proud to be a Manchester-based software development house, but despite our love for the city, we’re happy to offer bespoke software to businesses nationwide. To find out more, feel free to explore our website, or alternatively, you can get in touch with our team directly.

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