Leisure Industry Week 2016 review

The 28th Leisure Industry Week enjoyed distinct educational streams, engaging content and a positive atmosphere.

As the dust settles on another LIW (Leisure Industry Week), the thousands of delegates who passed through the doors at the NEC can reflect on a packed two days of world class education, networking and an extensive exhibition.

LIW was purchased in mid-2015 by the organisation responsible for producing BodyPower, one of the largest consumer shows in Europe. Despite a short lead time year one saw an increase in visitor numbers and positive feedback from both delegates and exhibitors.

It stands to reason, therefore, that given a full year of marketing and positioning the show, year two was hotly anticipated. Pre-show strategy for LIW was to position the show as a hub for workforce development with education taking priority. Distinct education streams were established in Spa & Wet Leisure, Sport, Play, Facilities Management, Fitness (including Practical Coaching and a Fitness Business School) and Health.

Whereas 2015 was underpinned by a sprinkling of star dust (where the Keynote Theatre hosted the likes of Stuart Pearce, Ben Cohen, Kellie Maloney and Sally Gunnell), 2016 was far more about business. The draped Operators and Keynote Conference hosted CEO of Think Digital First, Warren Knight, former Head of Digital at Microsoft, Allister Frost, and former Head of the John Lewis Intelligence Team Andrew McMillan alongside a host of top names.

As Show Director Steve Orton explains: “Given the additional time and resource we had to prepare for LIW this year we’ve taken into account the viewpoint of some extremely influential people within the industry to implement a show that reflects the state of leisure and delivers in areas that need improvement.

Skillset is a word on the tip of every operator’s tongue, and we’ve taken a stellar line-up of successful businesspeople from both inside and outside of the sector to deliver workforce development opportunities that cater for that demand.”

On education, LIW certainly delivered. Lift the Bar founder Chris Burgess commented that LIW was the “best show I’ve been to”; Emporium Gym Owner Warren Dyson said “I’m old enough to remember LIW in its former glory and I can say it’s starting to return to that former glory and more”; and Shredded by Science Founder Luke Johnson noted that the show was full of “highly motivated trainers looking to improve their knowledge.”

Over the two days there were numerous highlights. The Sport Education Stream shared a space with the Play Education Stream, both delivering a half day conference. Sport saw the likes of Fit for Sport CEO Dean Horridge deliver a talk on how to improve participation by “engaging with the dis-engaged” and even looking at why “sport is not for everyone.” Horridge was joined on the stage by David Gent and Andrew Soutar of British Weight Lifting and British Judo respectively, looking at the “impact of the Olympics on UK sport” as well as Physiologist Colin Thomas covering “how to run without injury.”

Play was a popular destination. Speakers included the likes of Jupiter Play’s Kristina Causer covering “inclusive play and designing an inclusive strategy”, Dr Lee Smith (a Senior Lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University) talking about “encouraging activity within the family unit” and Principle Research Associate Dr David Whitebread discussed the “value of play for young children’s development.”

Backed by the support of STA and SPATA, Spa & Wet Leisure had a strong presence at the show with exhibitors including the likes of AquaMat, ColdTub, SRS Leisure and many more. The education stream featured the likes of Invictus Games Swimming Champion Mike Goody discussing “how to turn your swimming teachers into champions” as one of many highlights. Speakers including Director of IQL Martin Symcox, Devin Consulting Managing Director Chris Graham and Aquatzi’s Anna Roscoe, whilst STA provided both Robbie Phillips and Kayle Burgham in a stream that covered everything from participation, safety standards, pool design, programming, UK Aquatics Qualifications and cost-saving.

The Facilities Management Education Stream was sponsored by the Sports & Leisure Facilities Forum and Facilities Management Forum (both run by Forum Events). Featuring talks on smart energy strategy, employee engagement, interpersonal communication, recruitment, safety culture and sales the diverse conference was a popular destination throughout the show. Speakers included PlanDay Chief Marketing Officer John Coldicutt, Pure World Energy CEO Simon Wright, DataHub Director Alex Burrows, Serco Sales Coach Gary Edwards and Head of Group Development at Right Directions Gill Twell.

Getting everyone active
LIW were extremely proud to announce SPORTA as a premier partner early in 2016 and the sight of the Health Education Stream being packed out on Tuesday for the SPORTA Health Improvement Conference was a major highlight. Public Health England’s Dr Mike Brannan kicked things off with a discussion on “the challenge of getting everyone active” in an insightful day. Wednesday saw the likes of East of Riding Leisure’s Kevin Hadfield doing a case study on GP referrals, Hayley Jarvis discussing “the role of physical activity in tackling mental health issues” and Dr Dane Vishnubala of Core Fitness looking at how “the fitness industry can get more involved in the physical activity agenda.”

The Fitness Stream
Certainly the busiest and arguably the most talked-about area of the show, however, was the Fitness Stream. Covering three distinct zones, the Fitness Business School, Practical Coaching and Tropicana Wholesale Nutrition Zone there was a wealth of knowledge and expertise that impressed both speakers and delegates. Standout names included Americans Sol Orwell and Mark Fisher, as well as Ben Coomber, Dr Gary Mendoza, Phil Learney, Jamie Alderton, Paul Mort, Luke Johnson, Chris Burgess, Martin MacDonald and many, many more.

The Fitness Business School offered fitness professionals the ability to learn from the most prominent coaches and educators that have developed their own businesses successfully, whilst Practical Coaching targeted Personal Trainers, Fitness Managers and Nutritionists to deliver a world class line-up of industry figureheads discussing the practical application of training and nutrition.

Other noteworthy areas included the sight of over 300 Pure Gym Personal Trainers converging on the closed Pure Gym Personal Trainer Conference that attracted top name speakers, whilst the likes of Sosa Dance Fitness, BhangraBlaze and Hulafit all provided energetic demonstrations in the Studio to showcase the latest classes. Urban Attack ran an extremely popular assault course over the two days and the Trampoline Park was once again a great place to let off steam.

All that education was complimented by a packed show floor that saw over 150 exhibitors get some excellent sales leads with some engaging visual displays.

Steve Orton commented: “We were confident that LIW would be a superior event to 2015 with a full run-up of event promotion and that opinion has only been reinforced during a two packed days. Our tailored educational programmes, excellent features, exciting interactive areas, ground breaking product launches and hundreds of exceptional brands made the show a clear success.

LIW 2017
We’re already planning next year’s event and we’ll have some fantastic new additions to make LIW 2017 even bigger and better. We’ve seen growth both in the number of visitors and exhibitors and the show will keep being nurtured by our team. I’m proud of the event and I hope it was as enjoyable for everyone who attended as it was for us as organisers.”

Leisure Industry Week will return to Birmingham’s NEC 12-13 September 2017.

Further information
To find out more, register your interest in exhibiting or register as a visitor visit www.liw.co.uk.

Supplier Focus


Education is our heritage, for five decades we’ve been providing better value to 30,000 schools. By working with a variety of leading UK suppliers to provide you with a large range of good quality products and services, from art supplies, curriculum products, furniture and EdTech products, to supporting you in setting up compliant contracts for things like electricity, utilities, and cleaning. We can provide you with everything you could possibly need, making it easier for you.