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Craft Drink Festival is the latest launch by exhibition organiser Marked Events. CEO Mark Walsh told Access that this isn’t the average craft drink event, but “a proper festival”, a celebration of all types of craft drinks.

“The focus isn’t solely on craft ale or beer, we will encourage cider, spirits, prosecco and even coffee!” he said.

The two-day event (28-29 July 2018) will be held at the NEC’s Hall 16 and accompanying gardens. Craft Drink Festival will be using the venue’s outdoor space to create a pop-up town comprised of brewers, distillers and street food stands.

Walsh said that Craft Drink Festival will have stages for live music, a comedy tent and areas where visitors can learn how to brew at home.

“With that in mind, there really isn’t another UK festival or craft drink event like this,” Walsh said. “We want it to be inclusive; it’s not just for those who know their weak beer from their pale ale!”

CEO Mark Walsh

What made you launch the Craft Drink Festival?
MW: To be honest, the team at the NEC! We have a great relationship with the guys there and they knew we were looking to expand our event portfolio. So when they pitched the idea it excited the team and we agreed it was an obvious market to go after!

Is this a sign of your interest in consumer events?
MW: When we launched BPM 11 years ago it was a consumer show, it just morphed over time into a hybrid trade/prosumer event as the other trade events in the sound and lighting industry lost focus and we gained their exhibitors. So, this isn’t a new area for us. We love working on consumer events as we can get creative with them!

What is the strategy behind this project?
MW: Ultimately we are all consumers! Any event should reflect the current vibe of an industry and be leading the trend curve. When designing an event we don’t really look at it from a trade/consumer point of view. We look at it more from the ground up from an exhibitor and visitor point of view and deliver what excites them.

A passion, an audience and a venue

Marked Events, a Lancashire based creative event specialist, offers event management for brands and organisations as well as producing its own exhibitions. Walsh explained: “We still have specific trade events in our portfolio and right now we have a good balance across a few very different areas.”

Current events in the portfolio include GIG for entertainers professional, and the technology events Worship, Live, and Club+Bar. In October, Walsh announced that the 2017 outing of BPM | PRO was its last outing.

Looking ahead, Walsh told Access that several new shows are lined up to launch when the timing is right. He said: “I would like to think we are one of the most ambitious organisers out there. We have spent 11 years getting the formula right with BPM and are really excited to be up-scaling the business.”

“Craft Drink Festival is defiantly an outdoor festival,” Walsh said. The organiser has secured a large hall just in case it rains. “We have worked in outdoor events for a few years now but this will be our first in-house festival,” he explained.

For Walsh, indoor and outdoor events are operationally different however both share the same formula. “A passion, an audience and a venue!” he said.

The Marked Events boss predicts 2018 will be a busy year for the company, but “a very exciting” one. He concluded: “We have another two trade shows launching at the end of the year alongside a whole year of events for a lifestyle brand we work with, and our smaller portfolio of conferences and workshops.”