What is a good festival and how do you create one?

This ambition meant working hard to deliver a diverse events programme with the aim to make our core events truly accessible, considering those with different protected characteristics and ensuring we meet a wide range of needs and make everyone feel as welcome as possible.

As well as speaking to people from our community for their suggestions on how to create a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere across the week, we also considered everything from how to minimise the use of single-use plastics to delicious food options that helped guests to make more conscious choices! Across the week our Good Festival Ambition came to life in many different ways…

  1. Festival buddy system

We know that attending an event alone can be an intimidating experience for some people, that’s why we put a buddy system in place that gave attendees the option to be met by a friendly face from the TechNExt team or wider community on arrival. Festival buddies helped attendees feel comfortable at the event by chatting over a coffee on arrival, introducing new faces, or helping them understand more about the content of the event and what was planned that day. Anyone could apply for a ‘buddy’ through the ticket booking process.

  1. Sustainable catering

The catering was designed throughout the week to reduce carbon emissions by encouraging people to make conscious choices about what they were consuming. That meant that all buffet options at the Main Stage event and Festival Party were meat-free and the menu for the 120 guests at the conference dinner was vegetarian by default, with delegates being asked to ‘opt in’ to the meat option if that was their preference. The result was 55% of the attendees at the dinner choosing the meat-free options, as opposed to the average of only 10% that we would see at a usual event, greatly reducing the carbon footprint of the event across the week. We also worked with venues to ensure that single-use plastics were replaced onsite with environmentally friendly alternatives and recycled event materials wherever possible.

  1. Quiet spaces

A major event like TechNExt can be overwhelming so we made sure that there were signposted quiet areas in each venue where delegates could take time away from the crowds. This space was designed for everyone to make the most of, but we took steps to help guests understand that it was a sanctuary away from the event activities and not a place for meetings or phone calls.

  1. Accessible venues

With events taking place up and down the region we cherry picked venues that were easily accessible by public or alternative transport and communicated green travel options with delegates in advance of the event. From trains to metros, car sharing, e-scooters and bikes we had guests utilising a range of environmentally friendly ways to get around events. We also ensured that venues that were used across the festival programme were as accessible as possible to attendees.

  1. Funded tickets

The tech sector is diverse and we wanted to give as many people as possible the opportunity to be inspired, share their knowledge and gain insight into the latest developments in the North East tech sector. We knew that cost may be a barrier to some individuals or organisations so we offered several funded and supported places for the Main Stage conference and the party, allowing those who may not usually get access to such events a chance to be part of the festival. Funding was also available to allow a range of organisations host their own fringe events too.

We are always interested in how we can continue to learn and develop the kind of experiences that we offer delegates. Let us know what you would like to see as part of a ‘Good Festival’ of the future.

To speak to the team about your event ambitions for 2023 and beyond call on 0191 691 3456 or email info@beaconhouse-events.co.uk

From upholstery to events, Meet Katie our Project Coordinator who has you covered.

Katie joined the BeaconHouse team in early 2023 to support on the delivery of TechNExt, a major new tech festival that took over the North East this June. The event was attended by over 3000 people across the region and included over 50 events, and after getting stuck into everything from organising industry dinners, briefing speakers, working with fringe event organisers and liaising with suppliers, Katie decided to stay with the BeaconHouse team long-term and bring her skills to the other clients in our portfolio. We caught up with Katie to hear what drives her and why she loves living and working in the North East.

What did your career path look like before you joined BeaconHouse Events?

I studied English Literature at university in Newcastle and took a year out while I decided what I wanted to do next. During that year I did voluntary work in South Africa and part of that project involved organising a fundraising ball. Until then I hadn’t really had experience in what went into delivering something like that and, as I love organising things, it was a great fit for me. When I came home I looked for a role where I could put those skills into practice and I joined the team at CastleGate in central Newcastle as an events coordinator, and then events manager. I worked with the team there for almost 10 years, organising everything from conferences to weddings and corporate meetings, but after a long time in the business and having two children, I decided to try something completely new and I left to set up my own upholstery business.

I really wanted to establish a business that allowed me to be creative and to explore new ideas, and after taking a course in Manchester I ran that business successfully for around 6 years, before a chance conversation with Sarah (Thackray) tempted me back to working in events.

What was it about the role at BeaconHouse Events that really made you excited?

I was at a bit of a crossroads with my business and it was during a conversation with Sarah that she asked if I knew of anyone who might be interested in helping to support with a new tech festival in the region. Running a business on my own was getting a little lonely and I missed being part of a team and that creative collaboration, so I joined the BeaconHouse team with the expectation of just being here short-term to deliver the project and, spoiler, I ended up loving it. TechNExt was delivered back in June and it was a steep learning curve to understand the nuances of the North East tech sector, but that learning has been so valuable to bring to the variety of projects that I am working on now.

The opportunity to be part of an event that was going to have such an impact on the region was just too exciting an opportunity to turn down.

How did you find working on the TechNExt festival? What did you get involved in?

The tech sector was completely new to me and there was a lot of new terminology to learn! The tech sector in the North East is big and blossoming and it was a fantastic opportunity to see the scale of the businesses that are operating here, I had no idea about the work that a lot of them were delivering or how many businesses are based here in the region. There were over 50 events taking place across the week so I was the point of contact for a lot of the businesses who were organising fringe events and had a unique opportunity to work with a wide range of different clients in unison to bring the festival to life.

We had an ambition to create a ‘good festival’ so a lot of work went into finding venues who were forward thinking when it came to accessibility and sustainability, which was really important to the festival team. That meant a lot of work behind the scenes to make an event like TechNExt look seamless and, with working venue side for the majority of my career, I guess brought quite a unique perspective to the team because I understand the level of communication and detail that venues need to deliver something brilliant for our delegates.

The week itself was amazing, we were onsite across the whole of the North East delivering everything from an industry dinner to a talent fair, festival party and main stage event – it was a busy week but it brought together everything that I enjoy about events and we really had each other’s back as a team during the stressful moments.

What does an average day look like for you?

Now that TechNExt has been delivered and we’ve completed our evaluations and project reports, I’ll be starting to work with different project groups on some big client experiences, including a leadership event taking place in the September and an annual conference and party for one of our biggest clients. I’ve been working on sourcing the best speakers for each event, briefing them and organising venues and travel. I’ve been onsite recently too, supporting on the reception to welcome guests and make sure they are comfortable with the running of events and where to go if they have any questions.

My role is part-time and I sometimes work from home for part of the week so I always try to get some fresh air along the coast to break up the day too. We’re so lucky here in the North East that you can enjoy the coast and countryside but still be close enough to the city centre to easily commute to the office.

Is there anything about your role that you think would surprise people?

The amount of information that you can absorb on a whole range of topics really surprised me when I moved agency side. I’m pretty curious by nature and I really enjoy learning about new topics or ideas and you have the opportunity to hear some incredible people speak while you are working at an event.

Recently I supported with the delivery of an event for the National Centre for Ageing and I was fascinated to hear about the work they are doing with ageing populations in the UK, something which is going to become more and more important for employers to consider in the future. Working across such a range of different clients really opens your eyes to new experiences and opportunities which, if you’re interested in hearing new ideas, can be a real perk to the role.

I was also really surprised about the options to continue a career in events as a working mum. Catherine and Sarah have built a business that empowers women to come back into the workplace and use their skills, and there are policies in place that allow me to work from home some of the time so I can be there for the school run, then pick up again later in the evening. I didn’t expect that going back into the industry and I would encourage anyone who is considering a career in events not to be put off by the assumption there is no work-life balance – it’s worth having the conversation!

If you could design an event for any client in the world, who would be the dream?

It would have to be a large scale interiors conference or festival. We would have the best speakers in the industry, stations where delegates could learn and have a go at upholstery or upcycling and stands for people to find out about the latest trends and be inspired. That would definitely combine by two career passions in one!

We’re currently recruiting for a project coordinator like Katie. If you are interested in a career in events, we would love to hear from you. Visit www.beaconhouse-events.co.uk/careers to view our current vacancies.

Be part of the pollution solution: Five alternatives to single-use plastics for your next event

Next year BeaconHouse Events will celebrate our 10th year in business and our vision has always been to drive positive, lasting impact with every event we do, whether that be a conference, exhibition, awards ceremony or festival; and with the prediction that by 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish, it’s time to tackle the issue head on. We recognise that the event industry has a major impact on our planet and we take our role in that seriously. We don’t want to make grand statements and big promises, but we are committed to working with our team, our suppliers and our clients to make consistent, considered changes as a carbon responsible business. This includes taking a close look at how we can significantly reduce, commit to reuse and make it easier to recycle any single-use plastics at our events.

From 1 October 2023 businesses must no longer supply, sell or offer certain single-use plastic items in England, this includes the sale of plastic cutlery, balloon sticks and polystyrene cups. So, what are the alternatives that will allow you to give your delegates a great experience?


Lanyards are usually the first thing you see when you enter an event, but traditional lanyards are made from plastic materials that will take hundreds of years to decompose. Not the kind of legacy you want your event to have! Luckily there are plenty of eco-friendly, affordable options on the market now, including lanyards made of bamboo or recycled fabrics, which achieve the same effect. Where possible to avoid date specific branding and you can use your lanyard again and again (it’s more cost effective too!) – and avoid the plastic wallet and print your badge info on recycled card.

Plastic bottles and cups

According to a 2022 study by Zero Waste Scotland, if reusable cups replaced single-use plastic cups, carbon emissions could fall by 69%. In UK terms, a switch from disposable cups to reusable cups could save 52,000 t CO2e each year! Most people have a cupboard full of reusable water bottles at home that they use for the gym, their commute or for the office. Communicate with your delegates in advance, explain your environmental commitments and encourage them to bring their own reusable water bottles or hot drink cups along on the day, avoiding the dreaded piles of single-use water bottles making their way to landfill when the event is over. You could even offer an incentive on the day for anyone who remembers to bring theirs along.


You want to put your own stamp on your venue and curate a space that your delegates enjoy being in and want to share. There can be the temptation to invest in photo-ops like balloon walls, but with a bit of creativity you can create something striking that your guests will really remember. Plants are great for mindfulness so in place of balloons (that can take around 450 years to decompose!), consider hiring something that can be reused, fresh foliage or a living wall to bring your space to life instead.

Cutlery and plates

People always remember which events have a good spread, and now they might also remember how it was served too. Knives, forks and spoons made from birchwood are a sustainable alternative for plastic cutlery, the tree grows fast and because it is naturally smooth there are no worries about splinters. There are even edible options on the market made from Jowar flour; they decompose very quickly, especially when you add water to them or the other, more fun option, is to eat them. Replace your plastic plates with more biodegradable options like bamboo or even corn starch; these alternatives are just as durable as plastic and can look a lot more aesthetically pleasing too.

Plastic bags

There is often a lot to carry at an event, festival or conference and giving out handy carrier bags can make a delegate’s life much easier; but did you know that less that 1% of the 5 trillion plastic bags we use worldwide each year are recycled? Tote bags on the other hand are washable, reusable and can be made from recycled materials (and who doesn’t love a practical tote bag when they are nipping to the shops). Should it be a single day event, perhaps a branded paper shopper could be the better fit, and easily recycled by attendees afterwards. If you are giving out merch at your event, why not avoid the usual plastic waste and opt for wooden USB sticks, postcard seed sticks or bamboo notepads instead.

Our ESG strategy is based around key United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, otherwise known as the Global Goals, which look to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. We particularly wanted to focus the strategy on areas where we could make meaningful change as a team, including Climate Action, Responsible Consumption and Production, Quality Education and Good Health and Wellbeing; all areas where we can strive to have an authentic and last impact both in the North East and across the events sector as a whole.

To find out more about how we can help you to work towards your sustainability goals or to understand more about how we are making changes as a business contact info@beaconhouse-events.co.uk.

Are corporate meat-ings a thing of the past?

As an office of foodies, we know that the catering options are a corner stone of any event, but the amount of meat consumed was having a major impact on how sustainable our events could be. So we got our heads together and came up with a simple solution – what would happen if you had to opt-in for a meat option, rather than opt out?

BeaconHouse Events co-founded the TechNExt Festival, delivered in partnership with Dynamo North East and Sunderland Software City, and the week-long event took place in June 2023. As part of the event the team created the ‘Good Festival Ambition’ in order to curate an experience that put quality, inclusivity, diversity, accessibility and sustainability front of mind. As part of this ambition, the catering throughout the week was designed to reduce our carbon emissions by encouraging people to make conscious choices about what they were consuming. That meant that all buffet options at the Main Stage event and Festival Party were meat-free and the menu for the 120 guests at the conference dinner was vegetarian by default, with delegates having to request the meat option if that was their preference. The result was 55% of the attendees at the dinner choosing the meat-free options, as opposed to the average of only 10% that we would see at a usual event, greatly reducing our carbon footprint across the week.

The climate impact of meat is enormous – roughly equivalent to all the driving and flying of every car, truck and plane in the world and when forests are destroyed to produce industrial meat, billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere, accelerating global warming. This one simple change allowed us to do better for our planet during the week-long festival while still providing a delicious dinner for the guests to enjoy.

Under 5% of people in the UK are vegetarian but there has been a dramatic rise in the amount of people attempting to cut down on the amount of meat that they consume, either for health or environmental reasons. That means that as an industry we have to adapt. And the issue is coming into mainstream consciousness more and more, over the last year we have seen the news that Oxford Council have banned meat from their menus at corporate events, with Cambridge, Exeter and Norwich Councils following suit and Cambridge University Darwin’s College served a fully vegan menu for their ball this June.

But the key to creating impact isn’t simply switching to a veggie or vegan menu, the trick is to communicate the importance of why. Going meat-free was just one element of our ‘Good Festival’ ambition and ‘for good’ was a core value that ran through everything throughout the week. That meant a focus on quality, inclusivity, diversity, accessibility, and sustainability, all of which we communicated the impact of to our delegates in the lead up to the festival.

It is our job as a responsible employer and business to forge the path of what is possible and to collaborate with other organisations, both in and outside of the event sector, to learn from, and inspire, each other. We are seeing an increased demand for environmental reporting from our clients and are proud to be early adopters of TRACE, a digital carbon measurement platform to help the event industry reach Net Zero. TRACE helps us to gather data on our carbon impact at each event, which in turn gives us the ability to work with clients to benchmark and track success alongside their ESG strategy.

This small step is part of our wider goal to reduce our carbon emissions by 5% year on year, with the key ambition to become and remain a carbon responsible business, looking at carbon neutrality, alongside supply chain engagement, research into sustainably sourcing materials, digital solutions to limit single-use print and staff training to upskill the team on the future of events both in-person and online

There is still relatively low adoption for sustainable change across the sector, but with consistent and considered steps we can make real change together. To speak to one of our team about how you can put sustainability at the centre of your next event call on 0191 691 3456 or email info@beaconhouse-events.co.uk